The Avenir collection is comprised of over 20,000 artifacts of historically and culturally significant objects related primarily to 19th and 20th century EuroAmerican material culture as well as non-Western material culture with depth in India, China, Japan, Central Asia, and Latin America; collections are used for teaching, research, and interpretive exhibitions.
Special collections include:
- Designer garments from Calvin Klein, Arnold Scaasi, James Galanos, Carolina Herrera, Pauline Trigère, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Versace.
- The largest public-held collection of designs by Mr. Richard Blackwell, self-proclaimed arbiter of fashion and author of the annual celebrity Best- and Worst-Dressed Lists of the 1960s-2000s.
- Ethnographic holdings include The Maxson Collection of over 300 Japanese kimono, the Judi Arndt Collection of Central Asian ikat and embroidered textiles, the Martha Egan collection of over 200 Latin American pieces, and a collection Pre-Columbian textiles from Peru.
- The Ruth Payne Hellmann Lace Collection consisting of over 1,500 pieces of historic lace and lacemaking tools.