Museum Life: CSA Symposium Snapshot

With the Costume Society of America’s annual symposium in the neighborhood this year, I headed down to San Antonio for three whirlwind days of presentations, demonstrations, and exhibitions. In addition to meeting new people and learning about research on a variety of subjects, I encountered several objects that may be of interest to readers. Below is a selection:

A portable LED-lit microscope that hooks up to a computer and has the capability to capture still photos or video. This particular model, by Celestron, was used during Claire Shaeffer‘s workshop on couture sewing techniques. It can be found online for the reasonable price range of $50-100. Its application on a Christian Lacroix jacket revealed that a seemingly complex twill weave structure is in fact a plain weave, and the black silk fiber is instead a very dark purple.

Couture is all about hidden, meticulous detail, sometimes hiding in plain sight.  A very close examination of this 1960s Chanel jacket from Shaeffer’s collection (above) revealed that the knit fabric was cut apart and sewn back together again, almost imperceptibly, to achieve the desired effect of this striking black and white plaid pattern. The plaid pattern in its original, pre-altered state (with skinnier black stripes, diagonally oriented) can be seen on the underside of the collar.

3-D printing and modeling had a significant presence this year, with one panel presentation on its application in theater costume (Joe Kucharski of Baylor University), one poster on textile technology experiments (from Helen S. Koo of University of California, Davis and Seoha Min of University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and another on digitally recreating missing pieces in historic costume collections with 3-D modeling software (Cara Tortorice, Worn Through alum Kelly Cobb, and Dilia Lopez-Gydosh of University of Delaware).

Below is a detail of a 3-D printed Elizabethan neck ruff created by Joe Kucharski of Baylor University for a production of Twelfth Night. The incredible detail and simulated delicacy was achieved through a digital scan of Renaissance lace. It will be interesting to see how 3-D scanning, manipulating, and printing will be applied to exhibition display and design, or physically recreating missing ensemble pieces in a museum collection.


The McNay Museum held over two exhibitions for CSA members of Ballets Russes costumes, sketches, and illustrations and related printed material from the period of 1909-early 1930s (All the Rage in Paris; (Design, Fashion, Theater). The Ballets Russes exhibition was augmented by items owned and worn by wealthy San Antonio women inspired by the colors, patterns, and rich embellishment of the Ballets Russes costumes and set designs. These lovely fashion garments were provided by the nearby Witte Museum. Below is a juxtaposition of a costume from Sadko (1911) with a 1920s evening coat (both in different galleries, my pairing).



All photos provided by the author.

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