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Professional Organizations for Fashion/Dress Historians

So you’ve been thinking you want to take your interest in fashion history a little further? Joining a professional organization may be just the ticket! “Professional” is a little bit of a misnomer, as in the world of fashion and dress studies these groups often also welcome enthusiasts as well, and they certainly love to have students join. These are some groups I either belong to or have interacted with in some way. Please feel free to suggest others! I also belong to ITAA and AATCC but these are definitely geared more towards academics/students and corporate professionals.

Costume Society of America

Individual Annual Membership: $95 (student, etc. have different pricing), but if you are a student or emerging professional and live within the Northeast Region (includes US states and areas of Canada), for 2021 you can apply to get a free membership sponsored by them for one year.

The Costume Society, to my knowledge, is the professional organization for those interested in fashion/dress history. If you want to get a taste of this group, they’ve spent the year producing webinars, which anyone can view on Youtube, on various subjects. These include interviews with people who manage costume collections for museums, “how to…” (such as how to research in an archive), and roundtables on ethical issues in the field. I have belonged to CSA for several years now, so if you have questions, I might have answers!

Image from Costume Society of America.

The Association of Dress Historians

Individual Annual Membership: £10

If ever there was a year to explore ADH, this is it! ADH is based in the UK. The membership cost is already comparatively inexpensive, but they are offering a virtual conference, so attending should be affordable for many more people. They are also currently running a very interesting winter lecture series that is free for members. Even if you’re not a member, all their journals are free to download. I just joined, but I have enjoyed their journal for a long time.

Image from ADH Journal.

Textile Society of America

Individual Annual Membership: Sliding scale (new!), you choose $15, $40, $80, or $140

I really have to applaud TSA for their new membership fee format, as they are trying to reduce barriers for participation. I really hope it works out. TSA is very much an international group. Unlike the other groups listed here, TSA does not publish a journal, but you can get discounts to various textile journals through the membership. Even if you don’t join, their Instagram is worth checking out. I have only attended one of their conferences, I have never been a member.

Image by Textile Society of North America.

Jane Austen Society of North America

Individual Annual Membership: USD $30/Canada $38/Intl. $40 (student, etc. have different pricing)

If fashion of the regency period is your thing, you’ll definitely want to look at JASNA (NA is a slight misnomer, they welcome members from all over the world). There always seem to be a few presentations on period fashion at the annual conference, as well as a dress parade and ball (costume-optional), but such presentations also pop up in the regional meetings and events as well. Unlike the other organizations, they welcome dressing up, and there are many more enthusiast members than academics. The photo below is from my region’s annual Jane Austen Birthday tea in 2018, where many of us were in regency dress. Different regions of the US and Canada have their own chapters, with all sorts of activities. I have belonged to JASNA for a few years now.

Photo by author.

2 thoughts on “Professional Organizations for Fashion/Dress Historians

  1. Thanks for highlighting these organizations and showing their similarities and differences! I would make a note about JASNA though, that their focus is much more literary than fashion-based. Great if you’re into that but for someone solely into the clothing, there may be a lot more book discussions than they bargained for haha!

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