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May 5, 2019

RACK ‘EM UP

Forty Five Ten brings the next wave of history to Texas Fashion Collection

Little D (that’s Denton, in case you didn’t know) isn’t exactly synonymous with high fashion. But tucked away in the small college town is a hidden gem of archived couture: more than 20,000 garments whose history spans more than 250 years.

Spearheaded by Stanley and Edward Marcus, the Texas Fashion Collection began in 1938 as an effort to preserve fashion’s most historically significant pieces. Today it’s housed at the University of North Texas, where it serves as an invaluable resource for students in the College of Visual Arts and Design. Comprised almost entirely of donations, the collection exists due to the generosity of designers, private collectors, and luxury retailers. John Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Giorgio Armani…the most iconic names in fashion are represented, including enough Balenciaga to make Texas Fashion Collection the world’s second-largest assemblage of the designer’s work.

Each individual piece has a story to tell. There’s a Hubert de Givenchy dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Charade. A Claire McCardell playsuit, one of the first pieces designed to be worn in front of the television. A collection of tiny-waisted ’50s silhouettes the inaugurated Christian Dior’s hyperfeminine New Look. “We have amazing ready-to-wear that speaks to time periods and what was happening culturally,” says director Annette Becker. “But we don’t have many contemporary pieces.”

Enter Forty Five Ten. Adding a splash of avant-garde to the archive, the retailer donated 13 decidedly modern pieces from designers including Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, and Alexander McQueen. Among the historical highlights: an off-the-shoulder shift from L’Wren Scott’s final collection before her untimely death and the Budweiser dress that Jeremy Scott sent down the runway in his FW14 debut at Moschino.

“I’ve been especially lusting after Comme des Garçons,” says Becker. “These new pieces speak so beautifully to the collection.” In a nice bit of timing, the donation coincides with preparations for the spring opening of UNT’s new, nearly 130,000-square-foot art building. The Forty Five Ten pieces will serve as the centerpiece of the building, being displayed in a large window for students and the public.

As time goes on, the pieces will be exhibited alongside historic garments featuring similar construction techniques and in pop-up exhibitions across Dallas-Fort Worth. “I can’t underscore enough how important this donation is,” says Becker. “A ton of students would never have access to these types of pieces. Having access will give them a sense of ownership. Everyone should be able to view pieces of this caliber.” —Nicole Jordan

The Details: Texas Fashion Collection, 405 South Welch Street, Suite 102. Tour by appointment  only.