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SHSU Receives 100-Year-Old Graduation Dress

   
Dr. Janis White, chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, examines a vintage dress which was worn to graduation at Sam Houston Normal Institute in 1905.    

The dress worn by a Sam Houston Normal Institute student to her graduation in 1905 has been donated to the Sam Houston State University Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Anne Reid, wearing her graduation dress

The dress, which belonged to Anne Elizabeth Reid, was given to the university by her granddaughter, Liz Williams of Houston and her siblings and cousins, along with approximately 10 other vintage clothing pieces which had been worn by Reid, as well as Williams' maternal grandmother.

"It's a gorgeous, gorgeous piece in wonderful condition," said Janis White, chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and self-proclaimed "keeper of the department's 20 th century costume collection."

Lace and ribbon are featured in the details of the dress.

The sheer, two-piece dress is white and probably made of cotton gauze, said White.  

"Its design is typical of the time period," she said, "with an overabundance of lace and ribbon and numerous tucks and ruffles."

Strips of lace on the dress are connected with tiny threads called brides, and ribbons are intertwined through some of the lace.   The dress has long fitted sleeves which are flared at the bottom---a design detail that is also popular this spring, noted White.

"We don't know where it was made or who made it," said White, "but it appears that the dress is machine made, which would not be unusual since the sewing machine was invented in the 1870s."  

Although the dress was probably purchased specifically for graduation, it was no doubt used for other special events, White said.

 After Anne graduated from Sam Houston, she taught for one year in New Caney, then married Judge John Campbell Williams, whom she had met in Huntsville while she was a student at Sam Houston.   The couple lived in Conroe where their first child was born, then moved to Houston where their four other children were born.   Judge Williams died in 1922, leaving Anne to bring up their two sons and three daughters.   Family members say that Anne never got over Judge Williams' death and never remarried.

Plans call for Anne's graduation dress to be on display in the new Sam Houston State University Visitor and Alumni Center, scheduled to be completed early in the summer.   Eventually it will be placed with other pieces in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences' 20 th century costume collection, which includes a number of famous designer articles.

"Students have used these pieces in their directed studies over the years," said White, "and the clothing is organized for scholarly research."  

Until the dress is displayed, it will be kept in a protective environment in the department.

—END—

SHSU Media Contact: Julia May
March 21, 2006
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to Today@Sam.edu.

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