2013 Costume Society of America National Symposium

Posted by on Jun 23, 2013 in Global View | No Comments

2013 Costume Society of America National Symposium CSA Top image

The CSA 2013 symposium theme was “Mining the History of Costume: Fantasy and Fact.


Jessica Schwartz reports on the 2013 Costume Society of America National Symposium hosted by the Western region in Las Vegas, Nevada, which she attended late May 2013. The Costume Society of America works to advance the global understanding of all aspects of dress and appearance aiming to: raise the profile of and encourage studies in the field of costume; share information on dress and appearance; create a community of people with costume interests.

This year, the theme of the symposium was “Mining the History of Costume: Fantasy and Fact.” Presentations ranged in topic from historical reenactment to a case study of LACMA’s exhibition “Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915,” which toured internationally

The Keynote address was given by Jack Ricks, Head of Wardrobe at Cirque du Soleil. Ricks’ presentation, which focused on his twenty years with Cirque du Soleil, set the tone for the rest of the week, and ensured a lively and exciting symposium. Ricks spoke of his work on numerous Cirque du Soleil shows, including Zumanity, Believe, and Iris. Throughout his career, Ricks has worked with fashion and costume designers, including Eiko Ishioka and Thierry Mugler.

While the presentations were scheduled from Thursday, May 30 through Saturday, June 1, there were also events organized pre and post-symposium. Although I was unable to attend any such events, I was able to hear nearly every juried paper, research exhibit, and professional development session. Some sessions were scheduled at the same time, forcing the attendee to choose between one set and another. While an unfortunate circumstance, it is understood that scheduling so many presenters is difficult.

I attended my first CSA National Symposium in 2012, when it was hosted by the Southeastern region in Atlanta, Georgia. I was at the time, a recent graduate of the Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors Master’s program at the University of Georgia, and found attending the CSA National Symposiums highly beneficial. While presenting new and exciting research, the CSA National Symposium also serves as a meeting ground for historic costume students, scholars, professors, and museum professionals. Thus the opportunity to meet others in my field was a welcomed one. Throughout my time at this year’s symposium, I once again felt lucky to be in the presence of so many esteemed and enlightened professionals.

This year, juried papers ranged in topic from Benjamin Franklin’s three-piece suit to the work of Mariano Fortuny in Venice, Italy. I found Anne Reilly’s, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, juried paper on Gypsy Rose Lee and her relationship with couturier Charles James particularly interesting, as well as “Tracing Curves: Dressing the Latin American Vedette” by José Blanco F and Raul Vásquez-López of the University of Georgia.Research exhibits, which were set up early Saturday morning, included a dissection by Michal Lynn Shumate of the exhibition the “Dictionary of Dress” by Judith Clark, as well as

Understanding Historical Events through Dress and Costume Displays at Titanic Museum Attractions” by Genna Reeves-DeArmond and Elaine Pederson of Oregon State University, among others. Shumate will also be presenting her discussion of the “Dictionary of Dress” at the Benjamin, Barthes, and Fashion symposium on June 28, 2013 in Manchester, England.

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While attendees were visiting the research exhibits, they could also peruse the book sale, which featured representatives from Intellect and Bloomsbury. Another chance for attendees to purchase a book, piece of vintage clothing, or vintage magazine was during the annual Silent Auction. This year, the Silent Auction was run by Western region members Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum in Los Angeles, California. The Silent Auction is always a major draw for attendees, and it was no different this year.

Along with the daily events, there were a few evening programs as well. An “Emerging Professionals” cocktail hour was organized, as was the chance to attend two Las Vegas shows, “Jubilee” at Bally’s and “Love” at The Mirage.

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In 2014, the CSA National Symposium will once again be held on the East coast, this time in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information about the Costume Society of America, visit their website at costumesocietyamerica.com or their Facebook page.


Written by Jessica Schwartz

Jessica Schwartz

Jessica Schwartz, 26, graduated from the University of Georgia in 2012 with a Master’s of Science in Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors. Her studies focused on historic and cultural aspects of fashion, with an emphasis on investigating curatorial work within the field of fashion history. She is currently working as a freelance fashion writer and interning with the Craft + Design department at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Following an internship in the Fashion department at the Victoria & Albert Museum and a thesis-related research trip to London, she began writing a scholarly blog Fashionable London, which focuses on fashion related-exhibitions and events as well as the fashion history of the United Kingdom.