Costume materials include work by distinguished designers such as Charles Frederick Worth, Gabrielle Chanel, Mainbocher, Charles James, Christian Dior, Norman Norell, Geoffrey Beene, Pauline Trigère, Yves Saint Laurent, Hanae Mori, Halston, Gianni Versace, and Christian Lacroix. Costume holdings also represent the dressmakers, milliners, retailers, and manufacturers who made this city their home. Collection materials include clothing worn by former presidents and first ladies, sports stars, celebrities, and other luminaries, as well as by everyday Chicagoans. Together, these materials—both exceptional and commonplace—reflect the history of Chicago as an evolving urban center and document fashion history through the lens of Chicago and its people.
The Museum’s textile holdings include a significant representation of military flags, political banners, quilts and coverlets, samplers, rugs, and other household textiles. Highlights include mid-twentieth century textiles designed by Chicago-based artists, such as Ellenhank and Angelo Testa.
The Museum regularly displays objects from this collection in exhibitions and also loans frequently to national and international institutions. Images of the collection are circulated in a number of publications, while the Museum’s online portal features a selection of objects available for study.
Learn more about researching the Museum’s costume and research files in the video below.
Behind-the-scenes tours of the Costume and Textiles collection may be requested by contacting the Adult Group Tours Office. Tours are offered for a fee on a limited basis based on the availability of appropriate Museum staff.