I’m so happy to be a guest on the Vintage Traveler today. My name is Jacqueline WayneGuite, and I am a fashion historian. Currently I work as a collection manager of a historic fashion collection, and I’d like to share a little of what I do.
As a collection manager, my job, first and foremost, is to take care of the collection. When we receive new donations, I am the first person to process them — recording detailed descriptions, giving each piece an individual number, finding a new home for it, and tracking each piece’s location.
I also devote a good amount of time to upgrading the collection’s storage conditions. When I was just starting out in museums, my first internship involved cataloging hats and making mounts for them. Using blue board, an acid-free type of cardboard, I constructed custom mounts for each one. I measured the inside of the crown and the depth of each. The mount lifts the hat up off its shelf so that pressure was taken off of the edge of the hat. Instead it would be supported inside the crown. Hats with large brims sometimes receive extra appendages for additional support. Making mounts for hats has followed me throughout my career. Now I teach student how to make them.
Over the years I’ve also made trays and other supports for small accessories, sometimes out of blue board and sometimes carved out of ethafoam, a stable plastic material similar to styrofoam. Padded hangers are in constant production because, it seems, I never can have enough.
No two days are ever the same for a collection manager. Sometimes I’m working on a bit of curatorial work or research for a presentation. Working with primary sources, such as original magazines is one of my favorite types of research. When I find a fashion plate that looks similar to a garment in my collection, I feel a great sense of fulfillment.
During the academic semesters, I frequently visit classes with a rack of garments to supplement a professor’s lecture. It makes perfect sense, but there is really no better way for a student to learn about the history of fashion than to actually look at the garments in person. Students get a much better sense about silhouette, color, and overall impression a garment makes in person than seeing it in a PowerPoint presentation or in a textbook.
There have been times I have to drop everything I’m doing to attend to an urgent inquiry. I’ve also gone on donor visits to choose new items. Dressing a garment on a mannequin can be a difficult challenge, but again is very fulfilling when I’ve finally nailed the correct shape and look.
My job has exciting moments and, like every job, more mundane tasks. But it allows me to work hands on with historic fashion, which is my true calling.
For more from Jacqueline, visit her blog, The Hourglass Files. All photos and content are the copyright of Jacqueline WayneGuite.