Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Brief Course of Events - CSA National Symposium 2010

I wanted to give a brief write-up of the Costume Society of American's Annual Symposium, for those of you who were unable to attend. Overall, I'm very pleased to have been in Kansas City for the conference; I met a lot of great people, and had a lot of stimulating conversations with professors, curators and dress enthusiasts. You can read more about who presented and the topics discussed here.

Wednesday, May 26th:
My first taste of the symposium began with the opening reception. I recognized very few people, but was able to meet and greet the likes of Anne Bissonette and the legendary June Burns Bove, as well as chat with some first timers about their goals, schooling, job offers, etc. I met up with Monica Sklar (editor of the blog WornThrough) after the award ceremony, and talked fashion studies with some really cool ladies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who run the Fashion Resource Center. I was inspired by their school's promotion of contemporary fashion and encouragement of their students to touch, drape, and interact with their extensive collection. Something to think about, for future endeavors...

Thursday, May 27th: After breakfast, the juried paper sessions began. I especially liked seeing Monica Sklar's (University of Minnesota) presentation of her research on punk dress in the workplace. She provided a great model for future dress studies, and her presentation layout was also eye-catching and effective. I also really enjoyed an analysis by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) on a French Revolutionary-era gilet (vest/waistcoat). She presented a lot of interesting research on the fascinating tongue-and-cheek designs of bourgeois fashion.

I also attended a professional development seminar based on utilizing primary sources other than extant garments for research purposes. I was interested in this seminar particularly because I do not have access to many existing garments pertaining to my interests. It turned out to be a really enlightening seminar, where attendees shared their knowledge as well as their desire to have researchers come to their institutions. I was glad to hear this, because I've been a bit jaded by the near impossible access to collections in New York City. The fact that there are museums and historic societies that are dying to have people come research their garments makes me feel better about my chosen professional (aka I thought we had to keep our treasures under lock-and-key).

Friday, May 28th: Although I missed out on the Teaching Dress History discussion panel, I was able to catch a few more paper sessions such as Nadine L. Stewart's (FIT) Master's thesis on Millinery life and Clarissa Esguerra's extremely thorough analysis of a dress in LACMA's collection that had been made in the 1830s and then refashioned in the 1840s. I was very impressed by how she was able to recognize the patterns and cuts of the dress and draw her conclusions based on its construction.

After lunch I sat in on a concurrent paper session, where I was able to hear Katalin Medvedev's (University of Georgia) field research on grassroots fashion development in Cambodia. It was wonderful to meet her because she has done similar work regarding Communist dress in Hungary. Also during this session were enlightening presentations on progressive fashion photography of the 1930s and 1940s, wardrobe stylists who use original craft techniques for period films, and a biographical "introduction" of Muriel King, a 20th century designer that had been the focus of a senior exhibition at FIT in 2009.

Saturday, May 29th: The day started out with the Stella Blum Student Grant awardee's paper presentation. Katie Knowles, a PhD student at Rice University, did extensive research pertaining to slave clothing in the United States. I was very impressed by her knowledge and the amount of research she was able to uncover because there are so few slave garments available. It was also nice to hear that many of her items came from the Charleston Museum (thanks for helping her out, Jan Hiester!). This grant was definitely well deserved, as "plain" clothing is vastly under researched and hard to find in museum collections.

Then came the research exhibitions. I must admit, this was probably the most disappointing part of the entire symposium, even though I was presenting. First of all, the annual meeting ran 15 minutes over schedule, and we only originally had about an hour an a half to display our work. Secondly, they placed the session on the last day, when many people leave the conference. The session also ran concurrently during a seminar hosted by June Burns Bove on dressing mannequins, and come on, you can't compete with Ms. Bove! She's just so fabulous. I was able to interact with a few members who graciously stopped by, but in the end I felt like I had put in a lot of effort for very little face time.

Attending this year's symposium made me excited for future CSA events. I look forward to next year's conference in Boston, where I plan on presenting a paper on Douglas Millings, as well as possibly hosting a professional development seminar. My next post will discuss specific critiques of the symposium, as well as new suggestions (from both peers and myself) that may benefit the promotion of the CSA's goals and future endeavors.

1 comment:

  1. It was great meeting you! Let me know what you are thinking about for pro dev.