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The Western Costume Collection

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has collected and displayed Western women’s costume since its inception. Permanent costume galleries in the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum featured historic garments and portraits, while rotating exhibitions showcased costumes and accessories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the 1950s, the collection benefitted from the patronage of Grover Magnin (1885–1969), president of I. Magnin department store and member of the Museums’ Board of Trustees, and his wife, Jeanne (1896–1986), who donated many iconic gowns by French couturier Christian Dior. In 1985, the Museums twentieth-century costume collection was transformed by the generous gift of post-World War II haute couture and high fashion from the wardrobe of international style arbiter Eleanor Christenson de Guigné (1911–1983). Her wardrobe includes pivotal designs by seminal couturiers such as Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy, and Yves Saint Laurent. Over the past fifteen years, the collection has expanded greatly, spurred by the success of the Museums’ fashion program. Recent gifts by Nan Kempner (1930–2005), Georgette “Dodie” Rosekrans (1919–2010), Diana Dollar Knowles (1917–2013), the Quigley family, Christine Suppes, and Norah Stone (1938–2019) have encouraged the growth of the Museums’ late-twentieth- and twenty-first-century fashion holdings. At present, contemporary strengths include the work of Saint Laurent, Geoffrey Beene, Comme des Garçons, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and Yohji Yamamoto.


Image: Christian Lacroix (designer), French, b. 1950. Woman's ensemble: coat (a) and dress (b), Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2007, France, Paris. (a) wool, goat hair, animal fur, silk, metallic thread; felt, crochet, lace appliqué, charmeuse, couched threads; (b) wool, metal, crystal; bouclé, coins, balls and beads, 109.2 cm (43 in.) center back length (a); 104.1 cm (41 in.) center back length (b). Gift of Christine Suppes in honor of Jill D'Alessandro, 2017.75.1a-b