University receives grant to fund fashion archive digitization project

Mount Mary’s Fashion Archive, a historic collection with 10,000 items, will soon be available to the public online.

The collection includes both couture and ready-to-wear garments from such fashion luminaries as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld and more.

The Archive also comprises the work of notable regional brands and features Wisconsin women, such as children’s designer Florence Eiseman, and includes pieces worn by Hildegarde and Lynn Fontanne.

The project is funded by a two-year, $249,960 grant from the Council on Library & Information Resources (CLIR). The grant funded the hiring of a Curator/Stylist for the collection, Amanda Cacich, who will work with Mount Mary fashion faculty to establish the strategy for selecting garments for photography and to explore which framework will be most beneficial in the organization of the digitization process. Amanda Cacich has a master’s degree in museum studies with an emphasis in dress and textile histories from the University of Glasgow. She has worked with historic costume collections at the Fashion Museum, Bath, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Chicago History Museum.

The grant also funded the hiring of photographer Marshall Lee, who has worked with Mount Mary CREO fashion shows in the past, and two Project Assistants who are both Mount Mary fashion students.

Building off a 2018 pilot project funded by the Stella H. Jones Foundation, the "Hidden Collections" CLIR Grant will continue the broader digitization of the Fashion Archive, making these valuable, hidden resources widely accessible to students, scholars, artists, designers, and other interested researchers for scholarship and inspiration.

This digital archive will set itself apart online from peer institution costume collections by featuring designers such as Valentina who are scarcely represented online, but also with its interface, containing 360° rotating images, high-quality zooming, and multiple still image options.

The free, digital archive will also contribute to ongoing research of the nexus between fashion and gender identity, fashion and class, and the sociology of material culture. The project will also inform scholarship on fashion design and the changing role of women throughout history.

“Mount Mary's Fashion Archive has literally been a ‘hidden collection’ for far too long. This significant grant lets us fully explore the treasure held in this impressive collection and virtually open its doors to a broader audience,” said Ashley Brooks, chair of the fashion department. “The grant provides a unique opportunity to produce an expert, quality, permanent documentation that will preserve the visible details of these historic garments and link them to the stories behind both their designers and their notable wearers.”

The Stella Jones Foundation pilot project, featuring famed French designer Hubert de Givenchy, is available online at