In today's post, Associate Curator Christina Johnson recaps the 39th annual Costume Society of America national symposium. It's not too early to start thinking about the 2014 symposium, which will be held in Baltimore, Maryland. The call for papers will come out soon, so start thinking about possible topics now!
The Costume Society of America’s annual national symposium recently took place in Las Vegas from May 29 to June 1. Curator Kevin Jones, Registrar Meghan Hansen and I attended, and we all had a great time listening to the variety of papers and panels (this year’s theme was “Mining the History of Costume: Fantasy and Fact”) as well as seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Kevin and I were charged with planning this year’s Silent Auction, a fundraising event for CSA. Members donate books, vintage clothes, and jewelry (my office progressively filled up with boxes in the weeks leading up to the event), and symposium participants then bid on the donated items—the funds raised go toward the educational activities of CSA. Well, we had to get the donations to the Symposium somehow, so we rented a car, and, with barely enough room for one suitcase each, drove four hours across the desert to our oasis at the Tropicana Hotel.
From Gypsy Rose Lee and her relationship with Charles James to the Dolly Varden Craze of 1872, the illustrated presentations really did “mine” the broad range of themes fashion allows us to explore. Meghan gave her paper, “Beyond the Black Cape: Dress in Bram Stoker’s Dracula” Thursday morning, which described and contextualized the novel’s written and unwritten fashion details. I was also very proud to hear Katy Werlin—a former FIDM Museum intern—deliver “Becoming the Sylph: The Transformation of Ballet Costumes, 1760-1832,” based on her recently completed Master’s thesis at New York University.
I participated in this year’s Scholar’s Roundtable, along with Sara Marcketti from Iowa State University and Ann Wass from the Riversdale House Museum. The topic of our panel was “The potential of collections of historic dress to serve as educational tools.” I spoke about the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection and some of the insights her personal papers offer into the historiography of fashion studies. I discussed the need to scan these papers, and make them readily available to scholars. This concept of collections digitization carried through the duration of the panel, and the subsequent discussion with the audience. This is definitely a hot topic in our field.
Costume Society of America members and FIDM Museum Fashion Council members Mela Hoyt-Heydon and Linda Plochocki attended the Symposium, as well. They helped us immensely with the Silent Auction. Here they are with Kevin, enjoying the casino! Next year’s CSA Symposium will be in Baltimore, Maryland. I hope some of you, our blog readers, will join us!