When you go to the library to study, you might not expect an empowerment fashion show to be going on in the middle of the library. However, that’s just what happened here at Rod Library when Annette Lynch’s Dress and Human Behavior class hosted Un[dress] the Stigma, an empowerment fashion show.
Although you might not expect a fashion show in a library, librarian Angela Pratesi explains that this is a central part of what libraries do.
“Libraries are knowledge and culture centers. We collect information about a wide variety of topics. We collect things, we share things. And in the arts, so much of what we’re doing is sharing. And I think that sharing learning is really important. So having students bring the work that they’re creating and the skills that those objects show into the library is just a natural thing that we should be doing. It’s a natural extension of what libraries do: collecting knowledge, but also sharing the creation of knowledge.”
Professor Lynch assigned her students to create a "pop-up" fashion show centered on a specific theme. The students split into small groups, each working to understand the stigmas surrounding a particular group of people. They then worked to find ways to push the boundaries of dress to empower their assigned group. The result was a unique opportunity for these students to draw attention to the stigmas surrounding groups such as the homeless, business professionals, and sexual assault victims.
Hosting the fashion show in the library allowed students to reach an audience who would not typically attend a fashion show. The show’s audience consisted of people who came specifically to watch the show, passersby, as well as students and faculty utilizing the library. The serendipity of the show allowed the audience and the class to not only push the boundaries of what dress can mean, but also push the boundaries of what can happen in a library.
Learning beyond the classroom
The fashion show allowed for a unique experience for the audience but also gave the students a unique learning opportunity. Rod Library strives to give students the opportunity to learn in collaborative ways, providing real-world skills that typical lectures may not. Students were able to have access to the Makerspace where they created the outfits worn in the show. The students also met with a librarian to discuss what they would need to put together a fashion show and were supported by the library staff to carry out this vision.
Angela Pratesi, fine & performing arts librarian & assistant professor, Rod Library
“The students provided much more content because we were doing it in a non-traditional space. They could take an ownership role at every stage. I’m facilitating the process. I’m not doing everything for them.”
Hannah Gregor, junior political communication major, UNI
“Angela was instrumental in putting the project together. Any librarian at UNI would go out of their way to help you succeed.”
By collaborating with the library, these students were able to be a part of every step of the planning and execution process. As a result, the students gained job transferrable skills they will carry with them into the professional field.