Costume Society of America Midwest Conference 2019

If I could create a job for myself it would be traveling around the world just to go to academic conferences on dress and costume. I love getting the chance to hear people talk about what they’ve been working on, particularly if it’s still in-progress work. I usually walk away with pages of notes about things I want to investigate further or use in my own work. Plus, there usually is at least one behind the scenes tour of a museum or other cultural institution and I cannot resist that!

My latest trip was to the Costume Society of America Midwest Regional Symposium (full disclosure: I received a small scholarship provided by CSA Midwest in order to attend). It was a small, intimate conference, held in Springfield, IL, small city about 4 hours south of Chicago. While the location may not be the most exciting ever, it did have the benefit of being easy to reach by train (my preferred mode of travel) and was an inexpensive city to stay in.


The city it’s self was small, but the downtown area we were in was walkable and charming.  There was a great energy when we were there because a classic car show had brought a lot of people into town.  The hotel was… not great, but I had my own room so I made the best of it.

Me, wondering if the strange noises that woke me up at 3am were the hotel about to fall down or just some ghosts.

The conference itself was short and intimate.  There were presentations were limited to two morning sessions and everyone kept to time (so unusual!).  I totally geeked out over Erin A. O’Brien and Catherine Amoroso Leslie’s (Kent State University) presentation about an archival collection of course materials from the Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences.  I’m totally a Mary Brooks Picken fan girl, so that should surprise no one.  

Don’t mind me, I’m just geeking out over these McCall patterns made for the Women’s Institute *heart eyes emoji*

Another standout presentation was by Emily J. Rosolowski, (The Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection) on preserving plastic materials.  She showed how they were implementing new best practices in the collection she works with.  This included creating tools to detect off-gassing in otherwise stable looking objects and creating storage containers to protected the objects while allowing for much needed airflow.

The wallpaper inside the Lincoln house was spectacular and – according to our docent – can be purchased for your own home!

Both afternoons we had the opportunity to go on adventures.  The first day we went on a tour of the wonderfully restored Abraham Lincoln house followed by a stop at the Springfield and Central Illinois African American Museum.  Shout out to June, our great tour guide at the latter!  This was followed by a quick stop at Lincolns grave and a behind the scenes tour of the Illinois State Museum’s storage facilities.  We got to see some garments that are going to be used in an upcoming exhibit and a few new accessions.  The next day we went to the Lincoln Presidential Museum, which was… interesting.

Let’s be real, this wax statue of Mary Tod Lincoln is definitely haunted.

It was only two days, but at the end I was exhausted.  I’m really hoping to be able to go next year, but since its in Toronto it might be a bit harder.  So, for now I’m just going to have to coast on the motivation from this meeting!