MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections
"Artistry in Fashion"
M.I.T. Dames Fashion Show Poster
We usually picture MIT on the cutting edge of technology, not fashion.
On the evening of Monday, March 13, 1961, Kresge Auditorium was the site of the annual Technology Dames Fashion Show. The theme of the show that year was "Artistry in Fashion" and Kresge was decorated to suggest an artist's studio, with an oversized palette and artists' supplies. Wives of MIT students modeled the spring collection from Peck and Peck, a fine women's clothing shop, formerly of Belmont, Massachusetts. Bathing suits, casual clothes, evening gowns, all with accessories, were shown that night. The evening included entertainment by MIT folk dancers and the awarding of door prizes. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, a guest of the Dames for a special event the previous November, was asked to select a charity to which the proceeds of the fashion show would be sent. The event raised $300, which went to Wiltwyck School for Boys, an institution for delinquent boys in Esopus, New York.
The Technology Dames was organized in the early 1920s for wives of MIT graduate and undergraduate students, research and teaching assistants, and special students to "promote the social fellowship of its members, to broaden their interests, to be of service to them, and to help them feel a part of the MIT family." Over the years, the organization's projects and activities, including bridge, swimming, volleyball, chamber music, foreign affairs, choral groups, outside speakers, and bake sales, reflected the changing interests and roles of wives on campus. By the early 1940s the Dames were also sponsoring events, such as fashion shows, teas, and dances, whose proceeds went to charitable organizations.
The fashion shows, which were open to the public, dispel the myth that fashion was ignored on campus. Each year's show had a theme ("Spring 'n Spice" in 1957 and "Have Gown Will Travel" in 1959) and a charity designated to receive the proceeds.
Many of the activities of the MIT Dames and related MIT organizations are now under the umbrella of the MIT Women's League, which sponsors many events to foster community on campus.
Further information on the MIT Dames may be found in the Institute Archives and Special Collections in the administrative records of the MIT Technology Wives Organization (AC 320). The records are available for use in the Archives reading room, 14N-118.
Object of the Month: April 2001