Wednesday, 23 March 2016




Walk, walk. Fashion, baby. 

What do collections managers wear to work? Do they wear head-to-toe black or outrageous red fur coats? Far from black tie, collections managers (and their staff) often have very relaxed dress codes with a variety of styles. Many collections managers dress in a way that reflects the nature of the work they have to perform on any given day. In other words, a collections manager would not wear a cocktail dress and stilettos when cleaning out collections storage…or at least they shouldn’t.

So let’s talk about some of the more appropriate fashion choices when working with collections on a daily basis. Please note that these tips are merely suggestions – every museum is different and it’s up to you to ensure that you’re always dressed appropriately. 

Consider some of these tips for collections fashion, and you too can look as chic and sophisticated as Ms. Hepburn.  Source

There is quite a range when it comes to tops. From blouses, shirts, camisoles, t-shirts to polos, button-downs, jackets and more. The key is to assemble some dependable basics that look effortless and polished, but are also comfortable for the most mundane of collections tasks. As well, classic separates can easily be played with layers throughout the seasons. Breathable fabrics (think cotton, linen, and chambray) are also something to consider, since some collections work can be quite laborious. Movement is definitely important. 

A colleague once told me that an oversize chambray shirt should be a wardrobe staple for collections work. For an everyday look that’s put-together yet super comfortable, a chambray shirt is perfect for sitting at a computer doing researching or moving about in collections storage. Brilliant!

Zoolander modelling a muscle shirt like a boss.  Take notes!  Source

As wardrobe indispensables, nothing is as versatile as denim jeans. But when it comes to pants, there are more options available besides denim. There are so many types of fabric that can work in a collections-setting, such as Ponte knit, stretch cotton twill, corduroy, and wool gabardine. Also consider a fabric with stretch; about 3 to 5% Lycra (AKA spandex) is best. A pair of leggings is a good option too, if worn under long tunics, skirts, or dresses. But so long as the pants/jeans/leggings are comfortable, versatile, washable, and work appropriate it’s all good. 

However, for those times it is appropriate to step-up an outfit (i.e., visiting donors, collectors, and galleries), dresses, skirts, and nice trousers will do. 

MC Hammer pants would provide loads of movement and comfort for collections work.  Source

Layering clothing is a tried-and-true way to maximize comfort and style. The beauty of this simple concept is that it allows for quick adjustments based on activity levels and changes in temperature without having to change an outfit completely. My go-to is a 3-layer system – a base, middle, and an outer layer – which is quite practical since the outfit can be swiftly dressed up or down depending on the activity (i.e., working in cold collections storage versus warm office space). And a little tip from the wise, keep a nice jacket or blazer on-hand for those last minute meetings with stakeholders or potential collections donors!

Choosing the right clothing for layering is also important, as some loose and baggy cuts can potentially catch or snag an object. Always let the collection be your guide.

There is the 3-layer system, and then there is the Joey-layering system....  Source

While the most boring outfits can be transformed with the help of a few key accessories, those some pieces can also cause damage to many museum collections. It’s best to remove or secure dangling jewellery and badges before handling collections to avoid catching an object. Consider removing rings and belt buckles as well, especially if the artefact being handled can crack or get scratched.

Gloves will be the number one accessory of choice when working with collections!

Wearing gloves is serious business in collections work, as demonstrated by TSwift.  Source

The right shoes will make or break an outfit – and I’m not talking about tricky-to-wear statement shoes that will be worn only once. Selecting footwear that are solid and practical for collections work but are also versatile enough to wear again and again is the goal for collections staff. While open-toe stunners with bejewelled details may accent the outfit, will those same shoes be suitable when standing for extended periods of time, climbing ladders, or installing an exhibition? 

Also, depending on the type of museum and the nature of the collections work, steel-toe boots are usually a good investment piece. Keep in mind that many artefacts are sizeable and heavy, and workplace safety is very important – so protect those toes! 

Chris Pratt can teeter/skip/strut his high heeled stuff in my museum anytime - far away from the collections storage, of course.  Source

Thank you to everyone who read and supported my blog posts over the past year!  Farewell, my collections-minded friends.

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