How to document personal history of dress

 When obtaining a dress from a wearer or his/her direct descendants, we are faced with a unique opportunity to document the dress in an extensive way, by obtaining personal information that usually doesn’t accompany garments purchased at an auction or received from unknown donors. In such a situation, it is important to document as thoroughly as possible the details of its manufacture or purchase, the history of its use, as well as personal values and opinions. The information might be obtained in the course of an informal conversation, structured interview or by completing a questionnaire.

For information on how to conduct an effective interview, it is worth consulting oral history handbooks or learning some of the techniques used by cultural anthropologists to gather information (see Further sources).

To see examples of questions you may wish to ask when interviewing a person about a particular type of dress, see Costume: interviewing the owner.

In addition to obtaining information through an interview, when a dress enters a museum’s collection it is important to obtain related materials like photographs, various ephemera, packaging etc. For further information on this topic see Clothing and collecting policies.

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