As a young girl, Sandy Schreier relished visits to the Illinois department store where her father worked as a furrier during the mid-20th century. During this reign of department stores, her father’s position afforded her a view into a world of aspirational beauty with elegant, well dressed ladies perusing the floors. Their clothing fascinated her and led to a life-long love of collecting garments, not as a means to expand her own wardrobe but for the appreciation of the artistry of the couturiers and manufacturers of fine clothing and accessories.

As a generous gift, Ms. Schreier has promised her collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative celebrating the museum’s 150th birthday, where they will enter a new phase of stewardship and protection for the wider public to see and study.

The assemblage is awe-inspiring for those who are captivated by dress. Here is a style history spanning the entire 20th century. With a careful eye and remarkable clarity, Ms. Schreier amassed an impressive array of ensembles and various accessories that both reflect artistic aesthetics in couture as well as solid craftsmanship in the production of ready-to-wear, which became the dominant force in fashion retail after the Second World War. And with a complete focus on quality and condition, she also made acquisitions by lesser known designers and garment companies, which provide refreshing examples from the various periods.

Words can only express so much when discussing clothing—only photos can do the show justice so below is a range of images showing the breadth and variety of her compilation.

The exhibition runs through May 17 and is a treat for anyone interested in historical dress as well as an inspiration for someone wishing to start their own collection!

Madeleine & Madeleine Evening Dress, 1923.

Fortuny Ensembles, 1920’s.

Unknown Maker Evening Dress, 1925-28.

Boue Soeurs Peignoir and Gown, 1930.

House of Chanel Evening Dress, 1935.

Paquin Ltd. Evening Dress, 1937.

House of Chanel Necklace, 1938.

Gilbert Adrian Evening Dress, 1946. Not only a Hollywood costume designer, he created ready-to-wear as well!

Charles James Evening Dress, 1952-54.

House of Dior by Yves Saint Laurent “Aubade” Evening Ensemble, 1958.

This clever client kindly requested some leftover pieces of fabric to have matching shoes and a hat made!

Roberto Rojas Dress, 1967.

The 1960’s supermodel Twiggy made this Roberto Rojas dress famous in the pages of Vogue magazine as photographed by Richard Avedon.

Harmon Knitwear Dress, 1973.

On the left: Chloe by Karl Lagerfeld Dress, 1984. On the right: Patrick Kelly Ensemble, 1988-89.

Christian Francis Roth “Breakfast” Suit, 1990.