Christian Dior once said, “We invent nothing, we always start from something that has come before” (qtd. in Pochna 80). Historic garments can inform and inspire the present, offering up design potential for reinterpretations of styles of the past or serving as evidence of how fashion was worn and lived for material culture studies. Seeing a dress in a photo is a very different experience than feeling the weight of the fabric in hand, examining the details of cut, construction and embellishment, considering the relationship of the garment to the body or searching for evidence of how the garment was worn, used or altered over time. The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection is a repository of several thousand items acquired by donation since 1981, many of which are dresses and evening gowns dating from 1860 to 2000. For several years, this collection lay dormant behind an unmarked door and was largely unknown by the student body. This project was initiated to understand the nature of the artifacts contained therein and is a first step in the process of refocusing and rebuilding the Collection for the future. The title “Re-collection of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection” encapsulates the organizing principle for this practice-led interdisciplinary project, encompassing the intersection of material culture, curatorial process and collective memory in the identification of one hundred key items from the archive that reflect the breadth and history of the Collection itself.