The Blanche Payne Regional Costume Photograph and Drawing Collection Now Digitized

In the 1930s, Blanche Payne took two leaves of absence from her position teaching historic costume and apparel design in the UW’s School of Home Economics to travel through Central Europe and the Balkans surveying folk costume in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia. In addition to exploring museum collections, Miss Payne visited remote villages, markets, and festivals throughout the country to study and photograph peasant costumes. She augmented her studies by drafting patterns, commissioning watercolor paintings, and collecting postcards of the clothing she encountered.

These visual materials (photographs, pattern drawings, watercolor paintings, and postcards) collected by Miss Payne now live in the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections Division and have recently been digitized and made available online.

During her travels, Miss Payne also collected costumes and textiles (aprons, blouses, skirts, outer garments, accessories, and household textiles) which became part of the Henry’s permanent collection (over 694 objects). You can view these unique objects on the Henry’s website through our online collections database and the Costume and Textile Digital Gallery.

Digitizing the Payne Collection provides a virtual and intellectual connection between the visual materials and costumes. The photographs, pattern drawings, watercolor paintings, and postcards in UW Special Collections are valuable tools to help understand the ways the costumes in the Henry’s collection were worn and made.

Kosovo back apron

While in the field, Miss Payne photographed costumes from many different angles, realizing that each view helped to assemble the story of how a costume was worn. In this case, she photographed two women from Peć, in the Kosovo region of Serbia, from the rear, showing back aprons suspended casually below the waist. She collected an actual back apron from the period, now in the Henry’s collection. Within the upper and lower borders lie two pieces of striped fabric, joined horizontally, similar to the aprons in the photograph.

Back Apron

Women in costume from behind, Peć (Arnauti people), Serbia (Kosovo, former Yugoslavia), circa 1930-1937. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, BPC0360 

Smilevo outer garment

Miss Payne made scale drawings of costume items from museums, personal collections, and the items she collected in the field. This woman’s fulled wool outer garment from Smilevo, Macedonia layers over a chemise with the arms going through the large armholes in the front. The thin triangular items at the shoulders (vestigial sleeves) are tucked into the sash at the back waist. The scale drawing, which illustrates the cut, seams, and placement of the braid adornment, shows a triangular shaped lower side piece that fits into upper side front and back pieces and provides a unique way of adding fullness to the garment’s skirt area.

Fulled outer garment

Yugoslavia: Macedonia, Bigla, Smilevo. Outer garment (sajak — woman’s). early 20th century.
Twill weave; Fulled; Applique; Embroidered. Wool with wool, silk embroidery, braid, and tassels.
Henry Art Gallery, Collected by Blanche Payne.      78.3-20, t3

We are lucky to retain all of the Payne Collection on the UW campus and we invite you to visit us in person or on the web to see these amazing objects yourself.

Many thanks to long-time volunteer and costume scholar Diana Ryesky for her research and contributions, both to the Henry and to this blog posting.

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