The Texas Fashion Collection in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas is dedicated to the preservation and documentation of historic dress, with notable examples of haute couture, high fashion, and ready-to-wear by notable American and international designers. Our history reflects the robust presence of the fashion industry in North Texas, a commitment to research and education, and the generosity of designers, collectors, and donors.
Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based department store, opened in 1907. Upon taking leadership and celebrating the store’s thirtieth anniversary, Stanley and Edward Marcus conceived of a fashion collection highlighting their institution’s history. Emphasizing the emerging importance of American fashion designers, they created the Neiman Marcus Award in 1938. Known as “the Oscars of fashion,” the award recognized both national and international talents in all areas of fashion and design, brought influential fashion figures to Dallas, and drove the development of the Neiman Marcus Collection.
In the 1960s, fashion industry professionals under the guise of the Dallas Fashion Group began collecting and exhibiting historic garments at the Dallas Apparel Mart. As their collecting expanded, they named their collection the Dallas Museum of Fashion and began to include significant contemporary designs in their holdings. In 1969, the Dallas Museum of Fashion combined with the original Neiman Marcus Collection, creating a robust cache of artifacts used by industry professionals for inspiration and research.
By 1972, the combined collections of the Dallas Museum of Fashion and the Neiman Marcus Collection grew to more than 3,000 items. The shared goals of preservation and education led to the move to the University of North Texas. Dr. Edward Mattil, then chairman of the art department, helped transfer ownership and brought the collection to the UNT campus, where it has been housed since 1972.
Renamed the Texas Fashion Collection in 1989, the TFC is one of the most significant fashion archives in the U.S. That same year, Patti Lou Cobb joined the staff at UNT and brought museum standards and practices that improved the level of preservation for the collection. A National Endowment for the Arts grant for history and documentation was awarded to the Texas Fashion Collection in 1995, laying the groundwork for the retrospective digitization of the collection catalog, a project that continues today. In 1993, the university provided a newly renovated building that consolidated the collection into Scoular Hall, the first time the entire holdings were in one location. Since 2013, the Texas Fashion Collection has been in Welch Street Complex, a facility with an open storage model, allowing access for TFC staff and researchers with a focus on museum practices. This permanent collection space is augmented by the Gloria and Bruzzy Westheimer Student Research Gallery, in UNT Art Building Room 259. The Westheimer Gallery houses a smaller study collection and display area that relate to student learning and research on the University of North Texas campus.
Image: Designer unknown, men’s coat of velvet with embroidery (1760–1780), gift of the Estate of Scott Gentling, photo by Elizabeth Lanvin, D Magazine.