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Featured Research Collection by Rachel Snack

The Design Center at Philadelphia University

The Design Center at Philadelphia University is a nationally recognized resource for the study of Western and non-Western textiles and costumes from the 1st century A.D. to the present, dedicated to the preservation and research of the textiles and costumes in its collection.

Inside the mid-century façade of The Design Center, rooms are filled floor-to-ceiling with costumes, vintage ready-to-wear, accessories, textiles, swatch books, rugs and tapestries—creating a true designer’s heaven. With an extensive collection of costumes and textiles, it is hard to imagine a more perfect place to come searching for creative ideas and leave filled with inspiration. Visitors to the collection include students, fashion and textile designers, and others in the apparel industry, and entrepreneurs.

Students from Philadelphia University learning firsthand about Renaissance textiles

Students from Philadelphia University learning firsthand about Renaissance textiles

The collection features pieces as old as 2,000-year-old Egyptian Coptic fragments and Pre-Colombian woven and printed textiles. It also houses elaborate European silk embroideries and brocades, Kashmir and Paisley shawls, 18th and 19th century quilts and coverlets, and 19th and early 20th century Chinese imperial court robes and Japanese kimonos. Traditional costumes from around the world are represented, as are a wide range of clothing accessories from stockings, shoes, hats, and gloves to parasols, beaded bags, and fans.

Marcella Milio, curator of the collection, said, “It is an unparalleled teaching resource and one of the great benefits of an education at Philadelphia University.” Milio teaches several interactive classes at The Design Center that use the collection as a learning tool for fashion and textile design students. The advancement of learning through the collection also is achieved through tours, special exhibitions, enrichment programs, and targeted research opportunities.

Curator and teacher Marcella Milio in her classroom with garments from the collection on display.

Curator and teacher Marcella Milio in her classroom with garments from the collection on display.

The Design Center is continuing to build an online presence through the cataloguing and photographing of the collection. The Design Center’s “tapestry archive” http://tapestry.philau.edu offers a catalogue of thousands of historic swatches digitized from the collection, available to anyone around the world to view. In addition, The Design Center’s stunning Tumblr site http://thedesigncenter.tumblr.com/ highlights the textile and costume collection. It includes weekly “Wardrobe Wednesdays” postings, when a contemporary fashion trend is paired with an item from The Design Center’s collection.

The Collection is free and open to the public by appointment Tuesday through Thursday. For more information contact 215-951-2860 or thedesigncenter@philau.edu

Rachel Snack is the Textile and Costume Collection Graduate Assistant at The Design Center at Philadelphia University. She can be reached at snack6900@mail.philau.edu . The Design Center at Philadelphia University is an institutional member of The Textile Society of America.