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Joy Spanabel Emery Endowment Fund
By Jean Cohoon / October 3, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...
Professor Emerita Joy Spanabel Emery has been interested in commercial clothing patterns since joining the University of Rhode Island (URI) as a resident costume designer more than 48 years ago. “I always needed resources for everyday clothing. My epiphany was found in 1890s Butterick pattern catalogs full of the patterns of everyday wear for women, men, girls, and boys I needed for URI’s production of Anne of Green Gables,” Joy says.

Today, she is project director of URI’s Commercial Pattern Archive, the largest collection of patterns in the world. The Archive’s database contains more than 61,000 patterns that date from 1847 to 2010 from 12 international collections. Four of those housed at URI are the Betty Williams, Joy Emery, Fashion Institute of Technology, and University of Rhode Island Collections. The latter includes material from the Butterick archives.

If you’re looking for a pattern, this free online resource is for people to use. The Archive – including patterns, books, research papers, and articles – is open weekdays by appointment and is located in Distinctive (Special) Collections in the URI Library. It is staffed by Joy, one volunteer, and one student, each on a part-time basis.

“The patterns represent a cross-section of everything from everyday wear to haute couture. The database illustrates specific patterns for a given year or reveals the evolution of fashions from the mid-nineteenth century,” she says. For example, the database shows bathing suits, tennis dresses, or wedding gowns from the 1870s to the present.

A native of Ohio, Joy earned an undergraduate degree from Kent State University and a master’s degree in costume design from Ohio State University; her long commitment to the Commercial Pattern Archive began soon after she joined the URI faculty.

"My hope is that the Archive will continue to grow, will be kept up-to-date, and will have ever improved public accessibility. It needs a solid financial base; the intent of this endowment is to provide that. The nice thing about working with the Foundation is the security it offers and the opportunity to start the endowment now,” Joy concludes.
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