The Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University (FA&M) will debut a new exhibit on March 25 from 1 to 4 p.m. “Through the Lens of the Beholder: The Fine Art of Dress” features clothing and accessories for men, women and children from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Fashion Archives & Museum of Shippensburg University (FA&M) was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Coby Foundation, Ltd. in New York City. With the grant, procured with the assistance of the Shippensburg University Foundation, the FA&M can hire a professional exhibit designer for its next exhibit, slated to open on April 14, 2018.
“The Coby Foundation is pleased to award the Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University a grant for its upcoming exhibition `The Fashions of Fiction from Pamela to Gatsby.’ It’s a novel approach to exhibit historical fashions, and is likely to attract a new audience to its gallery. The Foundation was happy to direct funds to this installation so that future exhibitions can benefit from the improvements,” said Ward L. E. Mintz, Coby Foundation executive director.
Dr. Karin Bohleke, FA&M director, co-wrote the grant with FA&M advisory council member Colleen Callahan of the Costume and Textile Specialists. According to Bohleke, this is the first grant of its kind for the FA&M and the first opportunity to hire a professional exhibit designer. “The choice of Charles Mack of Baltimore, Maryland, was a natural one,” explained Bohleke. “He brings great talent, enthusiasm, and broad experience and has a sensitivity toward the needs of historic textiles. In addition, he is excited to work with Ship students in order to expose them to the museum design process, which is a fantastic addition to the Applied History curriculum. We are so lucky to have him on board for this project.”
This Symposium, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern Regions, will be held in conjunction with the FA&M’s exhibit “The Fashions of Fiction from Pamela to Gatsby,” which has received generous support from the Coby Foundation. The symposium opens October 11 with pre-conference activities and closes on October 14, 2018.
Costume and fashion history are great teaching tools for educating on multiple levels and creative ways. In addition to papers and research exhibits on dress history, the symposium welcomes topics regarding educational and creative connections between dress, other fields, and the general public. Innovative exhibits, successful programs, events, and promotions are all potential topics. In connection with the FA&M exhibit, studies of costume in literature and the arts are also welcome.
Plans already include a behind the scenes off-site storage pre-conference tour of clothing belonging to Ike and Mamie Eisenhower which form part of the collection of the Eisenhower Farm Museum, as well as a special discount for symposium participants at the wonderful fabric store Needle & Thread in Gettysburg and the Creative Ewe yarn shop.
The symposium hotel, the Courtyard Marriott, is immediately adjacent to campus and located at 503 Newburg Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257. A conference rate of $88/night with breakfast included, is already available for reservations at (717) 477-0680 or online at Book your group rate for Costume Society of America.
Watch for further announcements and notices. To volunteer, please contact co-chairs Karin Bohleke (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or Colleen Callahan (email@example.com).
Dr. Lydia Edwards, author of How to Read a Dress (2017), has accepted the invitation to deliver the keynote address at the joint Costume Society of America Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regional symposium to be held at Shippensburg University from October 11-14, 2018. Dr. Edwards’ keynote address is made possible from a generous grant from the estate of Pamela L. Kopp.
Dr. Edwards is a fashion historian with a special interest in women’s dress from the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Her Ph.D. research focused on historical costuming in late nineteenth-century theatre, and this interest continues into her current research to consider notions of “accuracy,” historical interpretation and interpolation in extant garments, theatrical costume and works of art. She is passionate about making the study of dress history accessible to a wide audience and her book How to Read a Dress was described by The Fashion Studies Journal as “a welcome contribution to the literature, especially at a time when theoretical interpretations in fashion studies risk obscuring the garment itself.” Dr. Edwards lectures at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, and teaches Costume History at the world acclaimed Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). She is currently completing her second book, How to Read a Suit: A Guide to Changing Men’s Fashion from the 17th to the 20th Century, and is undertaking research into the representation of clothing in the works of expressionist painter, Chaim Soutine.
Co-chairs, Dr. Karin Bohleke and Colleen Callahan, look forward to Dr. Edwards’ contribution to the symposium’s theme, “Costume Across the Curriculum & into the Community.” Dr. Bohleke commented, “Both of Dr. Edwards’ books feature garments from the collection of the Fashion Archives & Museum of Shippensburg University, and bringing her to the campus is a natural outcome of long-time exchanges as her research progressed. It is also a special opportunity to share her work with her costume colleagues and the university community. The Mid-Atlantic region of the Costume Society of America has emphasized nurturing emerging scholars as its professional development theme for the past few years, and thus inviting a fresh voice in the early stages of her career can serve as an inspiration.” Ms. Callahan further added “The Costume Society of America is a global organization with an international outlook. Shippensburg University fosters awareness of world cultures, and Dr. Edwards’ work the Fashion Archives collection illustrates the university’s own international profile.”
The symposium will be held October 11-14, 2018 and is in conjunction with the Fashion Archive & Museum’s exhibit, “The Fashions of Fiction: From Pamela to Gatsby.” Information regarding schedule and registration, for both Costume Society of America member and non-members, will be forthcoming in early August. A block of rooms has already been reserved at a special conference rate of $88 per night, breakfast included, at the Courtyard Marriott in Shippensburg. The symposium hotel is immediately adjacent to campus and located at 503 Newburg Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257. Rooms are already available for reservations at (717) 477-0680 or online at Book your group rate for Costume Society of America.
Three Ship graduate students in the Applied History program had the opportunity to install eight mannequins in support of the Brandywine River Museum’s exhibit “Votes for Women: A Visual History.” The exhibit curator, Amanda Burdan, and the FA&M Director Dr. Karin Bohleke had already selected the outfits representing the suffragists during the design phase of the display preparations, and FA&M staff and volunteers had already performed all needed conservation. The final stages of the exhibit loan and installation were now in the hands of the graduate students under the supervision of Dr. Bohleke.
As an assignment for their independent study on museum exhibition installation, Cijianna “Ciji” Berry, Amanda Partner, and Martavis Washington dressed the mannequins. They learned how to adjust the fit through padding and to select appropriate underpinnings to achieve the proper period silhouette. This exhibit features mannequins from head to toe, meaning the students also added footwear, styled the mannequins’ hair, and finished the look with hats and gloves. Given that the mannequins sported purple hair, namely one of the official colors of the suffragist movement, the results were certainly dramatic. Then all of the outfits had to be undressed and packed for transport, the mannequins labeled, their hairstyles protected, and everything loaded into vehicles for transport to Chadds Ford, PA.
Dr. Bohleke and the students then spent January 24 at the Brandywine River Museum working with Ms. Burdan and the others. The mannequins’ outfits had been deliberately chosen to match those in period photos of suffragists, and the finished mannequins were positioned on the platforms near large graphics reproducing the original images. The Brandywine exhibit team welcomed the students as professional art handlers and were wonderful hosts. The final result featured two mannequins each in winter outerwear, cool summer whites, tailored walking suits, and driving gear. In a whimsical touch, the students added purple or gold gloves from the exhibit support materials, again to match the official colors of the suffragist movement.
In reflecting on this first real-life exhibition experience, Martavis Washington noted that the installation at Brandywine Museum was a “proud moment” and that “seeing the end result turn out as fantastic as it did was rewarding.” He was thrilled at the genuine, hands-on experience that the Fashion Archives provided him. Ciji Berry also greatly appreciated the real-life opportunity and found that dressing the mannequins and helping to create them by carving the bodies and styling the hair “provided skills that I may not have learned elsewhere. This experience also gave me the chance to meet others in the field with whom I hope to work in the future.” A visitor to the Brandywine exhibit wrote to Dr. Bohleke, commenting that the FA&M “did a fabulous job and deserves the credit.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “Votes for Women” is temporarily closed at the time of this publication. However, the exhibit’s time frame has been extended into the fall. Please check the Brandywine River Museum’s own website for reopening dates and schedule (www.brandywine.org).
Photo, below, from left to right: Cijianna Berry, Amanda Partner, Karin Bohleke, and Martavis Washington post in front the “tailored” mannequins. The suffragist sash is a surviving original on loan to the exhibit from another institution.
Inspired and excited by a presentation at the 2019 annual symposium of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG) that FA&M director Dr. Karin Bohleke attended with the FA&M Advisory Council President Robin Dolbin, Dr. Bohleke assigned her graduate costume Applied History class a real-life museum task: select artifacts to purchase for the permanent collection. Thanks to a combination of special donations and revenues from the sales of deaccessioned items, her students had a budget of $9,000 with which to work. With such a sum, it was entirely possible to purchase significant items to enhance the collection holdings.
During the fall 2019 class, the students assessed the existing holdings and consulted with Dr. Bohleke to define areas of weak representation and at the same time become aware of time periods or types of items that needed no further development. Armed with this knowledge and a list of reputable dealers, the class divided into smaller groups and ultimately each group presented its list of proposed purchases, justifying the choices with supporting arguments. The students then had to come to a consensus as a whole in the course of an evening’s debate.
The students finalized their choices, and Dr. Bohleke purchased the following items:
As is evident from the list, students placed their emphasis on early items that are less likely to arrive at the FA&M in the form of a donation. Their choices are especially important given that students in the early American history undergraduate classes build their final research web exhibit projects starting from artifacts from the FA&M collection. In fact, a number of the items listed above made their debut in student projects before the items were even catalogued.
In addition, a generous FA&M supporter stepped in and donated the necessary funds to purchase a pair of shoes associated with a wedding that took place in Kent, England, in 1780. To maximize the available funds still further, Titi Halle and her staff at Cora Ginsburg LLC extended a generous special discount when they learned of the project and fully supported the students’ learning experience.
This project is an example of the real-life museums tasks that students pursue in the FA&M, and it is a genuinely unique aspect of the programming. Regarding her experience, Nastassia Gantz commented, “The class had to think about whether or not an item could tell a story about an important moment in fashion history, be a stand-out piece among the rest of the collection, and whether we believed that people would be excited to come and view the item it on display in a future exhibit. I was able to gain a better understanding of how institutions acquire objects along with what the general decision-making process looks like, and I left the course feeling elated that a short gown that I found was actually chosen by the class to have a permanent home at the Fashion Archives.”
Another student, Courtney Smith, noted that in their excitement for the project, “Our group took the project a step further. In order to show how the garments we selected would fit into the museum’s collection, we designed an exhibit around them. The entire experience was fantastic. It taught us real-world skills that we will definitely use.”
Students in Shippensburg University’s Theatre Arts program had the opportunity to study costume history in the Fashion Archives & Museum this spring semester. Prior to spring break, as an integral component to studying fashions of the past, the students explored different eighteenth-century hairstyles. “Too often,” the instructor Dr. Karin J. Bohleke explained, “women’s hair is reduced to the towering and exaggerated styles associated with the 1770s and 1780s that featured boats and other elaborate headpieces. But there were so many other options and the century featured a much broader evolution of looks and techniques.” Using the recent publication The American Duchess Guide to Eighteenth Century Beauty, students busily worked at recreating different styles—with elegant results. One student, Eliza Eames, brought in her sister as a willing model and recreated the soft, curled hairstyle of the 1790s that appears in a number of portraits by Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun (see image below). The students unanimously agreed that the style was still eminently flattering and wearable today. They thoroughly enjoyed this hands-on experience, and of course, a towering feather adds an element of fun.
The FA&M’s current exhibit, Fashionable Dances and Dancing Fashions, which opened in January, is available for viewing online as a video tour. In this time of social distancing, technology has made it possible for the FA&M’s display to come to visitor homes. The clothing in the exhibit dates from the 1810s through the 1970s, and additional paper ephemera from the early 1800s through the 1980s provides dynamic graphics and history of a favorite social pastime.
The original exhibit closing date of July 2 has been extended, but no new closing date has yet been set pending decisions from the appropriate state and university authorities.
In the meantime, please enjoy this virtual tour by clicking on or copying this link and pasting it into your preferred browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxW3eK3pJFE.