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The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection

Oris Glisson
Oris Glisson

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection is housed within the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management in Wallace Hall Room 123A.

The mission of The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection is to preserve and document fashionable dress items worn in southwestern Virginia to illustrate to students, faculty, alumni, and the Virginia Tech community, the changing values in apparel design and clothing use from the 18th century to present. 

In support of the collection’s vision, clothing, textiles, and accessories that are collected will exhibit the technical, aesthetic, and social changes in fashionable dress. 

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection will become a central resource for education of historic dress and fashion through teaching and research at Virginia Tech, as well as through outreach to communities throughout southwestern Virginia.

This vision is supported by future goals for the collection, which align with Virginia Tech’s strategic goals. Future goals are to:

  • Photograph and digitize the collection’s holdings to make them available for the public, thereby increasing the collection’s reach and impact
  • Establish a group of supporters and provide opportunities for service and volunteering, thereby increasing engagement with the community
  • Provide more opportunities for students to hone and illustrate their talents in artifact research and exhibition
  • Create professional-quality exhibitions that display excellence in research and learning.

The collection was founded by Miss Oris Glisson who served as Associate Professor of Home Economics from 1948 – 1955 and Professor and Department Head of the Department of Clothing, Textiles, and Related Art (now the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management) from 1955 –1978. She developed the Historic Costume and Textile Collection in 1958 and donated and helped document over 600 fashionable dress items from the 1950s through the 1970s, which serve as the hallmark of the collection, some of which are designer garments. Miss Glisson established the collection’s storage facilities and significantly grew the collection’s holdings. The collection was named The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection in her honor upon her retirement in 1978. 

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection contains more than 5,000 pieces of day and evening wear, undergarments, outerwear, and accessories, as well as textiles (lace, coverlets, quilts, and other household items) from local and state donors, including former students, faculty, friends and family of faculty and students.

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection is primarily used for teaching and research. It is also used for outreach. Students in Fashion Merchandising and Design (FMD) will become familiar with the collection throughout their coursework by taking courses in merchandising and design, as well as courses focusing on historic and cultural aspects of fashion and dress. FMD students are first introduced to the collection in their freshman year when they learn about dress artifacts as part of an introductory fashion course and later when they complete artifact analysis research projects in the course of History of Costume in their sophomore year. In addition, FMD students interested in historic collections management will receive specialized instructions in the course of Historic Collections Management and create small exhibits in the collection’s four display windows, which are highly valued by the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management to increase the visibility of the department.

Faculty and students also use the collection for research. Some faculty perform artifact analysis on garments to further understand changes in the construction and design throughout the 19th and 20th century and how these changes were influenced by political, economic, social, and cultural factors. This research is presented at conferences and published in research journals. Undergraduate students may also perform faculty-directed research on artifacts within the collection and present it at student conferences and research competitions. Research is also a key component in planning exhibitions held in the Wallace Gallery, which are designed to engage the local Virginia Tech community. 

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection serves Virginia Tech students, faculty, alumni, independent researchers, and local communities throughout southwestern Virginia.

Students, faculty, alums, researchers, and the local Virginia Tech community may view exhibitions in the Wallace Hall atrium free of charge and without an appointment Monday through Friday during normal operating hours (8 AM – 5 PM), excluding university holidays. However, because any visit to the collection archives and storage facilities stresses the preservation of its holdings, access to the collection’s archives and storage facilities (Wallace Hall, Room 123A) must be approved, scheduled, and facilitated by the Director, Dr. Dina Smith-Glaviana. Please contact her at if you are interested in viewing the archives or making a research appointment.

The Oris Glisson Historic Textile and Costume Collection welcomes new donations. Generally, every day and evening wear, undergarments, outerwear, and accessories from the Southwest Virginia area from the 18th century to the present day are collected. While all historic garments will show signs of wear and age, donations of clothing, textiles, and accessories must be in good condition relative to their age. Additionally, any item is not expected to be in its original condition. Therefore, all flaws will be weighed during the acquisition consultation. If planning to donate items to the collection, please inspect the items to determine if they meet the following criteria:

Whole garments or accessories that: 

  • Highlight local Virginia history
  • Items that are rare/unique OR items that are iconic to particular cultural eras and regions
  • Ensembles/matching pieces that were made and sold as a matching set
  • Items created by local designers or sold by local department stores
  • Items with their original tags and labels (preferred)
  • Garments may have style and fit alterations.
  • Garments are not limited to being high-end/designer; Clothing and accessories worn by the average middle, or working-class Virginian residents are particularly encouraged. 

No Loss to or Compromised Structural Integrity:

  • Damages that do not affect structural integrity: Holes and tears are minimal in number, small in size, and not located at key supportive seams. 
  • Fabric is stable and is not disintegrating, cracking, or ‘melting’ (found in items made with plastics).
  • Straps, waistbands, elastics, and laces are intact enough to support the garment when hung on a hanger or fitted to a form/mannequin.
  • Cosmetic elements such as beading, embroidery, applique, and other significant decorative elements are intact (e.g., bows, flowers, lace, feathers) and are still attached, sewn, or adhered to the garment. 
  • Most (if not all) buttons and closures are intact. Missing closures should not affect the garment’s ability to close properly and are not prominent decorative elements.
  • Hats and shoes hold their original shape. 
  • Items in pairs or part of a complete ensemble must include all parts (e.g., shoes, earrings, underwear sets, dresses with matching slips). 

Minimal Soiling and discoloration:

  • Items must not have toxic materials such as arsenic, lead, etc. 
  • Items must not have mold, rust, excessive dirt, droppings, or pests.
    • Items scented with mildew and pest urine will not be accepted due to their stubborn resistance to conservational washing.
  • Stains are minimal in number and minor in size. In addition, they are located in areas that do not detract from the garment’s most prominent features.
  • Discoloration and sun fading are minor and relatively even throughout.
  • Metals in fabrics, closures, and accessories are stable and not corroded or rusting.

Items not collected:

In addition, The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection do not collect the following items: 

  • Flat textiles, such as quilts, curtains, blankets, etc.
  • Items made with real fur 
  • Items that do not relate to or were not used/worn within Southwestern Virginia 
  • Duplicates of items already in the collection unless they provide significant historic value (The Director will determine this).

·       Fragments or pieces of garments that have been unsewn or detached due to deterioration. 

Potential donors should refer to the “Donations” tab to determine what is and is not collected. 

To donate to The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection, contact the Director, Dina Smith-Glaviana, via email at or phone at 540-231-3497 between 12:30 and 3:00 PM (office hours may vary). Please send an email with a brief description of the items to be donated and attach high-quality photos, if possible. An in-person consultation will follow if deemed necessary. Following the initial consultation, the Director will evaluate the item’s condition, style, authenticity, rarity, and storage requirements to determine whether the donation will be accepted in whole or part. 

If accepted, the donor will be asked to fill out the Virginia Tech Foundation form to be submitted with their donation at drop-off. Donors are required to provide a monetary value and documentation to support that value. For questions regarding the monetary value, please contact the Director. In addition, any supportive documents (e.g., photographs, letters, ephemera such as original price tags, etc.) detailing the personal history of donated materials should be provided. Please note that all items will be considered “on-loan” for two weeks or until all forms and documentation are submitted. If the documentation is not provided within this period, the Director may request to return the items to the donor. 

Donors, alums, faculty, and students are welcome to volunteer in The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection. Opportunities will be dependent on the Director’s availability. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Dina Smith-Glaviana via email at or via phone at 540-231-3497 between 12:30 and 3:00 PM (office hours may vary).

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Reform, Women, and Fashion: Changes in Women's Daywear from 1840-1920 Exhibition (video)


Dina Smith-Glaviana
Director of the Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection
240 Wallace Hall
295 W Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-6164 |