Costume Society Ambassadors, Costume Society  |  September 29, 2019

Costume Ambassadorship: A Reflection

By Emma Kelly

After nearly two years, my time as an ambassador is coming to a close so its only fitting that one of my last blogs is a reflection on my time in the role, one that has seen me through my gap year and first year of my postgrad.

My first introduction to the Costume Society came during my undergraduate studies. Like a number of previous ambassadors such as Sarah, Ruby and Jade, I studied on the Fashion and Dress history programme at the University of Brighton. This connection between the Society and the university is one that is celebrated and one I hope will continue. I had always been fascinated with the work of the Society, so made it my mission to apply for one of the ambassador roles when I finished my studies.

Fast forward to mid 2017 and an advert was posted online calling for new ambassadors. In the midst of a gap year (less eat-pray-love, more endless retail hell), I decided to go for it. The application called for a short-written piece, one that would demonstrate our writing ability and our interests. After various mind maps, mini drafts and deleted paragraphs, I settled on a piece centering on the work of Lucien Lelong during the occupation of Paris. One thing that struck me from reading past blogs was that many of the ambassadors sought to shine a light on aspects of costume history that others may not know about, whether it was a designer or a mode of dress during a particular period. Lelong is one of the lesser known Parisian couturiers but without him, the industry wouldn’t have survived the occupation. This wasn’t to be my last blog on a little-known fashion figure as my later blogs would show. A few weeks later, after an interview, I received word that I had been successful and was an ambassador for the coming year. A welcoming email and paperwork followed, as did a very snazzy gold pin that now resides proudly beside my Brighton alumni pin.

My work falls into two groups. There’s my blogs which I propose, write and submit every few weeks. Blogs could be written on anything related to costume. Past blogs have covered everything from film costume to national costume, long-forgotten designers to recent exhibitions.  As an undergrad, my work was set out by the tutors who graded the work and provided feedback. Now, there was no list of potential topics or questions. I had to find the inspiration, the theme, whatever it may be. Being an ambassador offered me the platform to write on topics that interested and was passionate about. Much of my work has centered on the little-known names, particularly Irish names, who seem to have been forgotten or overshadowed over the years.

It was definitely nerve wracking submitting my first post, worrying whether or not it was good or interesting enough. Over the months, I found my rhythm, the best times to write, the best texts that were available to me as a non-student (writing as a postgrad has definitely had its benefits, thanks to the brilliant Edward Murphy Library at NCAD). The little moment of doubt and the pang of nerves when I see my blog promoted online still hits me but there’s also an intense sense of pride.

On the other side there’s social media as, from the start, I’ve worked on the Society’s Instagram page. Our social media is very important to us as it is a means of promoting the Society and disseminating Society news such as study days, field trips, blogs and membership. It allows us to connect with people from all around the world, introducing them to new topics. During the first year of my ambassadorship, our Instagram was a new addition and we are so proud at how it has grown. Barely two years old, our Instagram is flourishing and it amazes me how many people enjoy our posts there and on our other platforms. Social media does get a lot of negative press, but my own experience has been brilliant. My contribution has brought me into contact with a variety of people who come from all walks of life, those who have studied costume or make their own historical garments , those who love period dramas and those who love a bit of fashion drama on their Instagram feed amongst the influencers and ads.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last two years and, when my role comes to an end, look forward to being involved with the Society as a member, attending events and reading the fascinating blogs from the next generation of ambassadors. For anyone considering this role, my only advice is go for it! The Society offers an amazing platform and a supportive network for ambassadors to communicate their research.

  • CS Ambassador Emma Kelly
  • Emma's blog: Couture in Occupied Paris, posted June 12, 2019
  • Emma's blog: Ireland’s Fashion Radicals - Exhibition Review, posted August 12, 2018