Museum Life: fashion education of dress collections

The future of fashion education was the topic for the August 2012 Australia Fashion Researchers network held at the National Library of Australia. Many of the presentations looked at ways that graduate fashion design students can become more sustainably aware. Donna Sgro from the University of Technology, Sydney looked at ‘Biomimicry and fashion practice’; how nature can inspire sustainable design solutions. Mr Mark Liu, also from UTS looked at how darting in patternmaking can minimise the use of fabric in construction.

I presented a paper looking at how fashion and dress collections can assist to educate, inform and inspire students studying fashion design and theory. This paper focused on the Australian Dress Register, a project I have talked about a bit here at Worn Through. Projects such as this and other online collection databases provides access to fashion and dress collections for students and educators without having objects on display or opening collection stores to visitors. Outside my own work, the online collection databases of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London are two of my favourite online repositories of historic fashion and dress.

Discussions after my presentation focused on issues of access. Many educators and students had struggled to gain access to fashion collections not on display with the addition of minimal information online. This is often due to issues of staffing, security and documentation problems. One educator reported that it took them 8 weeks to gain access to a national collection.  The discussions ended on a slightly frustrated and low note but an acknowledgement of the high significance of these collections to fashion education in Australia.

I would love to continue this discussion with Worn Through readers.

Do you have experience of difficulties accessing fashion and dress collections?

How can museums and galleries work better with fashion students and educators?

Do you have experience of a successful collaboration between a museum or other collecting body and fashion educators and students?



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  • Kelly Richardson August 17, 2012 08.42 am


    Would you be willing to share your paper? As the assistant curator of a university collection without dedicated gallery space accessible to students, I struggle with facilitating access to our collections. We are located in a remote part of campus not easily accessible to our fashion students (though that is improving). My curator and I taught a summer course in 20th century Fashion Design at the collection this summer, but would love to hear more ideas about integrating collections with the classroom.

    Kelly Richardson, Indiana University

  • Rebecca August 20, 2012 04.51 am

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for your response.
    I believe the paper will be published on the conference website:

    If you require it sooner please email me at and I can send through a copy.

    Thanks, Rebecca


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