Passion for fashion

December 05, 2006|by OLIVIA MONTGOMERY

Located a few feet below a women's dorm is Fashion Archives at Shippensburg University. The collection contains 14,000 dresses, coats, pants, suits, hats, accesories and much, much more, donated by students, teachers and benefactors.

Each semester, the archive puts some of its collection in a themed display. This semester, the display presents 14 decades of fashion changes at Shippensburg from the school's beginnings in 1870 through today.

Most clothes were very elegant and so different from the typical college wear worn today. As a matter of fact, the most casual thing I saw was a green dress that had matching shoes and looked something like a church dress, so it wasn't au curant.

There was a wide variety of clothing on display - everything from a Boy Scout uniform to actual hobo clothing.

Newer fashions were provided from current displays at the Shippensburg bookstore.

The display covers all the phases of the university, from 1871 (when it was established as a school training young women to be teachers) to the present day.


During the time the college was a private school, in the 1800s, the most common outfit for girls was a skirt and shirt. The skirt featured details that aren't used anymore, such as a tiny waist.

Guys were dressed very formally, too. Graduation apparel for the students was a robe that was custom made, but there was no uniformity.

Most of the students dressed as formally as the teachers).

In 1917, Shippensburg was purchased by the State of Pennsylvania. At that time, dress was more casual; the students stopped dressing like their teachers and dressed down for a while.

When the school went public, there were a few more uniformities in the graduation attire. Graduation robes were all made from velvet and were very heavy. Students' status at school was displayed on their sleeves.

In the second half of the 20th century, students dressed in jeans and T-shirts.

At Shippensburg, women's fashion changed much faster than men's, but what else is to be expected?

The fashion archive is a resource for some of Shippensburg's classes. To help with some of the cultural learning classes, students are permitted to try on some of the clothes.

A lot of the archive's clothing is from designers like Coco Chanel, Pauline Trigre and Bonnie Cashin, who designed handbags and accessories for Coach.

The archive's clothing is not all displayed at once, in order to prevent light and heat damage. Instead, the theme of the archive exhibit changes every semester.

Check out the archive. It's really interesting. The spring display will be clothes from the 1970s, so check it out.

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