A Walk through Time in Fashion
The collection will be on exhibit in the Wrights Administration Building through April. We hope you get an opportunity to see this rare collection on clothing as well as a unique hat and accessories display out side the University Archive & Special Collections on the 3rd floor of the Rice Library.
In 2012 the University Special Collections received a generous gift of historical clothing worn by generations of the Cooper/Beardsley/Montgomery/Gordon Family. The Beardsley Collection, as it is known, includes not only the items on display here but also an assortment of women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing and accessories from the period 1860 through 1970.
The matriarch of the family, Martha Cooper Beardsley (1831—1922), was born in Ithaca, New York, and married Sherman Miller Beardsley. The Beardsleys had their second daughter Harriet “Hattie” Ethel Beardsley (1863—1959) and eventually the family relocated to the town of Bourbon in Douglas County, Illinois.
Hattie went on to marry a gentleman, James Montgomery, from Gibson County, Indiana and the young family relocated to Owensville, Indiana. There the Montgomery’s had two daughters, Ruth Montgomery (1891—1975) and Martha Louisa.
Young Martha Louisa Montgomery (1899—1982) wed Ronald M. Gordon of Owensville and they went on to have four children. The Gordon’s second child, James Montgomery Gordon (1926—2001), continued the line of the Cooper/Beardsley/ Montgomery/Gordon family.
This collection is gifted to the University Special Collections by James Gordon’s wife, Mrs. Evadean Gordon. Mrs. Gordon has also shared her thorough documentation of the clothing as to the names of family members that wore the items during specific time periods. This collection of historical clothing and accessories will continue to benefit the USI community as it tells the story of our region to future generations.
Susan Colaricci Sauls
Art Collection Registrar
A personal love for fashion and vintage clothing made curating this exhibit an exciting endeavor! The articles of clothing in this display were selected based on their integrity as vintage pieces, as well as what I believed would represent the wide range of clothing and accessories from the Beardsley Collection. In addition, I considered how outfits would be coordinated and how separate items complimented each other best, despite being from different time periods. At the end of my selection process, the pieces chosen from the collection spanned between the late 1890s through the early 1970s. Today it is common to see fashion designers, celebrities, and the everyday person wear an outfit that mixes clothing made today with vintage pieces.
How does fashion convey a culture and its values? While assembling and researching clothing for this exhibit, I thought about the similarities and differences between fashion from the time periods of the Beardsley Collection and present day fashion and what the similarities and differences indicate. Many present day clothing designers are inspired by designs from the past. Vintage silhouettes are a reoccurring contemporary fashion trend despite the fact that our society treats fashion as a sort of “fast food” that is quickly consumed and thrown out. I have observed that consumers buy clothes at a higher rate than in earlier decades, yet clothes are not made with as much attention to detail and do not last as long. As someone who is interested in fashion, I purchase vintage clothing because it is well made and more authentic than the imitation vintage items found at popular retailers.
The Beardsley Collection indicates that society in a previous era put a great deal of importance on dressing in a complete outfit from head to toe and valued and cared for their clothing. They believed it was important to keep something that was well made and now preserves history. Before curating this exhibit I had an interest in vintage fashion and now after this experience I see that fashion is continually changing while being inspired by the past.
Adrienne M. Eades
James A. Sanders Fellow