In 1995, the Friends of the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection purchased five 19th century garments from the collection of the Traphagen School of Design. Following that purchase the recently closed school donated an additional 69 garments. Ethel Traphagen, was a fashion designer who is credited with introducing shorts and slacks into American women’s fashion. She founded the Traphagen School of Design with her husband in New York City in the 1920s. The school was known for its technical orientation of fashion design, with courses in pattern making and draping. The school closed its doors in the early 1990s. (The only records from the school that remain are held by the New York State Department of Education. These are the academic records (transcripts) of the students who attended Traphagen. If students need that information they should write directly to the NY State Department of Education providing the pertinent details including the years they attended.)
Some of the better known names in the fashion industry attended the Traphagen School. Alumni members include: Geoffrey Beene, James Galanos, Mary McFadden, John Kloss, Christos Yiannakou, and African-American designer Franklin Rowe.
The Traphagen collection at the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection consists of 74 garments and 33 assorted hats. The costumes range in date from the 1830s to the 1910s, with particular strength in the 1890s. The hats date from the 1820s up to the early 1950s. The Traphagen collection includes garments exemplifying the silhouettes of the 19th century, others are remarkable for their fabrics and opulence, and a few have French labels.