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Life & Work with Dr. Lisa S. Thompson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Lisa S. Thompson.

Hi Lisa, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.

The initial vibe that sparked the inspiration and creation of The Modern Classic Society, a 501(3) c non for profit historical society, was my desire to look and feel like a real woman who commanded her own style through the fashions of women past. Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by women who gave meaning to what it meant to be “fashionable” by the clothes they wore and the life they live. My journey thus far has also led me to learn more about the “fashionable” women in my family, here in America and Jamaica. After years of collecting and admiring vintage clothing and the women who wore them, the vision for The Modern Classic Society was realized in 2017.

The Modern Classic Society private historic costume collection is a result of my love for estate sales, resale/thrift stores of all types and personal referrals/donations from individuals who see value in what I am doing. This same value and appreciation for women’s history and dress is what has taken my friendship with Helen Douglas-Taylor to a partnership of operating a non for profit historical society.

Today I am proud to celebrate St. Louis women from all walks of life by visually displaying and expressing their history through fashion, dress and culture. The Modern Classic Society is a “little museum “.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?

No, it has not been a smooth road but everything continues to fall into place, assuring me that The Modern Classic Society is my life’s work! Currently, the biggest struggle is finding sustainability through monetary & in-kind donations. In lieu of operating The Modern Classic Society, I am also a full-time secondary public school educator.

The Modern Classic Society continues to evolve around our vision and mission. With that being said, I am always thinking of new and innovative ideas to showcase the historic costume collection along with other relevant artifacts related to fashion, culture and dress.

The Modern Classic Society is seeking stakeholders who have time to volunteer and have a genuine interest or professional experience in promoting our vision and mission.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?

The Modern Classic Society was established out of my love for vintage era clothing, 1930s-1980s and the women who wore them. I have been wearing and collecting vintage clothing for over 35 years!

The Modern Classic Society private historic costume collection continues to grow and currently has over 2,500 pieces used for fashion shows and exhibits, provides reference materials and access to historic costume collection, as well as collaborating with local schools K-12, institutions of higher learning, libraries, theater groups, museums and a wide range of charitable community organizations.

What I am most proud of is my innate and keen sense of style and dress, as well as my curiosity and research skills that have allowed me to establish The Modern Classic Society, a fashion historical society with museum-quality clothing & textiles. Also to be noted, the majority of clothing pieces and other relevant artifacts are from the homes / closets of St. Louis, MO women, whether acquired from estate sales, local resale/thrift stores or donations. It never ceases to amaze me the lost treasures and stories that I discover regarding the vintage clothing and the women who wore them. Acquiring pieces of clothing in their immediate and authentic condition can reveal so much; for example, alterations, sweat marks, price tags or anything else that reveals clues of when, where and why the piece(s) were worn and me finding them.

I’m also proud of my doctoral research at Lindenwood University in St, Charles MO that explored and further acknowledged Mrs. Ellen Quinlan Donnelly (1889-1991) aka “Nelly Don” a Lindenwood alum (1909) and generous benefactor, famous millionaire dress-maker (1919- 1960s) and educational leader for women up until her death in 1991.

What sets me apart is that I am not vintage resale/retail. I am a fashion historian, collector and curator of women’s history through dress and style.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?

I believe The Modern Classic Society (TMCS) exists in an authentic business sector “niche” of fashion and dress. The Modern Classic Society is not really part of any specific industry but of a “culture” that believes in keeping women’s history alive by preserving/conserving the clothes and collecting oral stories from or about the women who wore/own them.

The next 5-10 years and beyond present a continual opportunity to expand the scope and reach of TMCS audience by using social media platforms and a less formal approach to showcase TMCS and its authenticity. The Covid-19 pandemic, despite the devastating outcomes it is having on the fashion industry and others alike, TMCS discovered innovative ways to exhibit, present and share fashion and style related events that will continue to be relevant post-pandemic as well.

A big shift and a current trend favorsdisposable clothing”, fast fashion clothing & textiles that are not high quality and usually are not worn for more than 1-2 seasons. This clothing phenomenon is currently overstocking the majority of resale/thrift stores. As a collector and historian, I have had to rethink my opinion and include some “fast fashion” pieces in TMCS historic collection because oftentimes pieces are replicas of high quality made period pieces. Fashion is circular, repeats about every 25 years and one day if collected now, “fast fashion” will be history too!

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