Women's clothing is a strength of the holdings of the Clothing and Textiles Division of the Museum. Listed in the database are 2,455 dresses, 137 gowns and 471 women's suits. The earliest garment's date is a lovely 1810-15 muslin empire style dress. Representative garment examples through the year 2000 are held. There is a strong late 19th-century collection including beautiful silk gowns as well as everyday cotton dresses worn in West Texas.
The Division collects objects that were worn and used in the households of tastemakers in Texas and the North American Southwest, especially objects that are examples of good design to serve as a reference for the university's design students. To that end, couture designers represented in the collection include Christian Dior, Coco Chanel Geoffrey Beene, Balenciaga, Yves St. Laurent, Schiaparelli, Poiret, Fortuny, Lanvin, Emillo Pucci, Traina-Norell, Hattie Carnegie, Adele Simpson, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Irene, Bonnie Cashin, Mollie Parnis, Vera Maxwell, Oleg Cassini, Stephen Burrows, Marimekko, Ferragamo, and Ralph Lauren. Also included are more regional designers including Texas manufacturers Lorch and Nardis.
However, the collection is also strong in everyday dresses, from those worn by early settlers of West Texas to the feed sack dresses of the Depression and the shifts of the 1960s.
From opulent formal gowns for special occasions to house dresses worn every day, the collection has a wide variety of outstanding design examples, which not only document what was worn, but serve to inform the designers of the future.