On Teaching Fashion: Collections in the Classroom

I am thankful to Monica Murgia for her post last week on creating a teaching collection. This week, I will tease out the post out into some additional ways to utilize a teaching costume or garment collection. We are lucky at The University of Delaware to have a small costume collection lovingly tended by scholar and educator Dr. Dilia Lopez-Gydosh.  How do we utilize the collection in a variety of fashion courses? I hope to offer a few ideas and would love to hear how you utilize a department or self-developed garment collection in your teaching.

Tahari, wool with embellishments.<br />Photo: Kelly Cobb  Tahari, wool with embellishments.<br />Photo: Kelly Cobb

Fashion Illustration:

1. Design Brainstorm and Presentation Board

For a mid-term project I brought out a 2008  Tahari A-Line Dress in wool with interesting metallic embellishments including beading and sequins into the classroom for students to use as an entry point for a design brainstorm  introduced to me by designer/educator Katya Roesle. Primarily, students researched the designer, period (or as in the case of this very vintage looking dress-what period the style harkened back to) design details, fabrications and developed 30 additional designs inspired by garment research. The design brainstorm involves expanding one dress into a collection of 30. After the brainstorm, students edited the 30 designs down to 4 articulating their concept on a multiple figure format board presentation. Here are some results:


Katie Lindsay


Fifty in the City, J. Mayer.


2. Specs and Flats:

 Students analyze and create specification and flat technical drawings based on a costume collection garment.

Product Development:

Students analyze “live” garments to view types of stitching, fabrication, components and closures, style lines and silhouette. I know that our product development teacher gets really excited about this activity; I like to think her enthusiasm is contagious.  In this case the professor has a small garment collection gleaned from area thrift stores. We are in the process of reaching out to local companies for samples; contemporary garments that offer examples of various design details described above.  In this case the contemporary garment offers a sort of context for the student, one more appealing than the “old wool blazer from the thrift store” context.


Costume History

Dr. Lopez Gydosh regularly brings garment or accessory items into the collection. In one assignment small teams of students design theme based exhibitions for our exhibition gallery.  Another assignment involves deeper research into one item or a small grouping of items.  In this case as well, the professor is highly enthused in presenting the collection to the class, I believe that enthusiasm is contagious. This is apparent when I see students lined up outside our modest collection to have “hands-on” time with the items.

How are you introducing historic or other garment collections into your classroom projects? Please comment, I would love to hear from you.

Related Articles


  • Michael Mamp April 20, 2013 09.44 pm

    I also use items from out collection at Iowa State in fashion illustration. Students learn to draw flats to scale using items from a particular time period. They then develop a collection inspired by these garments.

  • Kelly C April 21, 2013 08.59 am

    Thanks Michael for responding with such a great idea. As a fellow fashion illustration teacher I like this activity as you can also insert some dialog about shifting hemlines, material innovations and even sizing!

  • Beulah November 27, 2013 04.04 am

    Hey there! I’ve been following your blog for a while now and
    finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout
    out from Porter Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up
    the great job!


Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at : Amazon.com, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.