Teaching Living Costume History

Class Demo for Marie Antoinette

Many years ago, I was in an Art History class taught by a truly inspired professor.  He would show us slides of artwork, read poetry and play music to augment the experience of the art.  The students in the class would always leave mesmerized.  I never forgot the impact that those classes had on me, even when I was finally able to go to the Louvre in Paris and see the originals of many of those fabulous paintings. 

Corset Day, model Jennifer Fabos - Photo: David Walden

When I started to teach Costume Design at Art Center College of Design, it was primarily for Entertainment Design students with no background in fashion or costume.  But they could draw and their digital illustration skills were phenomenal.  I needed to find a way to help them “experience” the period of time that they were researching.  So remembering the effect those early art history classes had on me, I tried to recreate that experience.  Some of the photos shown here represent the time periods that the costumed models recreate when they come to class.  I also play music of the period, read about manners and culture, and try to help students experience the aesthetic of the period.   


Klimt Day - Outfit by Justine, Model Marissa Gomez

For Corset Day, the model usually lets me cinch her in really tight so the students can see the body silhouette and the look on her face…but for only about 30 seconds.  The model is also able to tell the students about the experience of wearing a corset including all the affectations associated with it such as fainting and swooning.  For the Baroque era, Louis XIV comes in and I read from an 18th Century manners manual which discusses deportment for aristocratic  ladies and gentlemen.  And since at least 50% of the students my classes are male, I also make everyone get up from their drawing benches and learn the proper bow and curtsy.

Louis XIV - model - John Tucker

I especially love teaching the 1950’s & 60’s so I can introduce fashion illustration of the period.  Shown here is a photo of my favorite model Daniella in her 50’s French Fashion outfit.  The body language associated with each time period is especially important in understanding how the clothing is shown to its best advantage.

50's French Fashion, model Daniella - Photo: David Walden

I recently started teaching this method at DreamWorks Animation.  And like most of my classes, Corset Day was the most popular.  

50's French Fashion - charcoal illustration


About Justine Limpus Parish

Associate Professor - Art Center College of Design apparel design - Product Design Dept. costume design - Entertainment Design Dept Fashion Instructor: Mt San Antonio College Workshop instructor: Disney Consumer Products
This entry was posted in ENTERTAINMENT DESIGN, FASHION & COSTUME ILLUSTRATION, TEACHING and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Teaching Living Costume History

  1. tziporah says:

    I’m loving your blog.
    It’s so informative and interesting with great pictures and illustrations.
    You are so talented and creative.
    I miss you.

  2. tziporah says:

    wish I could take the class
    makes me want to move out to L.A.

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