Presentations to the Costume Society

Two weeks ago, three of us were able to attend the annual symposium for the Costume Society of America. We had a wonderful time meeting with other like-minded souls.

I traveled to Boston on Wednesday with my colleague Kenisha Kelly, Visiting Assistant Professor of Costume Design in Vassar’s Drama department. We arrived just in time for the evening’s events, including the keynote address by Dr. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Thursday’s events were also packed with thought-provoking presentations, helpful professional development sessions, and wonderful opportunities to meet with other costume enthusiasts from across the country. (I will try to share some of my notes from specific sessions in another post.)

Chloe Boxer ’12 with her research presentation, from the album CSA 2011

We were supposed to be joined on Thursday night by our student, Chloe Boxer ’12 – but alas the stormy weather made for a difficult trip for Chloe. She gets the award for making it to the symposium in spite of many trials and tribulations! After her plane was stuck on the runway in NY for 4 hours, she got off the plane, made her way to Port Authority, and got on a bus bound for Boston, bringing her into the city¬† in the wee hours of the morning. After only a couple of hours of sleep, she was up and ready to set up her research exhibition. However, after the research exhibitions and lunch, we were back on the road to NY – so all in all, Chloe was only in Boston for less than 12 hours!

But our research exhibitions were very well received, so hopefully it was all worth it. Chloe presented “Skirting the Issue: Explaining the Social Implications of an Early Hobble Dress.” Her posters showed the work she had done to remove theatrical alterations made to a dress in our collection, as a part of last year’s Historic Costume Preservation Workshop (funded by a grant from the NEH). She shared the research she did to date the dress and support her choices in undoing certain alterations. Her research led her to an alternative understanding of the hobble skirt, opposed to the traditional anti-feminist view of this style. She had a constant stream of viewers for her presentation, and received some great feedback.

Arden Kirkland with her research presentation, from the album CSA 2011

I was also very pleased with the attention I received for my presentation “Inside-Out and Online: The Use of Digital Media to Share Multiple Perspectives of Historic Costume.” I shared highlights of several of my digital costume projects, including blogs and our online database, showing how they express my philosophy of “multiplicity” for sharing costume online – multiple views, voices, and levels of context, through the use of multimedia. My work has focused on a low budget do-it-yourself approach to digital costume collections, and I met many people also interested in (or already involved in) digitizing their collections, so this was a very active and fruitful discussion. [I think there’s a need for a larger session on this in the future! So many of us are working on these kinds of projects – we need to band together and develop guidelines for best practice so we don’t each have to reinvent the wheel.]

All the links related to my presentation, including pdfs of my handout and poster, are at:

Our time at the symposium was a wonderful whirlwind of activity among a nurturing community – a diverse group brought together by our interest in costume. Those, like myself, who are fairly new to this community are very lucky to have the support of more “seasoned” members who are so enthusiastic about sharing their work and introducing us around. The symposium’s planners did a wonderful job, and this was a great event!

One Reply to “Presentations to the Costume Society”

  1. Sounds like you all had a fun time. (Well, except for poor Chloe. I’m glad she was able to make it to Boston.)

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