Skip to main content

“Union Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century” celebrates the history of the U.S. fashion industry and American textile production through the lens of the history of organized labor.

Cornell fashion exhibit to run at American Labor Museum

The American Labor Museum, in Haledon, New Jersey, is set to celebrate fashion trends alongside the history of organized labor and union labeling efforts in the United States by hosting the exhibit, “Union Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century.”

The exhibit is a collaboration of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection and the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives.

The “Union Made” exhibit was first on display in 2017 at the College of Human Ecology. From Jan. 15 through April 25, it will be at the American Labor Museum in New Jersey.

The exhibit features union-made garments, union memorabilia and multimedia to highlight the role unions played in improving working conditions and safety standards, wages, benefits and promotion of the U.S. fashion industry during the 20th century.

The exhibit is co-curated by Denise Green, assistant professor of fiber science and apparel design and director of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection; and Patrizia Sione, research archivist at the Kheel Center. Some of the rare items on view include a funeral badge worn at the memorial for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire victims; knives used for cutting cloak fabric in the early 20th century; and a union-made faux-denim ensemble designed by Donna Karan in the mid-1970s.

“The labor unions related to these industries really worked hard to bring about many things we take for granted today,” Green said in August 2017 at the opening of the exhibit at Cornell. “These include safety standards, benefits for employees, an eight-hour work day, the 40-hour work week – all of these were really spearheaded by labor unions in the early 20th century.”

The exhibit will run at the labor museum from Jan. 15 through April 25.

– Stephen D’Angelo

Media Contact

Gillian Smith