The Ruth Finley Collection is housed at Special Collections and College Archives at The Gladys Marcus Library at The Fashion Institute of Technology. The collection comprises over 39,000 pages of material including the unique archive of three periodicals published by Ruth Finley (1920-2018) between 1941 and 2014, Fashion Calendar (1941-2014), Home Furnishings Calendar (1947-1951), and Fashion International (1972-2008).
The Fashion Calendar Research Database
In 2020, FIT was awarded a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant for “The Ruth Finley Collection: Digitizing 70 Years of the Fashion Calendar,” from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR); the program is made possible by funding from the Mellon Foundation. The Digitization and Digital Humanities project culminated in the Fashion Calendar Research Database (FCRD), an open-source research platform for the Ruth Finley Collection.
Ruth Finley was born Ruth Faith Finberg in Haverhill, Massachusetts on January 14th, 1920. The daughter of Joseph B. Finberg, who immigrated as a teenager to the United States from Vilna, Russian Empire (now Vilnius, Lithuania), and Anna (Monoson) Finberg of New York. Ruth Finley had three brothers and attended Haverhill High School and Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated with a degree in journalism and nutrition, and after short jobs working for the Herald Tribune and as a fashion assistant in New York during college, Finley encountered her family acquaintances, sisters Alice and Frances Hughes (both née Felsher) established fashion journalists. After the outbreak of World War II, in 1940 the German military occupied Paris and isolated the French fashion industry from the United States. The American fashion industry was required to develop unique designs rather than rely on French fashion houses for the new season's styles. The September/October 1940 fashion shows were a reaction to the geopolitical impact of World War II, but set the necessity for the American fashion community to organize itself.
Finley and the Hughes sisters began publishing Fashion Calendar, a subscription service weekly publication that listed all New York and domestic fashion and creative industry events, the social and civic calendar, American, Christian and Jewish holiday calendars, and importantly, worked as a service to clear dates for subscribers to avoid conflicts and to maximize attendance. The first issue was published in March 1941, and listed Frances Hughes as the first editor. All three women worked for other employers in full time positions during the early years of the Fashion Calendar, and with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the entry of the U.S. into World War II, Finley went on to join the war effort and worked for the USO while the Hughes sisters continued to publish. By 1943, Eleanor Lambert, the PR maven and fellow Fashion Group member, started The New York Dress Institute’s Press Week. In 1944, Finley returned to New York and together with her friend Gladys Hoover took over operations of Fashion Calendar and Finley acquired a majority stake in the publication.
For the next seven decades Finley published and operated the Fashion Calendar, the unique scheduling service for the fashion industry and which became the official schedule of New York Fashion Week when it was centralized under the tents at Bryant Park by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 1993.
Finley was instrumental in the development of the American fashion industry’s time system and was active throughout her career in helping position the American fashion industry within the global fashion system, especially in her role as Executive Director of The New York Fashion Council which set the market dates until the late 1990s. Finley played a significant role in providing access and guidance for emerging or unknown designers and entities and Finley’s calendar did not operate as a gatekeeper, but as a tool for heralding events and avoiding date conflicts. Finley was dedicated to service and supporting the fashion industry and its community through her philanthropy and legacy as the arbiter of the Fashion Calendar. Finley was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Board of Directors Tribute, and The Fashion Institute of Technology’s President’s Award, among many other accolades.
To learn more about Finley and the Fashion Calendar check out the documentary Calendar Girl.
A forthcoming book and companion to the FCRD written by project co-PI Natalie Nudell, titled In American Fashion, Ruth Finley’s Fashion Calendar will be published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts, in May 2024.
The Fashion Calendar was published from 1941 to 2014, weekly and beginning in the 1980s twice-monthly. The publication was printed on pink paper and featured up-to-date listings for future dates with at least one week’s notice. Fashion Calendar included listings for fashion shows, promotional events, professional meetings, retail events, trade shows, film and cultural events and openings and more, along with the social, civic, and holiday calendars. Positioned as a subscription service, and clearinghouse, the editors of Fashion Calendar helped their subscribers to find the appropriate date and time for their events to avoid conflicts and maximize attendance. Finley also accepted individual listings for non-subscribers therefore, although it was an internal trade journal it was accessible to a myriad of groups. The Calendar listed events taking place throughout the year and for a number of adjacent industries such as millinery, footwear, beauty and cosmetics, and associated creative industries.
Listings included the date of the event, host, type of event contact information, details from the press release and invitation information. Group or communal shows like Press Week, The Fashion Originator’s Guild of America, American Designer Showings, Seventh on Sixth and finally New York Fashion Week were often enclosed in a separate box. With the centralization of New York Fashion Week in 1993, Fashion Calendar began publishing grid-style calendars for the week’s schedule. Foreign fashion organizations and companies frequently listed their US events in Fashion Calendar, and the international fashion market weeks in Paris, London and in Italy, and later in many other global capitals were represented.
In 2014, the Council of Fashion Designers of America acquired Fashion Calendar and control over the fashion week schedule. The CFDA Calendar (American Collections Calendar) is an online-only publication and remains pink as a tribute to Finley.
Fashion Calendar, December 15, 2014, the final print issue was the transition to the CFDA Fashion Calendar and includes CFDA’s contact information.
Home Furnishings Calendar
Home Furnishings Calendar was published between 1947 and 1951. The short-lived off-shoot of Fashion Calendar was organized by Ruth Finley and Alice Hughes. The concept of Fashion Calendar was licensed to a group of editors who managed operations. Both Alice Hughes and Finley appear in the masthead as well as many other editors such as Eleanor Drake, and Deborah Flynn, among others. The publication focused on the burgeoning interior design industry and issues were printed on green paper. The pages of Home Furnishings Calendar were laid out in the same format as Fashion Calendar, with columns and rows set up to announce the time, place, host and type of event, with contact information and note from the press release. Unlike Fashion Calendar, the publication folded after four years. Finley’s collection of Home Furnishings Calendars is the only known example of this publication.
Home Furnishings Calendar, November 10, 1947, cover and p. 4.
Fashion International was published by Finley between 1972 and 2008 and was a trend forecasting and fashion retail news supplement newsletter Finley made available to her subscribers. The newsletter was published monthly and featured articles and trend forecasting from editors in the four fashion capitals. Since Fashion Calendar published the fashion week calendars of the major fashion capitals Finley had access to fashion shows around the world and sent editors to shows and market weeks to report on trends and fashion ideas. The newsletter began including illustrations in 1989 when Debby DeMontfort joined the editorial team.
Fashion International, February/ March 1991, cover.
The Fashion Calendar Research Database is a digitization and digital humanities project that expands access and discoverability of the material in the Ruth Finley Collection. The project scanned every page in the collection and has made every issue available through a page-viewer function and every issue of all three publications is downloadable in a variety of file formats. Users of the database can choose individual issues, flip through them and conduct keyword-based searches.
With over seventy years of data formatted in a relatively consistent manner, the project team applied experimental digital humanities approaches that could expand users’ understanding of the existing data by adding identity attributions to people and entities in the Calendars, and metadata processing that enables the integration of data visualization tools such as pattern and graph creation, a mapping visualization function and Ngram, which traces the appearance of words by time period.
In order to quantify the data in the issues, the information was captured, extracted and parsed into spreadsheets. The original analog formatting of the publication was not conducive to available OCR (Optical Character Recognition) softwares, therefore an AI and machine learning software was developed and used for the project. The Artificial Intelligence code developed by Explor.ai used a technique that taught the computer to recognize clusters of information in relation to other clusters based on graphical understanding of the layout of the publication, and then by using number and letter pattern sequencing was able to parse out the data into its respective order within a spreadsheet. The data extraction produced almost 200,000 individual listings.
Sample image showing how AI and machine learning were used to recognized clusters of information in the listings.
Critical Cataloging and Digital Humanities
Digital Humanities is a growing field that merges computer and library sciences with the humanities. With the added digital tools integrated into this database users are able to collapse the inherent format of the source material and perform longitudinal and/or granular analysis of events within the content in the material and perform quantitative data analysis of participation over time.
In order to enhance the user experience, search optimization and enable quantitative analysis the project design required that the extracted data be organized, refined, and tagged with associated identity or information categories. Critical cataloging is an approach in the library and information sciences that reconsiders and challenges the way words and categories are used within the library catalog and for research purposes. Controlled vocabularies such as the Library of Congress Controlled Vocabulary are used to standardize the terminology but this project developed a hybrid controlled vocabulary that reflects contemporary terminology relating to identity categories.
A feminist and global approach to digital humanities seeks to highlight the unseen experience and perspectives of marginalized groups and minority communities. With this intersectional approach digital tools were designed to highlight gender, race, social class, sexual identity, nationality, and other categories that are considered to be marginalized such as immigrants and religious identification. The project team based the identity categorizations on primary and reliable secondary source research and in most cases those sources are listed below the associated tagged terms.
The use of AI and machine learning technologies have expanded the ways users can use and interact with the publications in the Ruth Finley Collection. The technologies are not perfect and as a result have not captured the entirety of the data within the publications. There are a minority of pages that are unreadable, contain irregular listings or contact information. The user should consider the inherent margins of error associated with digitization and should refer to the original source when applicable.
Identity attributions can bring up the challenges associated with the categorizations of individuals, however, taking an intersectional approach that expands knowledge about marginalized and minority groups helps the user understand the historical diversity of the fashion and creative industries of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The project team has added identity attributions that have been researched in reliable primary and secondary sources, and apologize in advance for any misattributions, errors or omissions. Please contact the project team with any corrections or questions at [email protected]. Please excuse any computer generated or human omissions or errors.