After connecting on the Costume Educator’s Facebook Forum in January 2020, Chloe Chapin (Harvard) and Christianne Myers (University of Michigan) planned and co-led a workshop, “ReDressing the Narrative,” investigating new ways to teach Costume History within a theatre design curriculum. Chloe had heard an urgent need from costume history teachers to disrupt the Euro-centered “parade of fashion” we all learned but were struggling to re-envision another way. Originally planned as an in-person gathering, in response to the disruption of the pandemic, the first workshop moved to a remote model, increasing access. When more than 60 participants gathered, an enormous sense of community slacked a thirst for connection with other costume educators, many of whom expressed frustration with misunderstanding and a lack of agency within their institutions.
We are on the cusp of a sea-change: imagine a discipline and profession that fosters inclusivity, sharing, and generosity of spirit. There is a need to address pay inequity, embedded exclusive, sexist, and racist practices, body-shaming, and a host of other issues that often lead to a sense of isolation, a work-life imbalance, and toxic production environments in the profession. Collectively, we must re-examine the terminology we use, foster deeper connections, and amplify the work of highly skilled artisans, designers and technicians. For far too long, educational theater has taken its cues from industry best-practices; now through research, scholarship and thoughtful collaboration, educators can be change agents themselves and help move our industry into the new age.