The Historic Costume and Textile Collection was established as a special collection in 1984 and assembled initially from books and periodicals of value owned by the Kansas State University Libraries. Most of these volumes were already located in the Rare Books Department while others were brought in from the general collection of the main library. Later, the collection was expanded by books transferred from the then College of Home Economics (now, the College of Human Ecology). The collection continues to develop through donations and purchases of worthwhile volumes. The collection received a major donation in 2004 from the estate of Mrs. Judith Hartman.
Now numbering over 900 rare and singular pieces, the Historic Costume and Textile Collection includes books, journals, fashion magazines, illustrated costume plates, classic textbooks, dye manuals, swatch-books, and sales catalogs. Items in the collection date from the 18th through 21st centuries and focus on the clothing, fashion, and textile styles of many nationalities and ethnic groups from ancient times to the modern era. Languages represented in these printed materials include English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. One of the rarities is a Jacquard weaving manuscript from Arthur Spindler's school located in Gera, a German textile center.
The Historic Costume and Textile Collection directly supports the collection of actual garments, textiles, and accessories in the University's College of Human Ecology's Historic Costume and Textile Museum. These library sources are used frequently by both undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty in the Department of Apparel, Textiles and Interior Design. Certain segments of the collection (61 volumes, 1830-1882, of Godey's Lady's Book, for example) draw visiting researchers. Scholars from diverse disciplines such as art, history, and anthropology also find various aspects of this collection useful for historic research.