Mabel Wickham Allen’s Performance Dresses

Mabel Wickham Allen, circa 1933

Mabel Wickham Allen’s black velvet performance dress, 1930s.


Detail of Mabel Wickham Allen’s slip, 1930s.


Mabel Wickham Allen’s pink silk performance dress with peacock rhinestone detail, 1930s.

Mabel Wickham Allen (b. 1912-d.2003) was born in Oberlin, Kansas and moved to Colorado to become a student at both Colorado Women’s College (CWC) and the University of Denver (DU) Lamont School of Music in the late 1920s.

When she graduated in 1933, she taught in several Colorado public schools РWray and Louisville among others Рbefore being hired to teach in Aurora, Colorado, where she taught for more than 40 years. She received a Teacher of the Year Award from the Greater Aurora Chamber of Commerce in 1970, and in 2000, she was honored by the Aurora Symphony Orchestra for her services to the Aurora Public Schools and the Aurora Symphony.

In 2014, Ms. Allen’s son John and daughter-in-law Annick Allen donated her personal papers, which included several of her performance dresses from her time as a student, to the University of Denver Special Collections and Archives. All of the dresses appear to have been hand-made, as they do not have manufacturers’ tags. In addition, all the dresses have elements of elaborate lace, pearls, fringe, or rhinestones. John and Annick also donated her slip, which has her name hand-sewn into the label.

The University of Denver Special Collections and Archives would love to add more University of Denver-related personal papers and material culture like these dresses to our collections. If you or someone you know has a similar collection that you would like to donate, please contact the Curator of Special Collections and Archives, Katherine Crowe – or 303-871-7944.

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