As a graduate student, I don’t have the opportunity to travel much. A packed schedule (and little money!) make travel an infrequent thing. However, was lucky enough to get funding to go to the Costume Society of America 2018 Symposium in Seattle this year! I had such a great time and came back feeling super motivated. So, I thought I’d do a little rundown here.

Flowers at Pike Place Market.


One of the key attractions at this conference was the many different lectures and paper presentations.  It started with the keynote speaker, Akiko Fukai of the Kyoto Costume Institute, talking about diversity in dress around the Pacific Rim. She brought the talk full circle by ending with the idea that sustainable dress, like traditional dress, needs to take into account the physical and cultural climate that it is worn in.

Other lectures focused on exhibitions that had taken place recently. This included Fashioning Expo 67 from the McCord Museum, which focused on the fashion at the 1976 Worlds Fair in Montreal. The great part about presentations like these is that the speakers walk through both the finished exhibit, but also the decisions they made while creating it.

New research made up the bulk of the presentations. My favorite was Anne Bissonette’s (from the University of Alberta) paper on taking patterns from historic garments. While many of the big names in fashion history research (Nora Waugh, Jannet Arnold, etc.) published patterns taken from historical garments, there isn’t much information about their methods out there. Dr. Bissonette is working to change that by codifying and making her methods public.

I could go on, but there were way too many great papers to even try and mention them all here!


The first day I was able to attend two workshops, both of which I found super useful.  In the first, costume designer Kyla Kazuschyk broke down the method she uses to quickly draft patterns.  The method was simple, but I’m going to be able to adapt it to help me make the patterns for my dissertation, so totally worthwhile. The other was taught by two professors from Kent State University and covered their method for using social media to enhance student engagement in the classroom.

Poster Session

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Standing awkwardly in front of my poster.

This was my first time presenting at a poster session and it ended up being a lot more fun than I thought it would be.  I chose a project I had done in my first year at the University of Minnesota because it fit the theme of the conference so well. I also knew it wouldn’t end up adding too much to my workload, which has been important this semester. I ended up having a lot of great conversations with the people who came by, which was exactly what I wanted!

Design Showcase

After the posters session was over, the room was used to host two design showcases. These included clothing, costumes, and accessories that demonstrated new research or interesting projects. My fave was Transformative Doily by Chanjuan Chen and Kendra Lapolla or Kent State University. They used interconnecting laser cut pieces to create a modular dress. It was stunning.

Seattle Art Museum

Embellished punching bags at the Seattle Art Museum.

When I registered several months ago, I signed up for a tour of the exhibit Jeffery Gibson: Like a Hammer at the Seattle Art Museum without knowing anything about it. I’m glad I did because the artwork was really excellent.  There was so much texture and creativity on display. I don’t feel I can do justice to the complexity of that exhibit here, so I encourage you to see it for yourself or at least spend some time on the exhibit website.

Museum of Popular Culture

Dorothy’s dress from the Wizard of Oz at The Museum of Popular Culture

I have to confess, I played hooky one afternoon so that I could go a few blocks over and play around in the Museum of Popular Culture. I found it to be a really fun museum to visit for two reasons. First, the exhibits themselves were fun! They covered topics like fantasy in movies and literature or the band Pearl Jam in a way that was really approachable. Second, having worked in and studied museums it was fascinating how they had embraced their audience and provided things like selfie stations in every exhibit.


If I lived in Seattle I would be here every day.

Not gonna lie, where to get breakfast and dinner took up a lot of my brain space during this trip.  The food in the area around our hotel was amazing. I had breakfast at The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market twice after discovering they had an excellent all you can drink Irish Breakfast tea. There was great ramen at Kiki Ramen and amazing pizza at Serious Pie. My favorite meal was a toss up between sushi and apps at Wann Japanese Izakaya (the happy hour is a serious steal!) and the hot doughnuts with jam and mascarpone from Dahlia’s Bakery.


I stayed at The Westin Seattle, which was the conference hotel. The location was great, right off a light rail stop and a short walk to a lot of great things. However, the wifi was spotty and only free if you joined their rewards program. Still, the view in the room was amazing (we were on the 32nd floor!) and the room quality was great.  I slept soooo well!


While I came back from the conference exhausted I also learned a lot and had a great time. I totally encourage anyone interested to look into coming to the next conference or joining the CSA. This year there was a great mix of academics, costume designer, students, and others. Plus next year the national conference is in NYC!