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Costume and Textiles Study Room

Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Costume and Textiles, second floor, Perelman Building

Visits by appointment only. Email to schedule a visit. 10:00 a.m.–noon and 2:00–4:30 p.m., Tuesday–Friday (excluding holidays)
Study Room appointments >>

Appointments in the Study Room are intended to provide information from the first-hand study of objects that is not obtainable in other ways; to ensure that research requests are as specific as possible and that the objects made available will be as useful as possible, those requesting an appointment are encouraged to undertake preliminary research with other primary and secondary sources before completing an appointment application.

In most cases, Study Room appointments are for a maximum of two hours, and the number of objects that can be viewed is limited to about six, depending on and size, fragility, and storage location. Appointment availability may be affected by the department’s exhibition schedule and by staff and space limitations. Due to the fragility, rarity, and difficulty of handling certain objects, all requests are subject to the approval of curators and conservators.

The website provides a searchable database and images of some of the objects in the collection. The database Marcel, which provides a complete listing of collection objects (with or without images), can be used at the Museum’s Library and Wachovia Education Resource Center, both located in the Perelman Building.

Since many costume and textiles objects are not represented online, contact with specific requests about further collection holdings that may be of interest.

The Costume and Textiles Collection

Currently numbering more than 30,000 objects, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s costume and textiles collection is one of the largest and oldest in the country. The holdings, remarkable in their depth and breadth, encompass art of great quality from diverse eras and around the globe.

Exhibitions and installations of costume and textiles objects are regularly presented in the Joan Spain Gallery and the Costume and Textiles Study Gallery in the Perelman Building and in Gallery 271 of the main building. Because only a small percentage of the department’s large collection is on display, works from the permanent collection are made available for study by appointment in the Costume and Textiles Study Room.

On View in the Study Gallery

Wear Words: Text in Fashion
Text on clothing can communicate many things. It can summon a memory, proclaim beliefs or affiliations, or challenge the status quo. This installation explores various intersections of text and fashion, from intimate to in-your-face.

View more objects in this gallery >>

View Past Installations >>

Threads of Tradition
April 30, 2016 - February 20, 2017
Threads of Tradition focuses on the time-honored techniques used to create patterns in Central and West African textiles. Among the examples on view are complex strip-woven kente cloths made by the Asante and Ewe of Ghana, an impressive resist-dyed display textile (or ndop) from Cameroon, and raffia skirts that the Kuba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo create using piecing, appliqué, and embroidery. Learn more >>

Chic Shawls from the Early Twentieth Century
For an elegant woman of the early 1900s, an exquisite shawl was the ultimate fashion statement, ensuring she was both picturesque and chic. The luxuriant curves created by this expressive accessory softened the lean, sculptural lines of late 1910s and 1920s fashions. Explore this gallery and see how the versatile garment can provide an artistic accent, a splash of color, and a touch of the romantic or exotic.

Great Coats: Women’s Outerwear from the Collection
October 19, 2011 - December 02, 2012
Coats provide protection from cold, wind, damp, and dust, but as the outermost article of clothing worn outdoors, they are made to be seen and often make an important fashion statement. This installation focuses on inventive lines, interesting shapes, and ingenious uses of materials and embellishment in women’s coats from the 1920s to the early 21st century.

Silver and Gold Fashions since 1960s
February 1, 2014 - February 13, 2015
In the mood for a bit of razzle-dazzle? Then come explore this presentation of glamorous and glittering dresses and accessories that utilize metallics in fashion-forward ways. See how designers Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Geoffrey Beene, Paco Rabanne, Rudi Gernreich, and others have used sparkling fabrics, embroidery, sequins, beads, and linked rings in eye-catching ways.

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