February and March are big months in the fashion industry, with major cities across the globe playing host to fashion week activities showcasing upcoming collections of the world’s best-known designers. But fashion is just as much about the past as it is about the present, and our collections might prove useful to the fashionista interested in tracing today’s designs back to trends of the past. We have a number of periodicals which were published in the 19th century containing dress patterns and images of fashion trends, including Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine. Among our rare books, La Mode Feminine de 1795 a 1900 (Paris : Nilsson, n.d.) contains beautiful colored plates which chronicle the development of women’s clothing from 1795 to 1900. The time span is divided into four series and each series is comprised of 20 plates illustrating a variety of looks for different occasions. The set is a work of art in its own right and serves as an historical reference for those interested in period dress.
Delaware’s own contributions to the fashion industry may seem hard to find, but it all depends on where you look. Delaware resident Joseph Bancroft operated a number of textile mills in Delaware and Pennsylvania in the mid 1800s. By 1930, Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co. was the largest cotton dyeing works in the world, and the company also played a role in the development of the colors for the Delaware state flag. Our collections include papers related to the Bancroft family and business, photographs, and even samples for fabrics such as Everglaze, an important product developed in Wilmington and used in clothing in the 1950s.
A major product that took the fashion industry by storm was nylon. Wilmington resident and DuPont employee Wallace Carothers is largely credited with the invention of nylon in 1935, and in 1940 the first nylon stockings were sold in stores, marking the beginning of a hosiery revolution. Our library collections include books on Carothers and the impact of nylon in fashion and other industries, as well as photographs and postcards of the DuPont nylon factory in Seaford.