Annette Becker facing forward with garments on mannequins in the background.

Annette Becker

2015, M.A., Art History with a minor in Art Education
Graduate Certificate in Art Museum Education
Director, Texas Fashion Collection, University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design

For Texas Fashion Collection director Annette Becker, a career in fashion history and museums was not a straightforward path. Growing up on a farm in rural western Kansas, she was more familiar with dirt roads than runways. She spent time in front of her family’s wood-burning stove reading encyclopedias and library books rather than pouring over glossy fashion magazines. However, when the practical path of becoming an engineer proved less intellectually tantalizing than she wished, Becker found herself gravitating towards the Spencer Museum of Art at her undergrad alma mater, the University of Kansas. The Spencer’s galleries, accessible through free admission and engaging programming, made her feel like art and design were open to everyone. And, when paired with a passionate Art History professor teaching dress history, changed her major and her professional path.

Annette holds open a pink handbag over a table with other artifacts, surrounded by a group of students examining the designs, in an archival space surrounded by bookshelves.

Annette Becker shares historic handbags from the TFC’s permanent collection with a group of fashion undergraduate students to inspire new designs.

Later on, when she knew graduate education was necessary to continue in museum careers, Becker looked broadly for programs that would allow her to develop her Art History research skills, work towards her aspirations to work in museum academic programming, and facilitate hands-on access to dress artifacts. Though she was accepted to prestigious New York and London programs, the UNT College of Visual Arts and Design ultimately proved the best fit. As a master’s student, she cultivated research-oriented mentorship from Art History Professor Denise Amy Baxter, museum education-oriented mentorship from Art Education Associate Professor Laura Evans, and curatorial-oriented mentorship from Myra Walker, the TFC’s former director and current Fashion Design Professor Emeritus. This generous support fostered myriad outcomes — conference research presentations and publications, an accessibility-focused internship in the Dallas Museum of Art’s education department, and even an exhibition of TFC artifacts complementing Annette’s culminating research project. Together, these experiences made her an enthusiastic and purpose-filled candidate for the TFC’s directorship, a role she gratefully accepted in 2016.

Today, Becker is the head of the TFC, an archive of nearly 20,000 historic and designer garments and accessories housed within the UNT College of Visual Arts and Design. When she began that role in 2016, her vision for the world-class collection was largely informed by her undergraduate experiences being first introduced to museums, as well as the generosity of her graduate program mentors. Remembering how intimidating and exclusive many of those spaces felt at the TFC, Becker crafts opportunities to create a sense of welcome and inclusion. Academic programming leans towards conversation rather than lecture, research appointments build on content students feel familiar with, and professional development opportunities introduce students of all backgrounds to collections-based careers. Through these initiatives, she often witnesses students, researchers, and program attendees finding new passions and ways to see the world through the TFC. Those moments of epiphany remind her of her own path and reinforce the importance of research resources like the TFC being accessible to everyone.