October Buttons

We are currently in the middle of the great month of October. So what does this mean? Well, a lot of things. October means the start of pumpkin spice everything, fall colors galore, and stores are filled with costumes, candy, and decorations for Halloween, and some are preparing for the start of the Christmas season. Today, we are going to be showing some buttons from our collection that scream October. Get ready to be terrified by spooky spiders, comforted by the falling leaves of autumn, and excited for the Autumn season.

To the right we have an iridescent black luster bat! Have you ever wondered why bats are related to Halloween, though? In the days when “Halloween” began, people would gather and create large bonfires to ward off evil spirits, ghosts, etc. The bonfire attracted insects, which made an excellent source of food for bats. They became associated with the season after their common appearance. Later on, the discovery of vampire bats came into play as well. The notion that they drank blood went right along with the overall creepy vibe that came with the season.

So, make sure to stay away from vampire bats this this October.

Here is another spooky one. This witch button is originated from 1970-1980 and is the ideal image that one may think of when they hear the word witch. However, the origins of the witch weren’t as spooky as one would think. In times where modern day medicine didn’t exist, some women were able to discover the ability to treat sickness with herbal treatments. They were often midwives and weren’t dancing around bonfires and chanting. However, some forms of Christianity saw what these women were doing as wrong. they believed any healing should be done through men of the Church. Early people also believed that any sickness was a punishment from God, and anyone who tried to cure it was an evil doer. Later on, they would be accused of being Satan worshipers.

Now onto a less disturbing topic: leaves. They are one of the most obvious symbols for the Fall season. They remind us of the constant change we are going through in life, its cycle of renewal, and passing of time. To the left you can see an array of Autumn leaves.

Back to everyone’s least favorite symbol for Halloween: spiders! They are known for their creepy-crawly ways, and no one wants to be around them. They were popularized during the month of October as a witch’s sidekick, and there was a theory that if a spider fell into a candle, that meant that a witch was near by. Here we have two creepy crawlers in the form of a button. I don’t know about you, but I am glad that these spiders aren’t real.

This next symbol for month of October is probably the most popular by far – the pumpkin. Once the leaves start to change and sweater weather begins, America goes into pumpkin everything mode. From Starbuck’s famous pumpkin spiced latte, to pumpkin patches, to pumpkin scones, and baby pumpkin Halloween costumes, the world is obsessed! But no one ever said that was a bad thing. To the right we have one more pumpkin object to add to the obsession – a pumpkin button.

This next symbol is thought about less but is still popular among the Autumn time of year. Acorns begin to fall from the oak tree and scatter everywhere on grass and sidewalks. At Ohio State, it is hard to walk through the oval without noticing the thousands of acorns that have already fallen from the trees. We have an assortment of 55 acorn buttons to display today, and let’s just say that the amount of acorn buttons we have is a little nuts!

What button would you wear? What reminds you most of the month of October? Is it the Halloween aspect of month filled with ghosts, spooky stories, and tricks or treats? Or are you more of the falling leaves and pumpkin spice person?


















Cashin Copycats

The Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection here at Ohio State is currently sorting through our own collection of Bonnie Cashin outfits. She was a well known fashion designer with a creating span of over 40 years. She became known as one of the “Mothers of American Sportswear,” and was known for frequently saying, “chic is where you find it.” Unimpressed with many of the days fashions, she created her own line called “Bonnie Cashin Designs”. Cashin’s designs were new and original for the time she created them. However, many of her designs have been reinvented by “copycats” without any credit or acknowledgment for Cashin. She was once quoted as saying, “The moment you think of an idea, it is no longer yours exclusively.” Perhaps she knew that her designs would be copied one day because of how unique and original they were. Today, it is hard to know what was her idea because the designs have become ever-so mainstream in modern day.

Cashin was born on September 15, 1908 to an inventor and a photographer. From a young age, she was brought into a world of original thinking and creativity. Her mother had opened a custom dress shop in California where she learned to sew before she could write. She made her way from California to New York and became “the youngest designer to ever hit Broadway.” Later, she would go on to create clothing for women in armed forces, Hollywood, sportswear, and more. Cashin wanted to make clothing for women that played a certain role, not just what was the latest trend. This may have been what set her apart in her designs, or how she cultivated such unique ideas.

To combat against copycats, Stephanie Lake, Cashin’s heir and owner to her personal design archive, created an Instagram account called “Cashincopy” in order to showcase the true work of Cashin and display side by side images of today’s knockoffs. One of the more controversial copycats was Calvin Klein. Calvin Klein’s Raf Simons’ 2018 Spring Collection contained an orange poncho extremely similar to one of Cashin’s designs. From the color to the front pockets and pull string, Calvin Klein copied it almost exact. More big name copycats include Miu Miu, Lisa Perry, Rachel Zoe, and Coach.

Bonnie Cashin was perhaps one of the most original fashion designers to date. From the start to the end of her career, she never had any investors or assistant designers to help her. Her style was unique, one of a kind, and the first of its kind. The remakes began in the sixties and still continue today. Stephanie Lake was quoted, “She wished that people copying her would do a better job. And in the sixties she went to D.C. to campaign for designers’ rights, acknowledging that people were going to copy but the originator of the idea by law should by law receive credit and compensation.”















College Students: What were they Wearing?

Have you ever wondered what you would have worn to an Ohio State football game in 1926? Let’s just say it wasn’t crop tops and leggings. The Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection is currently showcasing college fashion throughout the past 150 years that encompasses a variety of style and culture. From 1870 to World War II and beyond, visit our collection to view and learn about the different outfits worn by college students.

Let’s start with women’s fashion. When walking on campus in the late 1800’s to 
early 1900’s, you may have noticed a large number of bustles. This was the prime period when bustles were implemented into women’s everyday fashion. In the 1870’s, women’s dresses, which consisted of a skirt and bodice, were long and had a train to follow. As years went on, however, the dresses became less in  length to a few inches above the ground, and the train had just about disappeared.  However, as the dresses got shorter, the bustles only got bigger, putting more emphasis on the rear. They were usually adorned with bows and shaped with drapery.



Several dresses ranging from 1929-1940 are displayed as well. Women’s fashion definitely changed greatly from the turn of the the century to the 1920’s. Dresses were still below the knee, yet considerably long in today’s sense. They had a drop waist and loose fit, and you would often see Mary Jane’s or T-Strap heels  to finish the look.

If you went to a football game, you most likely would’ve cheered on the team in a raccoon fur coat, a cloche hat, and your favorite pair of fur-trimmed boots if you were a woman. For men, your university’s letter sweater and wool knickers would have been the go-to look.

The lower gallery showcases white dresses worn at either graduations or initiations. The first was a gift of Vera Lee Conley Cox from when she graduated from Antioch College. The second, was worn by a former OSU student, Ruth E. Moore. The off-white silk crepe two-piece was worn for both her high school graduation in 1922 and when she pledged Delta Sigma Theta sorority as well. Moore went on to receive not only her bachelors degree from Ohio State, but her masters and PhD in addition

Home Economics cooking class in Campbell Hall, 1953   

 The third dress is an off-white silk crepe dress with lace trim and a faux jacket front, which was worn by another OSU student, Margaret Jacob Dombey (class of 1927). Margaret was considered a rather beautiful woman and was crowned OSU May Queen in 1927 and Rosebud in 1924. She wore this dress for her initiation into Kappa Kappa Gamma and possibly her graduation. The fourth and last dress was of Anne Clark who graduated in 1955 from Ohio State. Her white pique dress was worn for her initiation into the Mortar Board Society.

Nurses weren’t the only ones to sport the white dress look. Female students in classes like home economics as pictured above to the right, also had to wear a uniform (white lab  dress) to class.

Our gallery is also displaying an array of International Student clothing, as well as outfits crafted by Ohio State Alumni themselves when they were students as Ohio State.  To the left  is  striped  maxi  dress  made  and  worn  by  Mary  Lou  Swisshelm  Star,  a student who  received  her undergraduate degree from Ohio State in 1970.

To learn and discover even more unique college styles throughout the decades, make sure to visit our exhibit. For times and location be sure to check out the rest of the website.














What Did Women Wear in the 1920s? 20s Clothing Trends

Rain Gear For April

It’s April. So that means there’s a good chance of rain! In the 1920s and 30s, the raincoats and trench coats weren’t quite the same as we have today. It all started because of World War I. Little did Thomas Burberry know that his revolutionary invention of gabardine would change the history of not only the fashion, but also the war.

1960-1969 – Clear plastic rain cape with black dots and trim. Comes with a detachable snap on hood

Raincoats are known for their water resistant material. In 1823, Charles Mackintosh developed the first waterproof coat. He formed it using rubberized cotton, which would face a multitude of problems. First of all, sewing needles would create tiny holes where water would seep in. So much for water resistance. Besides unable to be sewn, it would grow stiff in winter and sticky in the warmer temperatures.

In 1843, vulcanized rubber was invented, giving rubber a greater amount of durability and flexibility. The next development for raincoats came in 1879. The Burberry Company, run by Thomas Burberry,  developed gabardine. It coated individual fibers, giving even more flexibility and movement to the coat. In past years, producers would cover the entire coat in a chemical substance which hadn’t allowed for a natural drape unlike gabardine.

Then in 1926, Dr. Waldo Semon from Akron, Ohio wanted to find a way to bond rubber to metal. He experimented by exposing discarded material and chemicals to heat. Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl, was the result. It was a felxible “gel” much like natural rubber. In the 1920s and 30s, this was the main resource used in the production of raincoats. However, there was still an issue with this way of production. It was rather uncomfortable to wear and you still got wet. The wetness wasn’t from the rain, however. Rather, your sweat was not able to escape.

The next invention in rain gear was the trench coat. The idea of the trench coat was originally developed during World War I. Once again, this was a design invented by Mackintosh using rubberized cotton. During World War I, there was a high demand for lighter, more breathable, flexible, and weather proof coat. Officers and soldiers alike were wearing overcoats of serge made with a thick woolen material. This was doable on the home front, but in the trenches, it was a whole other story. The overcoats were too long and a sponge for mud, which made them even heavier and difficult to move in. The trench coat was the answer to all their problems.

Ad for Burberry trench coat

Two men, Thomas Burberry and John Emary, both claimed the invention of the trench coat. However, Burberry’s claim may have been more reliable with his invention of gabardine, the flexible, breathable, and waterproof fabric.

Today’s trench coat is influenced by the initial design meant for military. On the front, we have the epaulettes. They were designed to display  the rank of an officer. On the back, we have the storm shield and pleat. The storm shield enabled water to run off the coat and maintain dryness. Pleats were made to allow for the ease of movement, especially when riding horseback or running.

The same design is still made today. Gabardine, the water repellent and ventilated fabric, is used as well. What may be even more recognizable then the coat itself is the “Burberry check” that lines the inside. It is a combination of camel, ivory, red and black. It was used, and is still used, to line the inside of the iconic coat.

Humphrey Bogart

Trench coats became popular when soldiers came home from war and could be seen wearing the outerwear. Soon enough, Hollywood captured the look and adapted it to characters like the stereotypical detective. Stars from the 1940s, such as Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Kathrine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepbrun all can be found in film sporting the classic trench coat. The style remained popular further into the decade with Peter Falk in his classic television series, Columbo.

Trench coats have definitely stood the test of time for both their practicability and fashionable look. From WWI to the runway, they were and are a favorite among many. Today we can see famous models like Cara Delevingne, Gigi Hadid, and Kate Moss still representing the Burberry product.








Spring Fashion: Hats!

Let’s talk hats! It’s spring and we all know what that means. It’s time to bring out the easter bonnets and hats decorated in flowers galore! In the early to mid 1900’s, a hat was part of a woman’s everyday outfit. Not only was it necessary, but one designer, Sally Victor, believed that the right hat could make any woman prettier.

Born on February 23, 1905 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Sally Victor grew a love for design at the young age of eight. After her family moved to New York, her aunt, who happened to be a milliner, taught her the ins and outs to fixing and revitalizing hats. However, she began creating her own designs for herself and friends as well.

“Like most kids, I liked to copy the grown-ups, so it only seemed natural for me to start fashioning scraps of felt and ribbons into hats for my dolls. When I got a little older, my aunt taught to retrim and shape hats for her customers and on the side, I started dreaming up hats for myself and my friends too.”

-Sally Victor, 1949 Interview

Sally Victor began a successful career beginning at the age of 18. As a member of Macy’s millinery department, she was able to move up to assistant millinery buyer within three years. She gained more experience by working at Bamberger’s Department store in Newark.

After marrying Sergiu F. Victor, a wholesale milliner himself, in 1927, she started her own label in 1934 in New York where her hats would become popular in stores like Fifth Avenue. Victor became one of the most well-known milliners of her time, being known for her unique style and craftsmanship.

Victor was able to fuse both the vision of the buyer and seller in order to create a hat that anyone would love. Her number one motto was, “designing pretty hats that make women look prettier.” She once mentioned that she didn’t believe in fashion that didn’t make someone prettier. However, this view did receive some backlash after she was accused of  “designing too pretty, too feminine, too matronly hats.” – Eugenia Sheppard, New York Herald Tribune (March 25, 1964)

Victor gained her inspiration from a number of unique sources. They included Japanese armor, Chinese Lanterns, Native American Art, and works of various designers, one being Frank Lloyd Wright, an American Architect and interior designer. She sold for the mass market by offering baby bonnets, Pompadour hats, honey hives, Tudor tops, and Grecian Pillboxes just to name a few.

Among her achievements were winning the Fashion Critics millinery Award in 1943, the Coty American Fashion Critics Award in 1944 and 1956, creating ready-to-wear hats as well as collapsible hats for easy travel, and rejuvenating the Ecuadorian economy with her revitalization of the Panama straw hat. And although she created hats for everyday wear and women, she also designed for First ladies Mamie Eisenhower and Jacqueline Kennedy, and American actress and consumer advocate, Betty Furness.

Betty Furness’  career began with a staring role in Alice In Wonderland. In 1932, after various commercial advertisments and professional modeling, she was signed to a film contract with RKO Studios. She stared with well known names like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers giving her a career was successful that declined in the 1940s, however. So, she began her journey of commercial advertising once again. Furness worked for Westinghouse Products and was a natural in filming live broadcast commercials. Her independent nature, modest clothing, sense of style, and personality made for a perfect combination. She also became a regular in the ever-famous television series, What’s My Line?, where she was a frequent panelist. In 1953, Furness even started her own show Meet Betty Furness. In 1960, her advertisement career ended after the producer of Westinghouse Products decided he wanted a younger spokeswoman. Unable to be taken seriously because of her past commercial advertising reputation, she turned to radio along with promotion of the Democratic Party.

Betty Furness can be seen below wearing a hat by Sally Victor. It is a natural colored straw hat decorated with pink and beach poppies. 









Druesedow, Jean. Accessed on 3/27/19.Retrived from http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/To-Vi/Victor-Sally.html



Spring Into Floral

It is officially the first day of spring! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and floral is everywhere! Here at the Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection, we have an abundance of floral patterned clothing and accessories from buttons and hats to paper dresses. One of the most well known designers for the floral season would be Lilly Pulitzer. She was previously mentioned in our women’s history month post, but today we will be solely focused on the designer who got her start at an juice stand.

Lilly Pulitzer

Lilian Lee McKim was born in November of 1931 in Roselyn, New York to a family of wealth. Her schooling was only the best. She attended the highly regarded Miss Porter’s School. As life went on, she met Peter Pulitzer of the Pulitzer Prize family. At the young age of 21, she eloped with him and they took off for Palm Beach. At one point, she became troubled and put herself in a psychiatric hospital where she hoped to receive treatment. However, the doctor told her there was nothing wrong with her. She simply needed something to do. Her solution? Well, her family already owned an Orange crop, so why not just open a juice stand? This idea would actually work. What she started would turn into more than she probably ever imagined.

Lilly Pulitzer- Men’s Golf ensemble, featured in “Sports and Fashion”- 1968-1974

Lilly had a major problem, however. When making juice, the juice from the fruit would get on her clothing. One cannot simply make juice and be seen with a stain on their clothing! Something had to change. She had a seamstress create a dress she designed in order to hide the stains. The fabric was fun, bright, and really attracted attention. It was unlike anything that society had seen before. Women were used to wearing toned down colors, tight dresses, stockings, stilettos, and being up-kept. Lilly had introduced them to a free-spirited way of dressing, a rather bohemian style for the time. The fabric would be light enough to survive the Florida heat, yet loose and somewhat freeing. The style swept the nation. Everyone would soon know the name “Lilly”.


Lilly Pulitzer- light blue/green bathing suit, featured in “Sports and Fashion”-1960-1969

After people took notice of her dresses, her husband placed over 80 dresses in his stores. Little did they know that this business would not only last two years, but still be alive today!  One of the reasons her company truly succeeded was because of her connection to the higher class. She was a socialite and married a Pulitzer, which is the perfect equation for success in the business world. She had connections from Florida to New York. However, the breaking point was probably when Jackie Kennedy wore a pair of her designer pants. After this, there was no going back. The future of fashion was in Lilly’s hands.

Lilly was always noted for being wildly creative, had a big heart, and an even bigger personality. This may be one of the reasons we are still in love with her fashion influence today. Lilly was described at one point as being more of just a truly creative individual rather than a business woman. When the stress of the job became too much, her role ended eventually filing for bankruptcy when the 90’s begged for minimalistic designs. The company moved on to new ownership, however, and Lilly still kept her spirit alive as a creative consultant.

Floral And Pastels

It’s time to dress up for everyone’s spring holiday, Easter! Pastel colors are often thought of when spring pops up. Pastel blues, pinks, yellows, and greens fill the stores with plastic Easter eggs, candy wrappers, and giant stuffed animal bunnies and chicks. But why are these colors so popular this time of year, though?

Easter Parades were once walked by people adorned in your everyday dark-colored clothing. It wasn’t until the 1870s that men, women, and children began to wear lighter, happier colors. Spring is often a sign for renewal and new life. In the Christian world, Easter is a sign for the resurrection, a new beginning. But even nature agrees that it is time to liven up. The trees start to bloom, the birds decide to come back, and the yellow tulips spring up from the ground, telling us that warmer weather is coming. This idea of new life and nature’s blossom is one of the biggest impacts on spring fashion.

Below are images of a from April 1906 poster illustration called “The Smartest Fashions in Easter Hats, Costumes, and Blouses from The Crowell publishing Company.

Easter Bonnets: Don’t Leave Home Without One!

The Easter Bonnet used to be a staple for women’s fashion. They partially received their origins from the Christian custom of buying new clothes after the Lenten season. It was often common to wear your “Sunday best”. However, once again, Spring is seen as a time for new life and rebirth. So, one of the most common symbols of rebirth we can think of in the spring time is the flower coming into full bloom. Wearing hats is also part of the American tradition called “The Easter Parade”, a Fifth Avenue Parade in New York, which emerged in the 1870’s after the Civil War ended. The unorganized event was a symbol of entering a happier life. After church services, crowds would walk down Fifth Avenue. One million attended the event in 1940. Today, it is less of a religious event and more secular one focused around the size and celebration of the Easter season.

Woman’s straw hat with diverse floral arrangement- 1967-1969











Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History month! To celebrate the women’s contribution to not only society but also fashion, today’s blog post will commemorate the past achievements of female designers. Although there have been countless women in fashion worth mentioning, we will be focusing on a few whose designs have made it into our collection.

Bonnie Cashin was born on September 28, 1915 to a dressmaker and a inventor. By the time she was eight, Cashin was already creating sketches, and by 16, she began her career as a fashion designer. Cashin became the costume designer for Franchon & Marco, a Los Angeles dance group. Because of her impressive work, the manager of Franchon & Marco persuaded her to attend the Art Students League in New York City. Upon attending the University, she quickly rose to the top becoming the head costume designer for the Roxyettes, today’s Radio City Rockettes, at the age of 19. “The youngest designer to ever hit Broadway” could be read about in the New York Times.

Vera Maxwell- Blue and White Cotton pleated casual dress 1959

Light green wool long-sleeve romper/play-suit c. 1945           

Bonnie Cashin’s achievements also included working for the ever prestigious house of Adler & Adler, working alongside Vera Maxwell and Claire McCardell creating women worker’s civilian defense uniforms, designing for 2oth Century Fox fims such as Give My Regards to Broadway and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, winning the Neiman Marcus and American Designers Coty Award, opening her own studio “Bonnie Cashin Designs”, creating a style for a more independent woman, creating the leather dress, and popularizing women’s sportswear.

Bonnie Cashin- Tan, Pink, black, and white stripe knit hoodie top and matching skirt and belted tan knit vest with an attached change purse 1975

Another notable woman in the world of fashion would be Lilly Pulitzer. She was both a fashion designer and a socialite, often referred to as “the Prep Queen”. This is because of her use of bright colors and floral patterns that could often be seen among high society.

Lilly Pulitzer- Men’s Golf ensemble 1965-1974

Lilly Pulitzer- Two piece light blue/green cotton print swim suit 1964

The story of how Lilly Pulitzer began is a very intriguing one. She was always someone to do a task in her own way. In the 1950s, she eloped with Peter Pulitzer. He was the grandson of Joseph Pulitzer, the creator of the Pulitzer Prize. After moving to Florida with her new husband, she started a juice stand in Palm Beach. This may seem like an odd thing to do, but her new family owned an orange grove in Flordia, which made running a juice stand quite convenient. To avoid the drips and stains of orange juice, she created her own clothing made of bright, fun material that could be resistant to the stain. No apron needed. Her style became so popular that the demand for her designs became greater than that of the juice, and the rest is history.

Today, Lilly Pulitzer is the go-to fashion for vacationers. If you are in the mood for fun, sun, and positive energy, then Lilly Pulitzer is for you. HCTC also features one of her designs currently.








Karl Lagerfeld and His Legacy

Karl Lagerfeld could be described as a man with many talents. He was a creative director, fashion designer, photographer, artist, and self-proclaimed caricaturist. However, he may have been best known for his position in Chanel as creative director from 1983 and Fendi since 1965 until his current death. In his later years, Lagerfeld was easily recognizable with his white hair, black sunglasses, high collars, and fingerless gloves, and outspoken personality. Although he was not highly regarded by everyone, his impact on the world of luxury fashion will not be forgotten any time soon.

Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born on September 10, 1935 in Hamburg, Germany. He reportedly disliked his childhood. His father, Otto Lagerfeld, moved his family and him to a small town. He was different and didn’t to fit in a school wearing his suit and tie. His mother, Elisabeth Lagerfeld, is where he attained his quick-spoken nature. Her words and actions shaped who he would become. While answering his mothers questions, the answer “…had to be quick, and it had to be funny. If I thought of something ten minutes later she would slap me.” Because of his unsettling childhood, he fled to Paris, where he ended up winning a coat design competition that had been sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. With this recognition, he became the assistant and apprentice of Pierre Balmain, a French fashion designer.

As Lagerfeld worked and studied even more, he became associated with names such as Jean Patou, Tiziano, Chloe, Charles Jourdan, Krizia, and Valentino. His love and expertise for high, luxury fashion flourished. He was recognized and hired by Fendi in 1967 to update their fur line, introducing rabbit, squirrel, and mole pelts. Lagerfeld was never truly admired for his own clothing line, rather, he was recognized for the improvement and modernization of already-existing lines.

About a decade after the death of Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld was hired by the near-death company. With the loss of Coco Chanel, the company had struggled to keep up with the high fashion industry, becoming quite basic and boring. However, with the help of Lagerfeld, the company revamped its way to the top. He introduced the two intertwined C’s, so easily recognizable today and created looks inspired from Coco herself.

Lagerfeld and his team would pace themselves in the shoes of Coco in order to get the best designs possible without her being there for guidance. Her signature looks consisted of simplicity, elegance, nautical, stripes, and an abundance of large faux pearls. Coco was also known as the inventor of the little black dress and made sure to follow her style and not the latest trends.

To the left is a short black wool crepe Chanel dress created by Karl Lagerfeld. Coco Chanel was known for her faux pearls and pockets in her dresses. With this dress, Lagerfeld kept her style alive by sewing pearls onto the dress and adding pockets.  To the left is another design by Lagerfeld created at the turn of the twentieth to twenty-first century. It is both a sign of the past and look to the future. The outside is has an acetate iridescent finish, a modern and futuristic look. However, on the back we see Lagerfeld uses a smocking technique. This technique was especially popular in the mid-twentieth century, specifically among young girl’s dresses. Overall, this unique trench-style coat is both leaving the past behind while saying hello to the new century.

Black History Month: Ruth Ella Moore

Every February, the US celebrates Black History Month. It is a special time to recognize and honor famous African Americans who have made a significant impact in the past and present. The Historic Costume & Textiles Collection was the recipient of a donation of several garments made by a talented seamstress who also had a larger claim to fame. Dr. Ruth Ella Moore was an alumna of The Ohio State University, and the first African American woman to earn a PhD in the natural sciences.

Image of Ruth Ella Moore in cap and gown circa 1926

Born in 1903 in Columbus, Ohio, to William E. and Margaret Moore, Ruth Ella Moore was the daughter of an accomplished artist. Her mother had graduated from the Columbus State College of Art and Design. She had encouraged Ruth from a young age to pursue a higher degree of education. Ruth and her two older brothers, Donovan L and William E. Moore, were educated in the public schools in Columbus, Ohio. Ruth Moore attended the Ohio State University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 1925, she graduated from the university and then went on to receive a Masters of Science Degree in 1927. She continued to further her education by earning her PhD in bacteriology from the Ohio State University.

After receiving her doctorate in 1933, she officially became the first African American woman to earn a graduate degree in the natural sciences. Howard University quickly hired her in 1940 as an assistant professor in the medical college, where she would stay until her retirement in 1973. Throughout her time at Howard, she managed to move up as chairperson for the Bacteriology Department, became associate professor, and conducted research in bacteriology. Moore was also a member of the American Association of Science, American Society of Immunology, American Society of Microbiology, and the American Public Health Association. She earned two additional honorary degrees as well. They included a doctorate in Literature from Oberlin College and a Doctor of Philosophy from Gettysburg University in 1973.


Besides being a well known scientist, Ruth Ella Moore was also a seamstress. She received a love of fashion and an elegant, classic style from her mother, the artist. Moore was known to sew much of what she wore. In fact, she made a great majority of her entire wardrobe without having any type of degree in clothing design and construction. Keeping with the latest style and fashion, she was known to carefully select her patterns and materials for crafting the outfits. Several of her garments were featured in The Sewer’s Art: Quality, Fashion and Economy, in 2009. Ruth Ella Moore died July 19, 1994.


Ruth Ella Moore garments from The Sewer’s Art:

Dr. Moore made her garments for all occasions, from day to evening wear, and tailored to draped constructions.


Two piece woman’s off white long sleeve jacket and black skirt, suit. The jacket has two black triangular inset sections below the shoulders and a black-notched collar. Five, large covered buttons form the front closure.

The black and white color scheme is carried over into the asymmetrical hat, pieced with black and white felt swirling shapes. It’s stand-up style is reminiscent of the crowns worn by Nefertiti in ancient Egypt.

This red-violet velvet floor length evening dress is part of an ensemble. Cut on the bias grain, it’s bodice has gathered inset sections at the side-fronts. Not shown in the picture is the second piece to the ensemble, a long green velvet jacket with padded and extended shoulders and a shaped hemline.


A long taffeta dress with pink, blue, yellow, and green floral pattern has short draped sleeves with gathering at their sides. The draped bodice molds the body to the hips where it joins the floor length circular, four-piece skirt on a shaped line. The seam below the V-shaped neckline confines the fullness at center-front.


Sports & Fashion Exhibit:

One of Ruth Ella Moore’s swimsuits is currently on display in HCTC’s Sports & Fashion exhibition. It is not certain if she crafted the bathing suit herself or if it was bought ready-made. It has no manufacturers’ labels and dates from the 1930s either during the years she was pursuing her PhD or shortly thereafter.


Ruth Ella Moore

Ruth Ella Moore

Ruth Ella Moore (1903–1994)


The Future of Fashion Told by the Past

Making predictions for the future is like trying to pierce a veil; we can keep jabbing at the possibilities, but predictions do not often yield realistic results. This can be seen in our modern age of uncertainty, as well as in the past. Such an example can be seen in the “Past Dictates of Fashion,” an article by Cromwell Q. Snyder, a “Vestamentorum Doctor,” which is a fancy man’s lingo for a “fashion doctor”. In this article written in 1893, Snyder predicts the future of fashion over the next 100 years, ending with 1990. His predictions may seem laughable, but the logic behind the influence of each decade is not as far-fetched as his designs. Perhaps he missed the mark on the streamlined designs we’ve come to know of the 20th century, but the lunacy of his designs expresses the uncertainty and evolving nature of the human condition as well as fashion.
We begin this epic with the present: 1893. Besides the cuffed pants this image is accurate of current styles. More curious is the dramatic change that will occur in the next 10 years at the turn of the century. Snyder credits his predictions through the “immutable laws of fashion.” Snyder believes fashion is a whim, a sort of shuttlecock for the weak-minded of both sexes, bound and rebound by social influence.

Certainly, all prejudice aside, this does hold some truth. We can trace the trends of fashion in the 20th century with the trends in the political, economic, and social environment. In regards to this article, people were not putting on whacky hats and adorning their pantaloons to be perceived as ridiculous, but to express the social expectations and movements of the predicted future. Additionally, Snyder thinks that fashion is cyclical in a sense, which is why most of his designs draw from earlier centuries, particularly the Renaissance and Tudor Era. According to Snyder, the new century, at its birth, saw black relegated to the past and the affection for color will return with a fierce vengeance. Men will wear purple and blues, while the women will range from pink to green to everything in between. For men, we can see a bit of gender-bending, as accessories such as silk bows can be worn on different parts of the body, such as the shoes or wrists, as flashy haberdashery becomes the new status quo.

As for women, female costume seems to have always been regulated by the same waves and rules which governed male costume, but in a different degree. Women would find new freedom of expression through hat-ware, while the accentuation of the waist remains steadfast throughout female fashion. Indeed, some of these costumes are quite scandalous, with the 1920’s presenting alarmingly short skirts that show off a woman’s calves (a trend we see in reality for 1920). The designs labeled 1920’s are embodied around the idea of novelty and the desire to find new ways to push the fashion envelope. As for the male model on the left, we are told that the upper portion was of crimson plush, and the lower part of a delicate pink, with white stockings and orange boots. Though it may seemed inspired by a French clown or a court jester, this outfit expresses the future interpretation of masculinity in fashion. Meaning, less black and more bravery when it comes to the color palette.
Moving forward, we see a cyclical revival during the 1930’s to combat the novelty of the 1920’s. Women accentuated past fashions with over-sized bonnets and bows, while crinoline is used to create large skirts. Though we still see the fashion of the future with the combination of these ageless styles with new, daring patterns such as polka dots and pin stripes. Men will look even farther back, reviving trends common for the Tudor period.
Interestingly enough, as we move towards the 1940’s, we see a revolution paralleled to that of the feminist rise during the WWII era. In Snyder’s future, trousers seem to have been adopted by the women at the same time that they were discarded by the men. The prosperity of the female cannot be defined by the rising and falling of skirts, so pants are the logical next step. Additionally, we begin to see a strong Oriental influence in Snyder’s designs, particularly in the adornment of tunics and inflated, untailored pants. However, since pushback is only natural, we see a colonial fashion revival as we move into the 1950’s.


The 1950’s sparked a revolution in fashion for both men and women, causing a throwback to the “glory days” of England. We can see influences from the Tudor and Imperialist Eras with cloaks, heeled shoes for men and women, as well as lace collars. Today we may see these items as inherently feminine, but in Snyder’s vision, the men were the only ones stern enough to enforce such a brave trend. In this society, masculinity is flaunted by the man’s ability to wear flashy clothing and still look masculine. Like a contest with oneself, it is a constant struggle to one-up yourself with even more daring and colorful clothing. It also demonstrates and equality of the sexes in a way, as competition in fashion was no longer reserved just for wealthy women, but was a possibility for the common man and woman as fashion between men and women became more similar and comparable to one another.

The examples provided for 1960 differ from previous because they depicted working men, rather than fashionistas of the future age. The policeman shown in the drawing for 1960 seems to have a very easy time of it, for no man’s person can be considered in danger from the mob with officers to protect them that habitually offer as many spikes and accessories as this policeman’s head displays. We may likewise suspect the military gentleman depicted in the image for 1965. It is not customary in the present day for army officers to affect umbrellas, but seventy years hence it may be found necessary to protect one’s head-dress. As government officials, it seems only logical to keep the trend of revival going, nodding to the renaissance era. This renaissance style is will begin trending in the 1960’s during the rebirth of society, Snyder predicts. This age of rebirth continues into the 1970’s as we see a turn for the better. Though, none of us are likely to be caught dead wearing neckties of this magnitude. We see a return to the streamlined trouser, as well as a new, feminine spin to the tail coat with its long, exaggerated train perfect for strutting it on the runway or to the grocery store. There is even a militaristic aspect to these suits, but with an edge of hilarity common of our new age.




After the 1970’s, only two images remain. Perhaps Snyder’s imagination grew tired, but this did not keep him from holding back on these last two designs. All that can be said of the male figure from 1984 is the continuation of accessories for men, which seem to grow larger and larger as the century goes on. However, the women of the 1980’s show a new kind of silhouette that contours women’s bodies, something that has been absent from the collection until now. This emergence of bodycon was seen prior to 1980 in reality, but Snyder’s expectation is still significant in his interpretation of the future of females and their rights. Additionally, we again see the common theme of revived haberdashery, combining styles from three different centuries into one grotesquely amazing hat.
The final image brings us into the 1990’s and thus, the end of the century. The male design is clearly influenced by the East, marking the beginning of the global age. Snyder predicted that as time continues, fashion will become more and more cohesive globally. Trends will go beyond the bounds of country and will be found in different corners of the world. The man in the photo is quite pensive as he thinks intensely and puffs on his pipe, but we can only guess if he knew what he looked like he might be thinking a little less about the state of the global economy and more about his reputation in fashion.
At the end of the article Snyder notes his general prediction and logic for the future of fashion: “The 17th century is famous as the brown century; the 18th is with us the yellow century; and the 19th we term the black century. I am asked my opinion of the 20th century. It is motley. It has seen the apotheosis of color. Yet in worshiping color we do not confound the order of things. As is the 20th, so was the 15th.” From a glance, Snyder’s predictions look like a French clown’s dreamscape, but in reality this circus of fashion is based on logical claims about the future. The idea that fashion is often recycled with a combination of current, revolutionary ideals is not a new one, but it goes to show the difficulty in applying theory to practice and predictions to reality.