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Betty Williams Research Collection

Biographical note

Betty Vickery Williams began her extensive collection of research notes, commercial clothing patterns, periodicals, books, and catalogues in 1974. This was born out of what she saw as the increasing lack of cutters and drapers in the theater profession with skills based on, in Williams' words, “a sound knowledge of the cut of historical clothes”. Discovering that collections of historical materials on clothing patterns were scant to non existent, she began collecting materials through photocopying research materials from institutional collections such as the Smithsonian and private sources. She also purchased a wide variety of original source material, scouring attics and church bazaars for old patterns. Her work inspired a resurgence of interest in commercial dressmaker patterns. Williams was a theatrical costume maker in New York City. Her work, spanning over four decades included creating the costumes for the original productions of The Fantasticks, Dames at Sea, The Boys in the Band, Oh Calcutta, Alfie, and Philadelphia Here I Come. She worked extensively with the New York City Opera, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Jose Limone Company, The New York Shakespeare Festival, Goodspeed Opera Company and "The Lost Colony" in North Carolina. She was a founding member of The Studio, now known as Timberlake Studios which nourished and influenced thousands of young designers and provided a workplace for the development of hundreds of off-Broadway and regional productions. Williams held a BA in English/Music from Jacksonville State University, and an MA in Theater Arts from the University of North Carolina. In 1994, she received the United States Institute for Theater Technology (USITT) Citation of Excellence for her lifetime achievements. Betty Williams died on June 26, 1996.