Dr. Kim Miller-Spillman, Associate Professor in the Merchandising Apparel and Textiles Department and instructor of MAT 533: History in Costume class has taken a group of students on three different field trips throughout the semester.
She expects that her students will come out of this class with an appreciation for the challenges of storing and exhibiting textile items. Spillman also hopes that the students realize that "you cannot just put it on any mannequin and expect it to look good or draw in the public." So she planned trips to the Kentucky Historical Society, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and Shaker Village.
While on tour, students toured costume storage, learned how to correctly store costumes and textiles for preservation, and learned that the history of the person(s) who wore the garments is essential to know. When looking to preserve a garment they should ask the questions: (1) who wore the garment?" and (2) "on what occasion was the garment worn?"
They toured exhibits that included clothing and discussed exhibit mounts specific to textiles, light, and length of time a textile can be on exhibit without harming the garments' longevity for future generations.
On September 22nd they visited the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort.
The Kentucky Historical Society has a suit coat worn by the presumed-to-be-Governor-elect William Goebel. He was assassinated while walking into the State Capitol where the House of Representatives was meeting to decide the election results. Historians say he was sworn in on his death-bed; some argue that he was not conscious for that oath of office.
On October 20th students visited the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) in Ohio.
At CAM, students heard about the typical 5 year process of mounting the wedding dress exhibit "Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns." This includes research and photography for the exhibit catalogue.
On December 1st students made their last field trip to Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY.
Shaker Village was different from the other trips. Students saw a small museum collection focused on the Shaker lifestyle. They learned how Shaker men and women were celibate and lived separately in ‘dormitories.' There were 300+ Shakers at Pleasant Hill in the prime of the Shaker movement. Clothing and linens were identified so that they go back to the correct person(s). Personal items (i.e., men's pajamas) were embroidered with the person's initials. Women dressed modestly. The ‘bertha' was intended to obliterate secondary sex characteristics (i.e., bust line). Shakers practiced sericulture (raised silkworms for harvesting silk) and made lovely silk scarves that were tissue thin.
Students will use this knowledge/experience in their careers because historic costume styles reappear every 30 years on average. Many designers, such as Alexander McQueen, use historic styles to create runway designs. Knowing the origin of a clothing item, such as a corset, and the correct terminology will help Merchandising, Apparel & Textile students in their careers. They will know what the past has to offer for their promotions, sales, and garment designs.
Dr. Spillman plans to take classes on field trips again in the future. If interested in taking the course, MAT 533: History in Costume, talk to your advisor to see if you can fit it into your schedule.