Using Historic Costume Collection Artifacts for Active Learning of Strapless Eveningwear Internal Structure
Most students lack practical experiences with constructing the internal structure such as underlining, boning, and waist stays are essential to support strapless dresses (Khalje, 1997). Therefore, these concepts were taught in a junior-level draping course, which covered eveningwear. Active learning through analysis of examples is an effective way for students to more deeply understand new knowledge (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991), so we sought to teach these concepts through a combination of lecture and active learning, looking inside garments to analyze their internal structures. However, student closets rarely contain garments that exemplify the diversity of methods and materials that can be used in developing strapless internal structures. An historic collection can be used in the classroom to assist with student understanding of apparel design and construction concepts and in so doing provide a valuable educational contribution (Marcketti, Fitzpatrick, Keist, & Kadolph, 2011). The instructors collaborated with the department’s historical costume collection to have students conduct structured observations of historic strapless dresses, prior to designing their own. The students were able to actively explore the internal structure used in a variety of dresses. In turn, these activities supported the collection’s mission: “ . . . to promote the scholarship and appreciation of historic and ethnic textiles and clothing, with an emphasis on visual and active learning” (Textiles and Clothing Museum, n.d.). The in-class assignment worksheet and group presentation were effective in deepening student knowledge of strapless dress internal construction, needed to successful construct their own draped eveningwear designs. Especially, their detailed technical sketches based on their observations helped them to actively understand the role of support materials. The assignment was also successful in developing students’ awareness of the textile and clothing museum’s artifacts. This assignment increased interactions between students and the museum staff members. In the future, this active learning assignment with historic costume will be repeated and extended to more assignments. To further enhance the learning process, additional reference materials related to internal construction and historical eveningwear designers’ backgrounds and construction methods will be provided. These tools may enhance the depth of students’ understanding.