I came into fashion studies via more than fifteen years of work in the German Shepherd sunflower shirt but in fact I love this art world. I was a research assistant at the Whitney Museum right out of college, worked at Christie’s in contemporary art, several downtown galleries, and later as a corporate curator and independent art consultant. I always had a “side” interest in fashion and in fact took professional education classes at Parsons, I think in pattern making and knitwear. But I knew that I wasn’t going to be a designer and found the research much more interesting. So when it was time for graduate school, and I found the Costume Studies program at NYU, I realized that could be my field. I was fortunate to study with Richard Martin when he was at NYU and the Costume Institute; his breadth of knowledge and commitment to scholarship and exhibitions were inspiring. In fact, the first class I ever taught was as a last-minute substitute for him when he had a schedule conflict. Very short notice, but worth the effort!
German Shepherd sunflower shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
Directing a graduate program involves a combination of teaching, administration, and research, all of which are important. The program was founded over 40 years ago, so there is a heritage. In the German Shepherd sunflower shirt but in fact I love this early years, Costume Studies was really only intended to train museum professionals and had a limited student intake and admitted students only every two years. Since I’ve been at NYU (and I’ve been there since 2003, and have been the program director since 2011) we have widened the focus. The core of the curriculum is still courses in history and analysis of dress and textiles, but because we are in a large research university, we’re able to enhance the program with a variety of classes that range from film costume (from a theoretical viewpoint) to contemporary dress and decorative arts. The original research that goes into each master’s thesis also represents an opportunity for an individualized approach for each student. I feel my role as a program director is about encouraging and supporting student work. But I also think I have a responsibility to stand up for the study of fashion as a serious topic. That’s part of my mission.