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New York Textile Resources: Object Collections

This guide provides information about New York City-based resources for textile and fiber artists and researchers.

Map

The above map provides a loose sketch of where in the city these resources are located. Please note that both the Costume Institute and the Antoni Ratti Textile Center are housed within the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Recommended Reading

Object Collections - Introduction

As valuable as print resources are, there is also a tremendous amount that can be gleaned from interacting with textiles in the flesh (so to speak). The institutions (and one store!) listed below all have extensive ranges of textiles in their collections. Given the often delicate nature of the textiles, object collections tend to put a higher burden of relevance on researchers than do more conventional libraries and archives. The levels of access given here should thus be considered an optimistic upper bound rather than a certainty. Potential researchers are encouraged to review this basic guide to textile handling before interacting with any collections. 

Object Collections

Antoni Ratti Textile Center | phone icon  (212) 650-2310  |  email icon  RattiTextile.Center@metmuseum.org

The database for the Antoni Ratti Textile Center is available on site. An appointment is recommended to use the database and library and required for study room use. 

From the collection's website:

One of the largest, most technically advanced facilities for the study and storage of textiles in any major art museum, the Antonio Ratti Textile Center reflects The Met's longstanding commitment to collecting textiles, beginning with its first textile acquisition in 1879. The Museum's encyclopedic collection of textiles includes examples from all of the world's civilizations—archaeological fragments, tapestries, carpets, quilts, ecclesiastical vestments, silks, embroideries, laces, velvets, and more—dating from 3000 B.C. to the present.

 

The Costume Institute email icon  CostumeInstitute.Collections@metmuseum.org |  Catalog

Potential researchers can use the above email address to request a research appointment. 

From the collection's website:

The Costume Institute's collection of more than thirty-three thousand costumes and accessories represents five continents and seven centuries of fashionable dress and accessories for men, women, and children, from the fifteenth century to the present. 

The redesigned Costume Institute space reopened in May 2014, after a two-year renovation, as the Anna Wintour Costume Center with the exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion. The complex includes the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery, the main showcase space with a flexible design that lends itself to frequent transformation with video, sound, and wireless technology. The Center also includes the Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery to orient visitors to The Costume Institute's exhibitions. Behind the scenes is a state-of-the-art costume conservation laboratory; a study/storage facility to house the combined holdings of The Costume Institute and Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection; and The Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library, one of the world's foremost fashion libraries.

 

Museum @ FIT |  email icon  museuminfo@fitnyc.edu   Catalog

Potential researchers are required to fill out an application and consult the relevant guidelines. These processes vary based on affiliation and research type. More details and all documents are available here. Please note that appointments to view textiles and accessories are temporarily unavailable due to storage renovation.

From the collection's website: 

The Museum is aggressively building its permanent collection, focusing on "directional" fashion, i.e., the kind of fashion that makes fashion history. The permanent collection of The Museum at FIT currently includes more than 50,000 garments and accessories, dating from the 18th century to the present, with particular strength in modern and contemporary women's fashion. Represented are the major figures in fashion history, such as Azzedine Alaïa, Cristbal Balenciaga, Gabrielle Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Halston, Charles James, Norman Norell, Paul Poiret, Yves Saint Laurent, and Vivienne Westwood as well as contemporary avant-garde designers, such as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garons and Rick Owens. Among the 15,000 accessories there are more than 4,000 pairs of shoes alone, including examples by Manolo Blahnik, Ferragamo, Perugia, and Roger Vivier. There are also 30,000 textiles, dating from the 5th century to the present, including the work of artists and designers such as William Morris, Salvador Dali, Raoul Dufy, and Junichi Arai. A small archive of fashion photography contains works by Louise Dahl-Wolfe and John Rawlings. 

 

Museum of the City of New Yorkemail icon  research@mcny.org | Catalog

Potential researchers are required to fill out an access request form, available here. Please be advised that it may take up to a month to schedule a research appointment. More information about research policies can be found here

From the collection's website:

The Museum of the City of New York’s Costume and Textiles Collection is one of the foremost repositories of New York City-centric attire, and is distinguished by its interpretation of clothing not only as a medium of aesthetic merit but as one of social commentary. The approximately 26,000 object collection reveals the city’s singular character and evolution as national fashion capital, and reflects the distinctive personalities and aspirations of New Yorkers themselves.

The collection’s early interpretive vision aspired to enhance the public’s awareness of the inter-dependence between the city’s history, populace, and evolving mode of attire. It has acquired and preserved objects that serve to chronicle the physical and aesthetic evolution of our nation’s fashion capital, providing insight into the social and economic history of its populace. Its holdings evidence the aspirational nature of fashion throughout the city’s history, showcasing garments acquired from the original wearers (or their descendants). Unified by this common factor, its holdings contrast and juxtapose seminal designs of the Parisian Couture with garments produced by the city’s early dressmakers, department store workrooms, and designers of the city’s nascent garment industry. The Collection’s holdings betray the relentlessly aspirational nature of New York City style, and enhance the public’s appreciation for the impact of the city’s social landscape on its mode of attire.

Fashion and textile enthusiasts may also find the Museum's current "Getting Dressed" video series - a product of an ongoing assessment of the Museum's collection of women’s garments - to be of interest.

 

Sri  |  phone icon  (718) 599-2559  email icon  stephen@srithreads.com

Sri is a gallery and store in Greenpoint devoted to Japanese and Indian textiles. While geared more towards collectors than researchers, the owner is extremely knowledgeable and the collection is extensive. They are open by appointment only. 

From Sri's website: 

Sri is a by-appointment textile gallery specializing in antique Japanese folk textiles, highlighting the indigo dyed cotton fabrics and boro--or patched and mended--textiles of old Japan.

 

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