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December 3, 2013

UH Mānoa Costume Museum

From costume collection to historic costume museum

The UHM Historic Costume Collection, maintained by the Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) program in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), is a hidden treasure. The collection consists of approximately 18,000 historic and ethnographic textiles, garments, accessories, home-furnishing fabrics, and more. Some of these pieces date back to 1850 and offer us an extraordinary glimpse into our past.

About the collections

There are four sub-collections: Western, Asian, Hawaiian and Ethnic.

Watch our Indiegogo video and learn more.

costume image 1The core of the Asian Costume Collection, the founding collection of the museum, was acquired by UH Professor Oma Umbel in the 1960s following her sabbatical trip to Southeast Asia in 1963-1964. The collection also features a series of five Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) imperial dragon robes and a Japanese kosode, an ornate silk robe that was among the exchange of gifts during negotiations when Commander Perry opened up trade between the U.S. and Japan in 1854.

The Western, Hawaiian and Ethnic Collections include one-of-a-kind haute couture gowns, and the tunics, veils and leggings worn by Hawai‘i’s Territory-era plantation workers in pineapple and sugarcane fields. It also contains an extensive collection of iconic aloha shirts and muumuus, next to bolts of Polynesian tapa cloth pounded from mulberry bark and inscribed with intricate designs.

The collection is used in myriad ways to enrich the learning experience in programs throughout UH; promote research by students, faculty and visiting scholars; and provide artifacts for use in class and exhibition. The Costume Collection celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015 with presentations, dance performances and curated exhibits in Hamilton Library's Bridge Gallery.

Help us conserve and display 

costume image 2Your support will help us better protect these irreplaceable artifacts and allow more people to view them.

Donations will:

  • Fund the purchase of several museum-quality cabinets to store the clothing, as well as the textile-conservation materials necessary to better protect it.
  • Help fund the purchase of display cases that can accommodate the clothing so that the university community and the general public can view and learn from the clothes of yesteryear. Currently there is only one display case, and it can only show three garments at a time.
  • There is no permanent exhibition venue for these historic costumes. Help us fulfill our ultimate dream of setting up a suite of rooms as a permanent exhibition hall for a rotating portion of the collection.

Help us preserve this collection of treasures and share its beauty and lessons.

Questions? / More Information

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808-956-8700 or send us a message.