Historic Costume Museum

Historic Costume Museum

Historic Costume Museum


Sub-collections: Asian | Hawaiian | Ethnic | Western

The Historic Costume Museum, housed in the Fashion Design and Merchandising Program in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is one of the largest collections of garments, textiles, and related artifacts in an American university. The Historic Costume Museum is a valuable asset for instruction, research, and outreach programs. It consists of the following four sub-collections: Asian, Hawaiian, Ethnic and Western. The Asian sub-collection is the largest holding among academic institutions in the United States with clothing and textile items dating as early as the late 18th century from South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. One irreplaceable item is the silk winter kimono that was presented to the US admiral, Commodore Perry, in Yokahama by the Japanese on the opening of Japan in 1854. The Hawai’ian sub-collection, with 1300 items, is the only existing collection of its kind in the United States. It documents the impact of numerous immigrant groups to Hawai’i and illustrates the adaptation of costume to Hawai’ian lifestyles. The Ethnic sub-collection provides a global view of costume from various cultures such as those of Europe and South America.

How are the collections in the Historic Costume Museum Used?

The Historic Costume Museum is a valuable asset for instruction, research and outreach programs. Students in the Fashion Design and Merchandising Program benefit from the collection by studying textiles, design, socio-cultural aspects of dress and construction/fabrication details. The Costume Museum Management class involves students in research, maintenance and the creation of displays and exhibits in our Miller Hall Gallery as well as venues off-campus.

Research is an important focus of the Costume Museum. It has become widely known to scholars throughout American universities for providing a visual record of cultural assimilation and change. While the collection is primarily utilized by students, faculty and local industry professionals. The museum has been used for research by visiting scholars and visiting apparel industry professionals.

Volunteering in the Museum

Volunteers to assist with the museum are always welcome. Needs are great for help with the assessing process, computer data entry, and maintenance of the historic garments. Space anyone who has a genuine interest in historic costume and textiles and a desire to make this asset more sensible and visible to our students, faculty, and the community is encouraged to contact the curator.


Donations of quality historic costume and monetary contributions to the Historic Costume Museum are appreciated to support this unique and world-class collection.UH Policy for receiving gifts-in kind applies to all donations.

Contact Information
Shu Hwa Lin, Curator
Historic Costume Museum
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Miller Hall 205
2515 Campus Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone (808) 956-2234/956-2245
Fax (808) 956-2239

Featured News

APDM Museum Day – April 7, 2013 on Facebook
Fashion professor leaves stylish footsteps at UH, Posted: August 12, 2010
Virtual museum debuts with aloha, Posted: March. 10, 2010
Hawaii Designers’ New Resource. Posted: March 3, 2010
UH Manoa’s Historic Costume Collection unveils online aloha shirt exhibit, Posted: Feb. 25, 2010
Green Chic, Hana Hou, Vol. 11., No. 3
Reconstructing a fairy tale life, Star Bulletin
Artists display variety of mediums in exhibits around town, Honolulu Advertiser
When it comes to the historic and cultural influences on dress: July 2001, Vol. 26 No. 2

Associate Faculty: Andrew Reilly, Younjin Bahng, Ju Young Kang
AffiliatesHawaiian Fashion Incubator
Specimens: Approx. 20,000 objects
Established: 1960s

Allied Curriculum

FDM 460 – Costume Museum Management (3 credits)
Guidelines and techniques needed for handling textile and apparel artifacts in museums and other collections. Active involvement in documenting, researching, interpreting, and exhibiting costumes and textiles.

FDM 418 – Costumes of South and Southeast Asia (3 credits) 
Development of traditional dress as visual manifestation of culture. Ethnic and national dress of Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

FDM 416 – Costumes/Cultures of East Asia (3 credits)
Development of traditional dress as visual manifestation of culture. Ethnic and national dress of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Okinawa, Tibet, and Vietnam.

FDM 310 – Western World Fashion History (3 credits)
Historic study of dress as related to customs and cultures in the Western world, in socio-historical and contemporary contexts. Emphasis on 19th and 20th centuries.

FDM 216 – Fashion Illustration I (3 credits)
Principles and techniques of sketching the fashion figure including garment details and fabric drape.