Hello, Wild Ones!

I’ve been working on a special project and am SO excited to finally share it with you! But first, some background…

The Arizona Historical Society:  Fashion Collection

A few years ago, I visited the Arizona Historical Society (AHS) in Tucson with a group of fashion students from Pima Community College. Instead of touring the museum exhibits, the curator brought us down to the archives to view artifacts rarely seen by the general public. I had heard that there were apparel items, but was blown away by what I saw. The vastness of the collection, the variety of fabrics, the tailoring, and the decorative elements far exceeded my expectations. It’s not that I imagined folks in the Old West were wearing only denim and gingham. But this?

Historic fashion collections held at major museums most often represent the dress of the urban elite. They’re marvelous to see, but what about regional dress? (And we all know where my passions lie.) 

So here I was, viewing a significant collection of gowns worn by 19th and early 20th century women of the American Southwest – and they were amazing! I was so excited that I wanted everyone to know about them.  Unfortunately, a lack of resources meant that most of these gowns had never been exhibited, or even photographed.  I was convinced they’d be of interest to both the general public and the many fashion designers who turn to the American West for inspiration. (And, darn it, I wanted to see more of the collection. Up close.) So, I decided to do something about it.

Photographing the Arizona Historical Society Fashion Collection

Besides being a blogger, I’m an academic Fashion & Visual Arts Librarian with a museum background. With the approval of the AHS, I set up a temporary studio at their Tucson branch to condition report, mount on manikins, and photograph fifty items from their apparel collection. I then created branded social media posts for each one. And now, they’re available to you!

My hope is that the images will make the public aware of the tremendous resources hidden in the archives of the AHS. I hope that they’ll stimulate conversation and scholarship related to Arizona’s history. And finally, I hope that designers and stylists will take even more inspiration from our brilliant Southwestern heritage.

Viewing the Arizona Historical Society’s Fashion Collection

So, how can you find the images? Great question!  First, and most importantly:  Follow the social media accounts of the Arizona Historical Society. (They need your support!)  A new fashion image will be published weekly on AHS’s Instagram and Facebook pages for “Fashion Fridays.” If you simply can’t wait and want to see all the images at once, follow their Pinterest account; all the images are there!  If you like what you see, PLEASE show your support with re-pins, “Likes” and “Shares” in your Instagram Stories so others can see what amazing artifacts are there.  If you want to do more, considering becoming a museum member, or donate much-needed funds for the collections. 

Support the Arizona Historical Society‘s mission to connect people through the power of Arizona’s history.

Lastly, use the images to put a little authentic Southwestern history in your own style! I know I will!

Until then… Here are a few images to give you a taste of the Old Southwest.