Contact us

Reporting from:

This online exhibition features materials protected by the Fair Use guidelines of Section 107 of the US Copyright Act. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

The Biggest Little Fashion City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style

April 6 –September 7, 2016

Cornell Costume & Textile Collection–Level T, Level 1, Human Ecology Building, Cornell University

Exhibit Poster 4

The Biggest Little Fashion City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style explores how silent film revolutionized dress and fashion communication, spanning the 1910s through the late 1920s: the heyday of the silent film era. Moving pictures chronicled the changes in dress, accessories, and hair. By including garments worn by silent film stars such as Irene Castle and Minnie Maddern Fiske and featuring Lady Duff Gordon and Paul Poiret, designers who dressed these stars, we show how silent film enabled new fashion possibilities, which were later adopted by the masses and came to epitomize 1920s style.

Exhibit Poster 5
Exhibit Poster 2
Exhibit Poster 3
Exhibit Poster 1


We begin by acknowledging that Cornell University is located in the traditional homelands of the Gayogohó:no (Cayuga Nation), one of the six Haudenosaunee nations. This exhibition was funded by the Cornell Council for the Arts, Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Wharton Studio Museum, and the Cornell Costume & Textile Collection. Special thanks to Cornell University Library's Digital Consulting and Production Services group for their digitization of Irene Castle's personal photo albums (loaned by I. Castle McLaughlin), which was funded in part by a generous gift from John Foote (’74) and Kristen Rupert (’74).

The Biggest Little Fashion City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style was curated by Denise Nicole Green, director of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, in collaboration with Diana Riesman, executive director of the Wharton Studio Museum. In 2018 it received the Richard Martin Exhibition Award from the Costume Society of America. The exhibition website was started by Rachel Getman and completed by Kelsie Doty.

Many thanks to our graphic designer Joe Lamarre, copy editor Julie Simmons-Lynch, Costume Collection Manager Helen McLallen, Costume Collection Research Assistants Samantha Stern, Jacqueline Fogarty, Jacklyn DeVito, Rachel Doran, Regina Mun, Amanda Dubin, Hannah Wheeler and to our Costume Collection volunteers Kate Greder and Aurora Ricardo. We are grateful for loans from the Hockey Hall of Fame, The Ohio State University Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, and the private collections of Randy Brian Bigham, Iris Fanger, I. Castle McLaughlin, and Terry Harbin of Ithaca Made Movies. Exhibit mounts and labels were manufactured in the College of Human Ecology's Digital Design and Fabrication Studio, and glass decals and vinyl backdrops were produced by The Image Press. This exhibit would not have been possible without the many generous donations to the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection since we opened our doors in 1916.

For additional information, please contact:

The Cornell Costume and Textile Collection at

The Wharton Studio Museum at

The Exhibit