The timeline offers a clear and comprehensive account of not only the history of dress but also the complicated history of dress in art. The information equips researchers with essential facts, vocabulary, and models of analysis. The site also directs users to scholarly secondary sources and curated lists of the best online resources for fashion and dress—for example, Finnish textile conservator Jaana Seppälä’s Pocket Museum on Pinterest, which features 122,000 artistic depictions of dress as well as surviving garments. Accurate knowledge of dress and fashion history is an inextricable part of the practice and study of art history. Yet analyzing and understanding dress can be daunting to art historians and students who have not been trained in fashion history. The Fashion History Timeline is intended to demystify dress and fashion, offering the academic community and others a publicly available starting place for their research. Additionally, while there are comprehensive, multi-volume resources like the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, at a retail price of $2,000, they are out of reach for most individuals and even many libraries. The Fashion History Timeline is free and available to all.
A key accomplishment of this research is the unconventional practice of using undergraduate students in the publication of such work. By presenting the best of this work online, the Fashion History Timeline harnesses student research for the greater good, providing the public with informed, compelling, and current information. The timeline will also bring FIT research to a wider audience and imbue it with a longer life, beyond the professor, the class, and the semester for which it was created. Students involved with the project thus far have reported great satisfaction in having added to the world’s knowledge—that what they have discovered and written matters.
Students and faculty have been contributing entries to the timeline since fall 2015. To date, there have been 263 contributing authors, with 490 written entries representing 14 classes of FIT students. The entries thus far fall into two principal categories: fashion history term definitions and artwork analyses. The project has received funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, which devotes its resources to advancing the history, conservation, and enjoyment of the vast heritage of European art, architecture, and archaeology from antiquity to the early 19th century.