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The Pedagogical Intersection of Material Culture and Apparel Design Scholarship at a Midwestern University

Kylin Paige Riley Flothe, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Existing research is highly suggestive of a more dynamic pedagogical relationship between material culture and apparel design, but falls short of documenting classroom successes or best practices. Specifically, the use of historic artifact garments to inform new design is missing from the literature. This interpretive multiple case study utilized experiential learning to achieve established goals of apparel design pedagogy, while simultaneously introducing students to artifacts as inspiration. In addition, arts-integrated pedagogy was harnessed to provide apparel design students with the material culture research skills necessary to use artifacts in informing new design. Student participants developed apparel design scholarship informed by material culture, at the same time creating material culture scholarship via apparel design. Each of the twenty-two cases consisted of an in-class design process and outcome requiring the use of an artifact hat or ensemble as inspiration as well as the completion of material culture research. Data was collected via questionnaires, interviews, participant observation, peer critique, and designer documentation. Individual and across-case case analysis included categorization of inspirational types and measurements of creativity. The research revealed that 1) students are most likely to engage in literal inspiration from an artifact garment when designing; to include highly literal, conscious simplification, and modification inspiration, 2) outside influences and personal aesthetics are equally as important to the design process and outcome as inspirational sources, 3) integration of material culture into design pedagogy promotes design skill acquisition, increased creativity, and habits of design research, and 4) apparel design using artifact inspiration promotes material culture practice skill acquisition. By establishing pedagogical benefits to the inclusion of hands-on material culture research in apparel design student work at the college level, this study contributes to the justification of academic dress collections as teaching tools, and provides documentation of a successful classroom integration. With further documentation and experimentation, eventual theoretical frameworks for the effective integration of material scholarship into apparel design pedagogy will emerge.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Design|Museum studies

Recommended Citation

Flothe, Kylin Paige Riley, "The Pedagogical Intersection of Material Culture and Apparel Design Scholarship at a Midwestern University" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29167708.