Costume Society of America-From a Leaderís Perspective by Sally Helvenston Gray PDF  | Print |  E-mail

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What makes the Costume Society of America such a unique and long-running organization is its culture of inclusiveness and diversity, organized and lead by dedicated volunteers and supported by members from every region of North America along with international members. Our primary interest is costume—dress—fashion—clothing, approached in various ways: through scholarly study, education, theatrical costume design; textile conservation; costume curatorship in museums, costume re-enactment, vintage clothing authentication, fashion design, and clothing retail, among others. Anyone with an interest in dress is welcome—many members have no professional affiliation with costume or dress, but are simply fascinated with the study of the topic.

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The Society was organized by a group of museum professionals in 1973 who sought to establish the study of dress as a legitimate discipline. The primary goal of CSA is to promote a global understanding of all aspects of dress and appearance and to stimulate scholarship and study of dress and costume.  This goal is carried out through conferences and other costume-related events organized by chapters in six regions of North America as well as a single unifying symposium held each year in a different major city in the U.S. or Canada. The Society also produces one of the major journals for the publication of dress scholarship, simply titled DRESS. In 2013 the journal will move to two issues per year; manuscript submissions are not limited to CSA members. A major contribution to the growth and future of CSA was the establishment of the CSA Endowment which continues to grow and sponsor new projects every year. The hub of the organization is our CSA website: www.costumesocietyamerica.com and our staff at the national office stands ready to answer personal inquiries and address member needs. CSA is also supported by several social media platforms--you can find us on Facebook.

atlanta logoDue to the diverse membership and focused goals, the organization operates in an open and congenial way. Our national symposia can be described as downright FUN, and our regional meetings provide an atmosphere of support and mentorship for growing professionals—students comprise an important membership category (at reduced rates!). The leadership recognizes that it is difficult to satisfy the needs of such a diverse group—we consider ourselves colleagues and friends—but we certainly try.

 Sally Helvenston Gray

 ATL Global Gateway: Dress Scholarship in the 21st Century
May 31 - June 2, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia

Fly into the world's busiest airport to the modern south and the world class city of Atlanta. Your round-trip ticket will bring you to a world of research in global dress and fashion. Atlanta is a vibrant city with a rich history. The conference will be held at the state-of-the-art Georgia Tech Global Learning Center in midtown Atlanta. Enjoy a visit to the Atlanta History Center and other Atlanta destinations, including the Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca Cola, the CNN Center, The Martin Luther King's National Historic Site and more.


Sally Helvenston Gray has served as an associate professor in the Dept of Art & Art History since 2007, previously serving in the Dept of Human Environment and Design since 1985. Before coming to MSU she was on the faculty at Kansas State University. Dr. Helvenston Gray received her Bachelor of Music Education and her M.S. in Clothing and Textiles from Florida State University, and her Ph.D. in Home Economics from Kansas State University. She has been a member of Costume Society of America since 1975, has served the society in leadership positions at both the regional and national level and is currently Editor in Chief of Dress, the scholarly journal of the Society. In May 2010 she assumed the presidency of CSA. Other professional organizations which she serves include the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA), Textile Society of America, and the American Studies Association.

Dr. Helvenston Gray’s teaching includes courses in apparel design, history of dress and textiles, and material culture studies.  Her personal program of scholarship has focused on expanding our knowledge of everyday dress in the nineteenth century and interpreting nineteenth century women’s dress as social history.  This has led her to investigate a variety of topics, including frontier dress, nineteenth century apparel patents, plain sewing samplers, women’s cycling attire, work apparel, and functionality in nineteenth century women’s dress. Her contributions have appeared in numerous published papers, paper presentations, a book chapter, and several museum exhibitions.

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