Top Five Museums To See Fashion in the U.S

Top Five Museums To See Fashion in the U.S

Posted by Hadley Robinson on Apr 4th 2022

Fashion is all around us. Home to centuries of fashion, museums can be an excellent option to see firsthand, some of the world's finest wears. If you have a trip planned this spring and summer, here are have some favorite collections for you to explore! Each has curated exhibits from high fashion, movie costumes, to local and historical pieces. 

1. The Costume Institute at Met Museum 

Formally the Museum of Costume Art was started in 1937 by Irene Lewisohn, a philanthropist and devotee to the arts. In 1946 it merged with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Led by fashion leader the Costume Institute has had many directors including the great Diana Vreeland who was a French-American and worked for the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar and as editor-in-chief at Vogue, and currently now Andrew Bolton. The collection houses over 30,000 pieces from women to children from over many centuries. When visiting their online catalog, they have a wide array of items to look at. Included a favorite here at INSPR is an Alexander McQueen from his earlier years, featuring some of his shoes, headpieces, and avant-garde looks.

The first Monday in May, fashion heads and celebrities from all over the world gather for the Met Gala where they celebrate the new exhibit and fundraise for the institute. Past exhibits included include Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty; China: Through the Looking Glass; Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology; and Camp: Notes on Fashion. 

2. Chicago History Museum Costume and Textiles Collection 

Could you imagine having 50,000 items in your closet? How amazing would it be to have an endless possibility of outfits to wear out or to just play dress-up? Located in Downtown Chicago, the Chicago History Museum Costume and Textiles Collection has more than 50,000 costumes and textiles dating from the eighteenth century to the present, making it the largest collection in the US. Featuring many famous designers like Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and, Halston. The textile selection included rugs, household textiles, quilts, and many more. Visit their website here:

3. FIDM 

FIDM offers both a museum and a study collection for a hands-on resource only for the students. The FIDM Museum located in LA was founded in 1978. It has 15,000 fashion objects dating from the eighteenth century to the present. The Museum has hosted many exhibitions like House of Gucci which included costumes from the film and the 28th Annual Art Of Motion Picture Costume Design which showcased the very best of film design. Visit their website here:

4. Columbia College Chicago Fashion Study Collection

Founded in 1989, The Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago has more than 6,000 items, which included designer garments, fashion history, and ethnic dress. One of the most curious and controversial pieces they have are two jackets made of Monkey fur. Pieces were made before it was illegal to sell and make fur from primates, large cats, and bears. Having been donated to the collection, it is a rare opportunity to view such fur in collections. This Fashion Study Collection allows for more hands-on education for students and is open to the public. Visit their website here:

5. Missouri History Museum Library & Research Center 

Dating back to the early 1700s, the collection ranges from wedding dresses, hats, shoes, and Katherine Dunham's dance costumes. Their past exhibits included, Little Black Dress, From Mourning to Night and Threads, an installation of new designs from Project Runway stars. Upon a recent visit from our INSPR Team, we had a VIP look into their collection, with an up-close look at some items from children's wear, men's wedding coats, formal and 1920s party dresses. We were amazed at the Charles James dress from the 1950s, shown to the right. We also got a sneak peek at the new exhibit happening soon. You can plan your visit here on their website:

Small or big each has its unique style of showcasing fashion throughout the ages. Whether it be at a Museum or a VIP tour of the collections you are sure to find some interesting pieces to #BeINSPRD while learning a ton of history.