Victoria’s Secret: The Kent State Museum Houses Many Surprises

Years of fashion history can be found in the museum’s vaults.

For the past six years, Sarah Rogers has learned all the secrets hidden away in the storage vaults of the Kent State University Museum.

Kent State University Museum Director Sarah Rogers will be retiring at the end of June 2024.
Museum Director Sarah Rogers will be retiring at the end of June 2024.


When Kent State Today asked Rogers to put together a list of her ‘Top Five Finds’ at the museum – must-see items, her favorite pieces, or cool or unusual items that might surprise visitors – she did not disappoint.

Here is Rogers’ list:

Queen Victoria’s Underwear

A monogram on undergarments belonging to Queen Victoria.

“There’s funny stuff, like Queen Victoria’s underwear,” Rogers said, “We have her knickers and stockings and petticoats, too.”

Queen Victoria's royal drawers.

The items, she said, are thanks to the museum's founders, Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, who also helped to found Kent State’s School of Fashion, which bears their name, and whose great collection of fashion – more than 4,000 pieces – was donated in 1982 to help found the museum.

The undergarments, fashioned with a drawstring waist, are stamped with the royal crest. Other items, including black stockings and a dressing gown, are embroidered with her initials or crown. A petticoat features satin, lace and embroidery. Queen Victoria reigned on the British throne from 1837 to 1901.

The ‘Adam’s Rib’ Dress

Dress worn by actress Katharine Hepburn in the movie "Adam's Rib."
The Adam's Rib Dress

Actress Katharine Hepburn collected the many costumes she wore on stage, in films and on television. In her will, she directed that the collection go to an educational institution and the Kent State Museum, was the lucky recipient.  

One of Rogers’ favorites is a formal black dress, designed by Walter Plunkett, that Hepburn wore in the 1949 movie “Adam’s Rib.”

The Valentino Trench Coat

A trench coat by Valentino is in the Kent State University Museum.
Trench coat by Valentino


Relatively new to the museum is a collection of contemporary menswear, donated by James Mulholland, currently featured in the exhibition “Life in Style: The Wardrobe of James Mulholland.”

Rogers said the collection is unique because fashion museums do not have large holdings of menswear, and she is taken with one coat that features hand-painted wildlife.  

“It’s just gorgeous,” she said.  

An Original Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel, the legendary French designer whose very name is synonymous with high fashion and style, introduced the concept of the “little black dress” in 1926. Until that time, black was a color typically reserved for mourning.  

A 1926 Coco Chanel Dress
1926 Coco Chanel dress

Rogers said Kent State’s collection includes an original 1926 Chanel dress, made of blue ombre fringe in the flapper style of the day. The dress is currently on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London but is set to return to campus soon.

Christian Dior’s Venus

Venus by Christian Dior is in the collection of the Kent State University Museum.
Venus by Christian Dior

Part of the famed French fashion house’s 1949 collection, the Venus dress had belonged to actress Marlene Dietrich.

“It is diaphanous and very beautiful,” Rogers said. The dress, designed to be strapless, was customized for Dietrich with small straps added to the bodice, she noted.

The shell-shaped scalloping on the dress is meant to evoke the Botticelli painting, “The Birth of Venus” which depicts the goddess of love and beauty arising from a scallop shell.  

New Exhibits 

While the items are among the more than 30,000 pieces in the museum’s collection, most are not displayed at any given time.

Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman whose donation helped to found the Kent State School of Fashion.
Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman


A new exhibit, “Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman: Dazzling Day and Night,” will debut May 30, featuring a collection of Rodgers and Silverman’s designs from their Seventh Avenue, New York City, business, Jerry Silverman, Inc., 

A new Hepburn exhibit, “The Hepburn Style: Katharine and Her Designers,” opening June 28, will focus on Hepburn’s personal style, including her signature khaki slacks, Rogers said.

A June 27 reception to celebrate the new exhibits will also mark Roger’s retirement as museum director, a position she has held since 2018. Rogers came to Kent State from the Columbus Museum of Art, where she served as deputy director.  

“I have a husband, a house and a cat in Columbus,” explained Rogers, who added that the time was right for her to pass on the reigns to the next person. 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 23, 2024 10:07 AM
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2024 06:52 PM
Lisa Abraham