Susan Greene Costume Collection

The finest in the country

 

The finest collection of historic clothing in Upstate New York, featuring 3,500 clothing items from men, women, and children across three centuries. This historic fashion and textile collection has been expanded upon through the museum’s own collection mission. 

Purchased in 2010 from Susan Greene, a well-known authority in costume study, the collection features 3,500 rare, mostly 19th-century garments and accessories.

From 1780 to 1890

 

Although there is some formal attire, the focus of this collection is on items once worn by ordinary people in everyday situations: clothing that rarely survives. Most of the clothing dates from between 1790 and 1890 and was acquired or has a history in Upstate New York or New England, including an unusual number of items belonging to Quakers.

This comprehensive collection–featuring outerwear, underwear, headwear, footwear, and accessories–helps document the changing fashions and tastes for men, women, and children. The collection also includes the richly printed fabrics, a particular interest of Susan Greene. Among the very earliest are lace edgings that date to 1650.

Items not on display are housed in two climate-controlled rooms that feature an efficient mobile storage system of racks, shelving, and drawers, easily adjustable to accommodate the variety of contents. Temperature and humidity controls and a high-tech lighting system that produces little heat and no ultraviolet rays, also protect light-sensitive objects. An energy-efficient geothermal heating and air-conditioning system utilizes the earth’s natural heating and cooling properties.

The open-storage exhibit features some 300 articles, while some costumes are displayed on mannequins. Other garments and accessories can be accessed in pull-out archival drawers, permitting close-up study, while still protecting the fragile fabrics.

"...The Susan Greene Collection as 'a gem' that stands alone as one of the finest collections of its kind in North America."

Karen Augusta, appraiser for the Antiques Roadshow

Gallery Talks & Tours

Visitors to the John L. Wehle Gallery can enjoy curator-led talks and tours throughout the season.