Marjorie Russell Clothing & Textile Center

We have heard the curator of the Nevada State Museum’s Marjorie Russell Clothing and Textile Center speak on two separate occasions and both times the topic was underwear. Wanting to know more, I organized a tour through the Lake Tahoe Historical Society.

The curator, Jan Loverin, took us on an amazing two hour, behind the scenes journey through this facility dedicated to storing and preserving the historic costume and textile collections. The goal is to take clothes that have survived and make them come alive. This collection includes garments that are over 100 years old, including one stunning dress that was crafted in 1760. Also included are hats, shoes, quilts, flags, and accessories.
Due to collection privacy issues, I was not allowed to take photographs but you must know that the gowns we were shown were extraordinaire. And while looking at dresses from 1760, 1844 and several from the 1860s and beyond, we were given a history lesson of Nevada. 
We saw a dress (circa 1820) which was from the Regency era. With its Empire Waist and loose, gauzy material, its design was influenced by the discovery of Pompeii- inspired by the Greek and Roman cultures.
The shoes and hats would make any fashionista envious. Also, in the collection was a vintage flowered swimming cap. We all commented on how we had to wear them when we were kids. What a flashback!

In addition to seeing historic and beautiful gowns, we learned about various fabrics, we met some of the people who made Nevada happen and we were given the opportunity to learn the ins & outs of preservation and display.
We were surprised by how truly incredible this tour was. We learned a great deal and everyone walked away very impressed by it all. I found and loved this quote by Isabel Wolff:
What I really love about them is the fact that they contain someone's personal history. I find myself wondering about their lives. I can never look at a garment without thinking about the woman who owned it. How old was she? Did she work? Was she married? Was she happy? I look at these exquisite shoes, and I imagine the woman who owned them rising out of them or kissing someone. I look at a little hat, I lift up the veil, and I try to imagine the face beneath it... Vintage clothing is not just fabric and thread - it's a piece of someone's past.

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