Oris Glisson Costume and Textiles Collection

Costume Collection
Costume Collection
Costume Collection
Costume Collection

Oris Glisson, for whom this collection is named, joined the faculty in 1948 and was head of the Department of Clothing, Textiles, and Related Art from1960 until her retirement in 1978. She continued to be an active supporter of the Apparel program and a spokesperson for excellence in teaching until her death in 1993. Those who knew Miss Glisson characterized her as a visionary and role model. She was among the first to promote the study of clothing from the perspective of the apparel industry. She exemplified professional conduct and character through her interactions with students and colleagues. She was recognized as a fellow of the International Textile and Apparel Association and cited as a "superior administrator, teacher, builder, and pioneer in the profession and association."

Oris Glisson remains the largest single donor to the collection. She donated and helped document close to 600 items of fashionable dress dating from the 1950s through the 1970s. These garments were obtained during her travels, purchased from Roanoke, Virginia dress shops, and developed as original designs. Many ensembles include coordinated hats, handbags, and shoes. These items serve as a legacy to her sense of style and design.

Collection History
The collection took shape during the early 1950s as students brought historic clothing and textile articles from home to share with other students in the history of costume course. Miss Glisson preserved these items so they could be used to illustrate changes in apparel design and clothing use. MIss Glisson established storage facilities, and the holdings grew significantly. The collection was named The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection upon Miss Glisson's retirement in 1978. On September 24, 1992, the celebration of the completed Wallace Hall addition officially opened the new collection facilities.

Collection Holdings
The Glisson Collection contains more than 5,000 items donated by students, alumni, faculty members, and their families and friends as well as other interested persons and institutions throughout Virginia and the East Coast. Holdings date from the 18th century and include day wear, evening wear, undergarments and lingerie, shoes, and hats and other accessories. Examples from each decade help document the typical looks from historic fashion eras. The clothing items primarily represent women's apparel since 1900 and include wedding gowns, designer garments, and other fashionable attire worn in southwestern Virginia.

The historic textiles include lace, coverlets, quilts, and household items. Home sewing patterns, fashion magazines, and sewing manuals provide further understanding of the technical, aesthetic, and social aspects of popular dress. A small reference library includes historic costume books and a selection of Sears Roebuck and J.C. Penney catalogs from the past.

Collection Use
Undergraduate students become familiar with the collection through their course work in apparel design, costume history, and merchandising. Using items from the collection enriches students' understanding of historic and contemporary fashion through a focus on innovations in apparel design, assembly, and manufacture as well as the significance of dress in various social contexts. Items are used for both classroom instruction and independent study. Graduate students use the collection as a resource for research and experience in collection management and exhibition.
The collection and the staff who manage it are available to the Virginia community through exhibitions, presentations, tours, and consultations. School and community groups are welcome to visit and view the collection. Throughout the year, exhibitions in the Wallace Hall Gallery and Atrium windows feature collection holdings. Specific items may be requested and studied for their design, construction, or social significance. The collection staff can provide expertise on dating and care of textiles and clothing.

For further information, contact the Collection Manager Janet Wimmer, Lab Specialist Senior, by phone at (540) 231-6781 or by e-mail at wimmer@vt.edu.