The Groovy 1960s: What a Time!

Here at the Iowa State University Textiles and Clothing Museum we are huge fans of the 1960s for a number of reasons, but primarily for the fashion trends. During this decade, the successes of the fashion industry had huge increases. Farrell-Beck and Parsons stated, “The period 1959-1968 was largely prosperous, with a generally rising stock market, gradually declining unemployment, and fairly quiescent inflation…[t]he United States boasted a $15 billion apparel industry in 1966” (Farrell-Beck and Parsons, 2007, p. 163). Our students at Iowa State University also have a great interest in this decade as it represents a time of pushing boundaries with bright colors and geometric shapes, as well as social movements such as the Civil Rights movement and the Gay rights movement (Mendes & Haye, 1999).

We have a number of objects within our collection the reflect the trends, statements, and fads of the 1960s; here are some of our favorites!

Photographed here is a woman’s A-line, sleeveless dress made of linen (circa 1967). This dress has a white bodice with a round neckline, finished with wide orange bias binding and an orange skirt. The front and back bodice have vertical seams from waistline to armscye. The bodice of this dress is fully lined with rayon, and the orange skirt also has a rayon lining.  With a somewhat modest appearance, this dress represents the transitional phase of the 1960s. Farrell-Beck and Parsons state, “Despite the period’s reputation for wild, kicky dressing, it began in a fairly sedate way, with most skirts skimming the knees and most waistlines firmly defined…” (Farrell-Beck and Parsons, 2007, p. 173). 




Photographed here are a pair of woman’s slacks made with a bold print, linen-like, woven fabric (circa 1965).  The print is bright, with a black and white alternating background, and large paisley and flower shapes in deep pink, orange and yellow. These pants are slim fitting  with no waistband. These types of bright colors and prints were extremely popular during the 1960s, “Colors ran riot, singly, paired, and in psychedelic prints that mixed several high-intensity hues. Favorites included shocking pink, orange, lime green, purple, and canary yellow” (Farrell-Beck and Parsons, 2007, p. 173).




A huge fad from the 1960s was the paper dress, and we are excited to share that we have multiple paper dresses in the Textiles and Clothing Museum collection. Farrell-Beck and Parsons state, “Any account of this decade must include the paper dress that became a fad in 1966. These sold for as little as $1.25 or as much as $1,000, depending on the complexity and who designed them” (Farrell-Beck and Parsons, 2007, p. 173).





Finally, one of our most prized possessions within our collection from the 1960s is this blouse made by famous designer Emilio Pucci (circa 1960s). This is a woman’s geometric print shirt with yellow, orange, pink and tan geometric shapes.   Fabric is very thin, almost sheer, which was ideal for traveling (Farrell-Beck and Parsons, 2007). This blouse was made in Italy and is 100% pure cotton. Farrell-Beck and Parsons state, “Notable Italian names [of this decade] included Emilio Pucci, famed for bold prints on silk knits, perfect for travel. Although he had been designing them in the 1950s, Pucci’s silk prints in bright swirling colors struck a chord in the psychedelic 1060s” (Farrell-Beck and Parsons, 2007, p. 171).  



We are excited to share some of our favorite objects from the 1960s, and we hope that you enjoy them as much as we do! What is your favorite decade from the 1900s? Tell us in the comment section or on our new Instagram page @tcmuseum_isu.


Farrell-Beck, J., Parsons, J. (2006). Twentieth century dress in the United States. New York: Fairchild.

Mendes, V., & De La Haye, A. (1999). 20th century fashion. London: Thames & Hudson.

By: Dyese Matthews, Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet Endowed Graduate Assistant


A Few Tips On Managing Costume Collections

Here at the Iowa State University Textiles and Clothing Museum (TCM) we have gratefully accumulated over 9,500 items of material culture that represent various fashions, cultures, and time periods. With such a large number of items and the continuation of growth, one may wonder “How does the TCM team properly manage their huge collection?” We are here to tell you…it’s not easy! But, over time we have learned the most effective ways to manage our collection.We also utilize the shared knowledge within the field of museum practice, incorporating many methods that have been proven to make the managing of collections more efficient.

One resource that provides ample advice and tips on managing costume collections is a book from the Costume Society of America (CSA) book series titled Managing Costume Collections: An Essential Primer by Louise Coffey-Webb. CSA is a nationally recognized non-profit organization that “…fosters an understanding of appearance and dress practices of people across the globe through research, education preservation, and design” (Costume Society of America, 2016). Managing Costume Collections: An Essential Primer provides insight on museum collection management for both new and seasoned museum professionals (MacPharlain, 2018). Throughout the text, Coffey-Webb provides many specific management tips unique to museum culture; a few of those practices are highlighted below.

  • Develop a Mission Statement, Collection Policy, and Inventory System

Although the TCM is well established as it was started in 1923, there was a time where a mission statement, collection policy, and inventory system had to be created. In fact, as the TCM has matured, these elements have been revised and updated to follow the continuously evolving needs and priorities of the university. For an up-and-coming museum collection, this step is very important as it impacts decision making and organizational plans for the collection (Coffey-Webb, 2016; MacPharlain, 2018).

  • Cataloguing and Storage Practices

According to Coffey-Webb (2016), it is imperative that museums utilize both hard copies and digital copies for all records; this is the safest practice. Here at the TCM, we maintain paper records as well as records in a Past Perfect online database. The type of information kept in these records includes donor information, object measurements, provenance, and photos. Having an organized and comprehensible museum object catalog will ultimately make managing the collection an easier task. It is also important to think about storage practices–what objects should be stored flat, in boxes, or rolled? Proper storage and careful planning helps in the long run. Since most collections are dynamic, and continue to grow, more storage is always needed. Proper storage also allows for less chances of unnecessary object deterioration due to improper climate or pesky critters (Coffey-Webb, 2016).

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  • Making the Collection Accessible to the Public

The TCM offers many ways for the public to access the collection! One of those ways being through classes as students have hands-on experiences with some of the objects. Other ways include internships and assistantships. According to Coffey-Webb (2016) it is also a good idea to give occasional tours of the storage facilities, which we also provide at the TCM. Ultimately, the most popular way of making the collection accessible is through exhibitions, which are always free and open to the public here at the TCM! Although we strive to be as accessible as possible to researchers and students, it is important to recognize that physical access may be restricted for some objects due to condition or other factors.  That being the case, the TCM has been gradually putting more and more of our collections online at

The TCM is excited to share these collection management tips with you all! We have learned that these practices make managing a collection run smoothly, and we hope that this information is helpful to new museums being started, museums that have been around for a while, and any museums in-between. Happy managing!


Coffey-Webb, L. (2016). Managing costume collections: An essential primer. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press.

Costume Society of America. (2016). Mission. Retrieved from

MacPharlain, A. (2018). Managing costume collections: An essential primer. Dress, 44(2), 159-161.

By: Dyese Matthews, Graduate Research Assistant