Video of the French Connection Fashion Show

If you missed our fabulous French Connection event at Late Night at the Loeb on November 17, you can watch this video of the fashion show from YouTube. (If you’re in a hurry, fast forward to about 5:10 to see all the models walk at the end). This video comes to us via Contrast, Vassar’s style magazine, one of the co-sponsors of the event. Check out their blog!

Vassar Costumes at the Loeb

I am pleased to announce an exciting fashion event taking place this week at Vassar:

French Connection Poster

“The French Connection: an evening of art et fashion” brings fashion to Thursday’s Late Night at the Loeb. The galleries of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center are open late on Thursday, until 9pm, with a fashion show at 7pm and historic costume on display through Sunday. This event is a collaboration between the Frances Lehman Loeb Student Advisory Committee, the Drama Department Costume Shop, the Department of French and Francophone Studies, Contrast magazine, VC Sound Systems, and the French Club.

One of our costume shop student employees (who is involved with all of the above organizations) is organizing a fashion show combining contemporary looks with a few historic reproductions. Professor Susan Hiner will introduce the evening with brief comments on the historical context of French fashion. Also, we have three dresses on display from our historic collection: a couture bustle gown from the late nineteenth century by French designer Emile Pingat, an exquisite black and white day dress with a French influence, and a mid-twentieth century striped dress from the Schiap-sport label (Parisian House of Schiaparelli).

We hope you’ll stop by on Thursday night if you’re in the area, or come by over the weekend to see the dresses on display. In case you can’t make it, we’ll post some pictures next week.

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!

Visit our Digital Exhibition

I am pleased to announce that the digital version of the exhibition “Fashioning an Education” is now up and running online! If you couldn’t make it to the physical exhibition (which we just took down today, sadly) you can still take a look at it online. Or, even if you did make it in person, you may want to revisit pictures of the objects or text about them.

Online Exhibition of “Fashioning an Education” –

We hope you’ll visit – and even better, please share your feedback! We’d love to hear what you thought about the physical exhibit, if you did get to visit, but also what you think about the digital exhibit. You can either leave a comment here, or send us an email from the “contact us” page at the link above. This digital exhibition was built using the Exhibit Builder plug-in within the open source Omeka software for collection management, and we’d love to hear what you think about it.

More posts coming soon about more of our special visitors to the exhibition, and our visit to the annual symposium for the Costume Society of America . . .

A Visit from James Gurney

The response to our current exhibition, Fashioning an Education, has been wonderful!

Follow this link to a blog post about it from illustrator and author James Gurney (creator of Dinotopia), who used his visit as an opportunity to sketch.
Drawing of Green Taffeta Day Dress by James Gurney

I’m sure Faren Tang ’13 will be thrilled to see his sketch of the c. 1895 Green Taffeta Day Dress she spent endless hours working on. This dress had a few pieces removed when she started, and it was a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to rehabilitate it so that we could safely mount it. Faren discussed her treatment plan in a video (previously posted), but ran into some surprises along the way and had even more work than expected. She re-attached the lapels, collar, and one cuff, re-stitched darts that had been let out, created a yoke lining to reinforce the waistband, reinforced some tears with conservation net, and, whew! Faren, is there anything I forgot? Jessica Barksdale ’11 also helped greatly with some of the last few steps of the stitching on this dress.

One of my favorite parts of James’ sketch is that he captures the purple zigzag pattern that hides in the changeant green taffeta – barely noticeable when we we working with this dress before mounting it. It is thanks to Candace Schuster’s help mounting the exhibition, and focusing the lights, that this surprising detail is so evident.

Feel free to follow James’ lead and come sketch! There’s still time before we close on June 12.

Exhibition Up and Running!

Our exhibition, “Fashioning an Education,” is up and running! We mounted the entire exhibition in one incredibly satisfying day, on Saturday, May 14, took another day for finishing touches, and opened to the public on Monday, May 16. All of this would not have been possible without the hard work of our amazing students, faculty, and staff, or without the enthusiastic support of our viewers and readers, like you!

From Fashioning an Education

(Click on the photo above to view several photos from the exhibition)

There’s still time to see the exhibition before it closes on June 12. Here are our remaining hours:
Thursday, June 2 from 1-4
Friday, June 3 from 1-4
Saturday, June 4 from 1-4

Thursday, June 9 from 1-4
Friday, June 10 from 1-4
Saturday, June 11 from 1-4
Sunday, June 12 from 11-2

and by appointment by emailing

If you do stop by, make sure to sign our guest book!

A Visit from Rebecca Tuite

On Wednesday, April 13, we had a wonderful visit from author Rebecca Tuite, whose book Vassar Style: Fashion, Feminism and 1950s American Media will be published later this year. Ms. Tuite has been a wonderful source of information and enthusiasm on the subject of Vassar dress, and it was a delight to have her here in person!

Speaking to a group of at least a dozen students and faculty members, Ms. Tuite first introduced her research to those who were not already familiar with her work. She described her process at great length, answering questions about her approach to oral history, mass media, and dress. Each of us working on the exhibition for the sesquicentennial had questions for her about how her ladies from the 1950’s relate to the ladies we’re looking at in the earlier years. Certainly there are differences across time, but there are many common threads running through, especially when it comes to the themes we’ve been focusing on lately relating changes in dress to developments in education.

Our discussion certainly gave us all a great deal to think about as our research continues moving forward. We’re very grateful to Ms. Tuite for being so generous with her time and her thoughts!

(I must add that Ms. Tuite was also the bearer of many wonderful gifts – new donations to our collection, from some of the 1950’s alums she’s been in touch with. We’ll post more details about them soon!)

Exhibition Announcement

publicity image for Fashioning an Education exhibition

“Fashioning an Education: 150 Years of Vassar Students and What They Wore”
May 16-June 12 at the Palmer Gallery, Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY)

To celebrate the college’s 150th anniversary, the Vassar College Costume Collection will share student research about the complex role that education has played to influence fashion. This exhibition will showcase student clothing from the 1860’s to 1950’s and photographs of student styles from the 1960’s to today.

opening on Monday, May 16, with a reception from 4-6pm

from May 19 – June 12, open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 1-4pm

additional times:
Tuesday, May 17 and Wednesday, May 18 from 1-4pm
Sunday, May 22 from 12-3pm
Sunday, June 12 from 11-2pm
as well as by appointment by calling (845) 437-5250

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This work by Vassar College Costume Collection is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.