Gweneth West on the UVA Collection of Historic Dress

Monday, November 9, 2015

UVA’s Collection of Historic Dress Comes to Life

by Caroline Newman, UVA Today

Deep in the bowels of the University of Virginia’s drama department dwell the ghosts of bygone eras.

They linger in the wool of a man’s overcoat, the silk of an Edwardian gown, the cotton of a slave’s dress – each with a story to tell.

Drama Professor Gweneth West cultivates those stories as curator of UVA’s Collection of Historic Dress. Amid towering stacks of props, West extracts sheet-encased racks of iconic clothing from as early as the 1790s and as recently as the 1970s.

“Mounted on mannequins, these garments have so much personality. It’s very haunting,” West said. “You think about what clothes mean to us today, why we choose them and how we think about the impression we will make. Fashion is so much about who we are and who we dream to be. This collection gives us a glimpse into other peoples and other times through the fashions they wore and preserved for posterity.”  READ MORE