With the semester coming to a close, we’re pleased to introduce a series of guest posts from students in the course Cotton to Kevlar. Thanks to first-year student Andrea Moore for launching these reports from the class!
When I was creating my first ever schedule for UMass Amherst during the summer orientation, I decided to take a one credit seminar. The seminar was the Cotton to Kevlar seminar. I couldn’t tell you what my exact reasons for taking this seminar was–it’s been months since I made that decision–but I was curious as to how exactly fashion had changed throughout the years and what relation that had to the corresponding historical events. I’m also fairly certain that I wanted another credit for the Fall semester but that’s beside the point.
The first class of the semester started with the usual introduction to the class and the sharing of names. Kiki Smith from Smith College came to show a sample of clothes from the Historic Clothing Collection located at Smith. While I don’t remember every article of clothing looked like, what struck me the most was the dresses from the ‘60’s. I’ve heard the expression that trends come in and out of fashion over and over again but I don’t think I really understood how that could happen until I saw the dresses and realized that they looked like something I could wear today and my style would not be considered “retro”. I left that class with a strong desire to try on the dresses.
From then on, the seminar became a little break in the week. Because we met only once a week, the workload was much less than most of my classes. The low workload, the 50 minutes in class a week, and the fact that I took this class purely out of interest let me have more fun in the class and not stress too much over the work like I did in my other classes. This is not to say that work didn’t stress me at all, oh no. The most stressful assignment was due on October 28. For this one, we had to browse several different online websites for photos of clothes from the 1890’s to the 1950’s. The we had to assemble 30 images into a timeline using the Timeline.js program (http://timeline.knightlab.com/). I liked the browsing for photos but that website really frustrated me. Organizing the photos in a Microsoft Excel-like spreadsheet, uploading it, and then realizing that the photos didn’t show up added many more hours of technical difficulties than I would have liked. In the end, however, I finally got everything to my liking but it was not without some hard work.
After the Timeline assignment most of the work was not as time consuming until it came time to create our final project, the online exhibit. The exhibit required research and information that I had a hard time finding. Eventually I found what I needed began the process of adding it all to a Word Press blog post, which took a few days, and then edited it. One of the last things I did with my group for the exhibit was provide links on our homepage to specific articles and add navigation bars at the bottom of each post. This was honestly the part I liked the most about the exhibit as I got to do a bit of not-too-difficult problem solving.
While there were some harder projects, this class, for the most part, was fun, easy and let me explore a little part of a subject I had some interest in. To anyone thinking about taking this class, be prepared for a few dense technology readings, a quick look at different fashions and styles from American history and an overall enjoyable course.