The FIDM Museum and Library, Inc. collects, preserves, and interprets fashion objects and support materials with outstanding design merit. It fosters student learning, public engagement, and recognition of the creative arts and entertainment industries by providing access to the collections through exhibitions, publications, and other research opportunities.
FIDM Museum & Galleries History
FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising was founded in 1969 by current FIDM President Tonian Hohberg. Hohberg envisioned an exciting learning environment where students could master art and design disciplines. FIDM has grown to encompass 25 majors on four campuses: San Francisco, Orange County, San Diego, and the original Downtown Los Angeles location. In 1973, the Fashion Design Department realized that design students would better understand textile drape, pattern structure, and finishing techniques if they had access to representative garments. Staff and faculty responded by raiding their personal closets to assemble the fledgling Museum’s first "collection." The nonprofit entity FIDM Museum and Library, Inc. was formally established in 1978, and the institution was met with immediate enthusiasm. The initial holdings were enhanced by a generous gift of French haute couture ensembles from founding donor Betsy Bloomingdale.
As the years passed, the FIDM Museum grew along with the college. In 1985, the estate of Rudi Gernreich bequeathed the designer’s extensive archive to the FIDM Museum. When a new Los Angeles campus was constructed in 1990, the design incorporated designated storage for the Museum’s objects. Community outreach attracted new donors, as did the rotating Museum displays on FIDM campuses. The FIDM Gallery opened in 1993, providing a permanent exhibition space. The Museum began mounting exhibitions ranging from California sportswear to Hollywood costumes. In appreciation of the community’s longstanding and generous support, exhibitions are always free to the public.
During the 1990s, a curatorial department was established, the galleries expanded to 8,000 square feet, and the Museum Shop was opened. In 1998, the collection was divided into the research-oriented Permanent Collection and the hands-on Study Collection. In the intervening years, the Museum converted to a digital database, constructed state-of-the-art compact storage areas, and acquired the Annette Green Fragrance Archive. The Gianni Versace Menswear Archive is a recent standout acquisition, along with the Michel Arnaud Photography Archive. The caliber, connoisseurship, and interpretation of the Museum collections have grown and expanded toward educational exhibitions, documentary productions, catalogue publications, a respected blog presence, and social media activities.
Thanks to thousands of generous donors, the FIDM Museum Collections currently hold over 15,000 objects covering more than 200 years of history. Because the Museum focuses on the design merits of high fashion, most of the collections are dedicated to fashionable women’s dress, and acquisitions are determined primarily by how well an object represents its time period and a designer’s oeuvre. The collection also includes folk dress and non-Western garments. Accessories are another vital component, exhibited separately or used for head-to-toe mannequin dressing, helping to establish a complete understanding of how fashion is worn. Auxiliary ephemera such as periodicals, patterns, and photographs support the study of design by defining historical contexts. Additionally, interior textiles, swatch books, and embroidery samples complement the fashion holdings and ensure a rich understanding of related disciplines.