On Teaching Fashion: Summer Camp

Fashion is a discipline that is generally only offed at the college level.  Some high schools teach basic sewing techniques, using commercial patterns and home sewing machines.  These high school courses don’t offer pattern drafting, draping, or textile design.  Younger students miss the opportunity to develop these skills because classes aren’t offered in most public school curricula.

Local art schools can be a great remedy for this issue.  This summer, I will be teaching at The Baum School of Art‘s new Fashion Academy.  This summer camp spans 8 weeks, and each week is dedicated to a particular city know for fashion.   The Fashion Academy is really unique because it allows students hands-on experience in design, illustration, styling, sewing, draping, and patternmaking.

Along with the other faculty members, I’ll be teaching fashion history and textile design.  Working with younger students is new for me.  I’ve only taught college before, and have noticed the dwindling attention spans every year.  As I’m creating my lesson plans, I’m be careful to incorporate hands-on activities and objects that encourage social interaction.

One of the elements I’m incorporating into my classes is the development of a sketchbook. Fashion history lectures can be a bit tedious for a summer camp.  Yet learning how silhouettes change by decade and design signatures for major fashion houses is very important.  Part of how I intend to make these classes more interactive is teach sketching alongside fashion history.  After covering core content, I will have the students sketch the designs in the lecture.  We will also have demos on making drawings more accurate.  Drawing these designs allows students to integrate the information more fully.  When I was in graduate school, I found that if I sketched the designs as opposed to strictly writing notes, I remembered the information much more easily.  I also refused to discard the notebooks because I thought they were so interesting to look back on.


Illustration from my graduate school notebook, 2007.


Illustrations from my graduate school notebook, 2008.

Illustrations from my graduate school notebook, 2008.


While teaching textile design, I want to model the course off of the École Martine.  French couturier Paul Poiret anticipated the idea of a lifestyle brand in 1910s, and wanted to offer home furnishings.  He decided to do this under the name Maison Martine, which acted as the retail space.   Maison Martine was supported by Ateilier Martine, the workshop, and the École Martine, an experimental art school that trained young, working-class girls.  The art instructors would take the girls out to gardens and zoos in Paris.  The instructors encouraged the development of a personal style in drawing and painting.  Allowing the girls to make stylized drawings, the art was easily converted into textile prints.  They would sketch and draw outdoors, in natural light.  The best designs were purchased by Poiret, and were used in various designs by the craftsmen at the Atelier Martine.

Textile sample by Atelier Martine, c. 1911- 1923.  Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Textile sample by Atelier Martine, c. 1911- 1923. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’m still developing course content, but would love recommendations for teaching younger students!


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