The Smith College Historic Clothing Collection is an

archive of clothing and accessories of women from all social

classes in the United States, from 1800 to the present. The

Collection includes over 3000 objects, most of which are

donations from Smith College Alumnae and friends of the


It is used as a resource for courses in costume design,

history and material culture, art and literary history, and

curatorial practices. A Smith senior, Beth Pfaltz Welsh,

established the collection in 1979. Smith students have

worked as interns ever since.




The Smith College Historic Clothing Collection (SCHCC) advances the understanding of women

of all classes through the study of their dress. This diverse collection fosters interdisciplinary

research, inquiry, and connections through engagement with tangible evidence of women’s



The collection is a liberal arts archive or laboratory offering a wide range of primary research,

such as:

 keys to the history of many of today’s technologies in textile manufacturing,

 expressions of class, gender and race imbedded in the materials and construction,

 the physical and mental deportment imposed by under layers and fit,

 the aesthetic preferences of different eras,

 reflections on conscious and unconscious messages in our own time.


The collection holds clothing and accessories of dress for women of all social classes from 1790

to the present. If we combined our collection with that of Historic Northampton it would be

one of the finest study collections available to undergraduate students and scholars.

Every attempt is made to collect items which reflect lives of women from a broad social and

economic spectrum. The value of a garment may be the story that comes with it, in spite of the

condition. Objects which reflect a special technological development or a political movement

which affected women’s lives are particularly important.

The focus is the “uniforms” of women’s many roles and jobs. These are mostly but not

exclusively, everyday clothing. The aim is to gather the humble as well as the couture, the well-

worn work clothes along with the clothing for a single special occasion, the unique home made

piece as well as the mundane manufactured example.

At this point any further expansion is limited by the lack of storage facilities.