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Time Periods Research

About Special Collections & College Archives

Special Collections at the Fashion Institute of Technology is a highly-specialized repository of primary source research materials related to the fields of fashion and design.

The more than 7,000 rare books housed in Special Collections have been vetted for their rarity or importance in the fields of fashion, textile, costume and interior design.  The collection includes 3,500 linear feet of books, periodicals, oral histories, and designer scrapbooks as well as over 350 unique manuscript collections that contain more 500,000 works on paper, many of which are original designer sketches. The manuscript collections are especially strong in their documentation of American fashion design from the late nineteenth century through the 1990s, Broadway and Hollywood costume design and the history of New York City’s own Seventh Avenue garment district.

SPARC welcomes all researchers, FIT graduate and undergraduate students, class visits, and group tours to our reading room. We are committed to providing access to our collections, and we are here to assist you.

Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. To schedule an appointment contact us at or call (212) 217-4385. Please contact us at least 24 hours before you would like to conduct your research. In the event you need to cancel or delay your appointment we ask that you inform us as soon as possible.

Research hours
In order to be as accessible as possible we are open seven days a week for research during the academic year. During the summer we are open Monday through Thursday due to FIT Summer Closures. Please consult FIT’s Academic Calendar for additional information about closures.

For our current research schedule, and directions to the collection, please see our Visit page on our main website, and the library homepage for all exceptions & changes to regular hours

We maintain a closed stacks reading room for access to Special Collections and FIT Institutional Archives materials. All materials are paged prior to your visit: this means books and other materials are retrieved for researchers to view in the reading room and that all material is non-circulating (i.e. researchers cannot browse the stacks on their own as they would in a library). 

When scheduling an appointment you will be asked for specific titles and call numbers. To find this information, use the library's OneSearch Catalog. For assistance, please contact SPARC via email at

The wide range of primary research sources housed in Special Collections are often rare, fragile and valuable.  To protect these collections the following prohibitions are enforced during researcher visits:

  • No pens, markers, or mechanical pencils: we are happy to provide regular pencils.
  • No food, beverages (including water), or gum.
  • Photography is permitted, but requires a completed Permission to Reproduce form, which we will provide.
  • Only laptops and digital cameras are allowed for use in the Reading Room your other belongings will be sequestered during your visit in our onsite lockers.
  • Please bring a valid photo ID.
  • Please silence your cell phones.

Below are some don'ts of Special Collections a la Mr. Bean. Enjoy! 

Digital Exhibition: Max Meyer and A. Beller & Co.

Max Meyer and A. Beller & Co.: Interpreting a Hidden History of NYC's Garment District takes an in-depth look at the work of the fashion industry leader and one of FIT’s founders and its first president. Meyer (1876–1953) was a principal of Abraham Beller & Company, a New York City–based women’s cloak and suit manufacturer, in business from 1890 to 1931. Through licensing agreements with Paris couture houses, Beller & Co. recreated their designs for an American clientele. This exhibition showcases the close ties of the fashion industry to FIT through the lens of donations from various industry players who helped in great measure and over decades to build FIT's Gladys Marcus Library’s Special Collections and College Archives.

Meyer generously donated the nearly 9,000 fashion sketches of the Beller company to the library in the 1950s. The illustrations are sublime watercolor and ink depictions of Paris couture created circa 1914–29 from many of the well-known fashion design houses such as Chanel, Poiret, Molyneux, Lanvin, Worth, Paquin, and many more.

The exhibition consists of more than 200 sketches, curated by Special Collections’ staff. Also on view are 14 historical/period garments from the School of Graduate Studies’ Fashion and Textile Studies garment study collection. These pieces, curated and conserved by graduate students under the supervision of Professor Denyse Montegut, are paired with Beller sketches that mirror the spirit of the garments’ styles and history.

Material Mode Blog

Keep informed of new things happening in SPARC via our blog, Material Mode.""

Oral History Spotlight

The Oral History Project of the Fashion Industries contains over 300 interviews by prominent 20th-century fashion industry insiders.  In-depth interviews with individuals in every segment of the fashion business create a broad historical record that is drawn directly from the knowledgeable, informal, and often colorful verbalization of its practitioners. The Oral History project is a unique record of facts, ways and means, points of view, practice, and personality that could be preserved in no other way.

The Oral History Project of the Fashion Industries began informally in 1977 and was officially funded by a grant from the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries beginning in 1981. The project was guided by an industry advisory committee chaired by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr.

Featured Oral Histories 

Linked below are videos and transcripts of a select few of the interviews in our Oral History Collection. Please visit our YouTube page to view some of the videos uploaded online, and visit the Oral History Collection LibGuide page for more information.

Grace Kelly interview - 1978 December 19

This recording starts with a discussion between Maxwell and Kelly as they reminisce about their times together. John Touhey then interviews Princess Kelly.

David Wolfe interview - 2018 February 8

Phyllis Dillon interviews David Wolfe, trend forecaster and Creative Director of the Doneger Group for 27 years.

Interview of Gavrik Losey, son of Elizabeth Hawes - 2016 September 12

In this interview, Rebecca Arnold, Lecturer in the History of Dress and Textiles at The Courtauld Institute of Art, interviews Gavrik Losey about his mother, American fashion designer Elizabeth Hawes.

Have a question or comment about these guides? Contact: