On Teaching Fashion: Museum Life

A guest post this week from University of Delaware graduate student Martha Hall, enjoy!

Museum Life: A student’s perspective

As an avid reader and fan of Worn Through, I am thrilled to contribute a guest post! I am a graduate student in the University of Delaware’s Fashion Studies program, and over the past semester have had the opportunity to participate in the department’s first historic costume exhibition at the University’s Museum.  Common Threads: A History of Fashion through a Woman’s Eyes is an exhibition chronicling 20th century American women’s fashion, using the medium of clothing to tell the story of women’s social history.

Image of 1950s prom dress preparing to be mounted and featured in Common Threads: A History of Fashion through a Woman’s Eyes University of Delaware Museum Feb.4-June 28, 2013. Photo: Martha L. Hall.

The exhibition features pieces from the department’s extensive collection of historic garments and textiles.  It has been so insightful (and thrilling!) to be involved in the process of putting this exhibition together, not only because of my own interest in fashion curation, but also because Common Threads  has been a real collaboration between students and faculty.  Undergrads, grads, faculty and staff from multiple departments worked on creating this exhibition, including Fashion & Apparel Studies, Art Conservation and University Museums.  Last fall, I took a costume history class in which both undergrad and grad students actively engaged in the object selection process.  One of the main class projects was to individually determine which trends of the 1990s should be represented in Common Threads and to present and justify our selections.  I think this type of assignment really resonated with the students, giving a real sense of engagement both with the exhibition and the research material.

Image of the grunge and minimalist trends of the 1990s. Photo: Martha L. Hall

Even after the exhibition opens on February 4th, it will continue to be a resource for faculty and students alike for classes in fashion, art conservation, and women’s studies.

For me, being involved in this project has been incredibly valuable.  It’s fueled my interest in fashion curation, as well as given me hands-on experience with curatorial decisions, handling objects, and writing museum literature.  University exhibitions like these, in which students are wholly integrated into the process, are so important for student engagement.  And as a grad student, these types of interdisciplinary projects facilitate practical application not only of costume history research, but also of the benefits of student and interdepartmental collaboration.


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