The Collector: Vintage clothing connects woman to history, fashion, region’s – The Spokesman Review


If Adelia Rosman’s collection could talk, oh, the stories it would tell.

A gold crocheted infant gown from the 1940s with a matching bonnet, bib and silk slip.

A black velvet evening cloak, its hood lined with blue silk to match the dress beneath, circa 1930.

A 1920s-era shimmering silk floral afternoon tea gown with butterfly sleeves.

Rosman collects vintage fashion.

“I’ve collected vintage clothing since high school when my grandmother gave me her wonderful flapper dresses that she use to dance the nights away in,” recalled Rosman, 83.

Though she didn’t like sewing in home-ec or 4-H, she loved clothes, so when she moved to Spokane from Elmira, Washington, she bought herself a sewing machine with her first paycheck from her first job at The Spokesman-Review.

That machine came in handy when she married and moved to a farm in Creston, Washington.

“I had five kids in six years, including twin girls,” she said. “I was kinda busy.”

For several years she had a bridal design business and in the mid-’60s, she hosted a vintage style show for her mothers’ club.

“I borrowed most everything, but after that show people started giving me vintage clothes.”

One gentleman invited her to his Spokane home. His wife had died.

“He told me he had closest full of her clothes, most of them made in Paris,” Rosman said.

She learned they’d owned a cocktail lounge in Spokane and his wife loved purple.

“Everything had a touch of purple–her hats, shoes, dresses.”

The man insisted she take everything, so she did.

“Gradually, as I got a true love of the fashions and history and was given many outfits, it all grew and grew.”

Her collection spans from the 1800s to the 1970s.

For example, a chocolate brown silk jacket and skirt, embossed with grapes dates to the late 1800s. The outfit, with its 18-inch waist, looks immaculate, but Rosman said most of the damage in vintage clothing is hidden beneath the arms.

“They didn’t have deodorant,” she explained. “They tucked bags of fine sand under the arms to absorb perspiration.”

That added wear and tear to the garments.

A toddler’s flour sack dress with a blue satin ribbon circa the 1920s reveals how thrifty mothers had to be. Rosman turned up the bottom of the dress.

“The hem has been let up and down,” she explained.

She put on vintage style shows for retirement homes, community groups, and some memorable shows at the Davenport Hotel. And with every show, her collection and her stories grew.

A gray taffeta dress embossed with black flowers from the early ’50s was purportedly worn by Doris Day in a movie.

A man in Creston gave her his late wife’s pale pink 1915 wedding dress, crushed satin roses still attached.

“He gave me her going away dress too,” said Rosman.

And while some items, like the 1930s burned velvet evening gown with a rhinestone bejeweled belt, are glamorous, she found sweeter stories in less lovely dresses.

Once a man approached her and told her how when he and his late wife were newly married they were quite poor but he used his first paycheck to buy her a dress.

“It was a homely housedress, but she loved it,” Rosman said. “He gave me two dresses to use in a show and he had a note pinned to that first homely housedress that she loved.”

The collector estimates she has more than 1,500 articles of clothing, but much of her collection was put in storage when she moved from Creston to Spokane last year.

“It breaks my heart to see it packed away.”

Rosman has sold some items and given others to local museums, but she would love to see her collection preserved and used in movies or in style shows like the ones she used to present.

“I feel they are precious and interesting, and everyone should know how designs are created and keep coming our way,” she said.

For her, the most enjoyable part of her collection has been the reaction of an audience as they watched pieces of the past come to life at one of her style shows.

“It’s wonderful to collect,” Rosman said. “But it is heartwarming to share and see a smile or sometimes a tear as they look and remember.”

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