May 11, 2010

The arrival of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall will be a historic moment for Lexington, the state and equine industry. A professor in the University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences harnessed the excitement surrounding the event and used it as a teaching opportunity for her students.

Gathering inspiration from historical Kentucky landmarks, equestrian attire and regional attractions, students in Kimberly Miller-Spillman's history of costuming class created events, kiosks and garments that could be presented or marketed at the World Equestrian Games for a class project.

"In the past, I've asked the students to complete a project based on the visibility of historical costume in the community, but I thought with the World Equestrian Games coming, it would be a great opportunity to introduce the students to the history of this area and allow them to gather historical inspirations from it for their designs," said Miller-Spillman, an associate professor in the UK Department of Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles.

Students began working on the semester-long project in January. They researched historical fashions, chose to attend at least five of seven field trips to local historical sites and museums and developed an original design based on these influences.

"It's been fun to learn about what people used to wear, and work with that and put a contemporary piece on a garment," said Will Stevenson, a senior majoring in merchandising, apparel and textiles who designed a riding jacket and blouse based on a 19th century equestrian garment.

Miller-Spillman encouraged students to be creative with the type of event, garment or kiosk they designed. UK faculty and staff with experience in costuming, event planning and marketing at horse shows critiqued their designs. Environmentally friendly and Kentucky-based products were recurring themes among many of the students' creations.

"In the event group, a lot of them said, ‘if the world is coming to Kentucky, let's display Kentucky to the world,'" Miller-Spillman said. "That was one of the things I hoped they would get out of this project, but was not something I prompted them to do."

Amanda Myser, a senior merchandising, apparel and textile major, plans to go into the fashion design field upon graduation. She took the project a step further, creating three garment designs and providing fabric swatches for each outfit using the historical outfits she saw at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill for inspiration.

"I was intrigued by how much they (the Shakers) were into textiles, and while their garments were modest, they were always beautifully constructed with attention to detail," she said.