Pro­fes­sor re­searches his­tor­i­cal cloth­ing, ar­ti­facts

Find­ings show dif­fer­ences be­tween states in Mid-At­lantic re­gion

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Mon­ica Sager

Da­mayan­thie Eluwawalage, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of fash­ion de­sign at Al­bright Col­lege, is con­duct­ing re­search on the dis­re­garded el­e­ments of cos­tume from 1600 to 1900 in the Mid-At­lantic re­gion, adding mean­ing and con­text to cloth­ing and ar­ti­facts of that time.

“This re­search has never been done be­fore in any of the states,” Eluwawalage said. “These are re­ally, re­ally valu­able things for your fam­ily and the cul­ture and so­ci­ety here.”

Eluwawalage re­search ex­am­ines in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences of fash­ion, in­clud­ing world­wide events, eco­nom­ics, and so­ci­etal at­ti­tudes.

A grad­u­ate of both Curtin Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and Edith Cowan Univer­sity in Aus­tralia,

The Co­cal­ico cloth­ing is unique among Da­mayan­thie Eluwawalage’s re­search.

Eluwawalage learned about fash­ion and cos­tumes, their ap­pli­ca­tions, and the his­tory be­hind it all. Eluwawalage was al­ways in­ter­ested in re­search.

Eluwawalage, who be­came a Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties Fel­low in 2017 at the Lan­caster Mu­seum Org., started her re­search in 2008 in New York, when she taught at State Univer­sity of New York, Col­lege at On­conta. She said the re­search has since grown to en­com­pass New York, New Jersey, and now Penn­syl­va­nia.

“There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween the state of New York and Penn­syl­va­nia,” Eluwawalage said, call­ing the re­search “mes­mer­iz­ing.”

One ex­am­ple she gave is how cot­ton is used more of­ten in Penn­syl­va­nia his­tor­i­cal cloth­ing than else­where. The ma­te­rial is a lux­ury in other places, ac­cord­ing to Eluwawalage.

“Here every­one’s wear­ing cot­ton,” she said.

But even within Penn­syl­va­nia, Eluwawalage is find­ing dif­fer­ent and unique pat­terns, the Co­cal­ico, Pa., col­lec­tion be­ing one.

“They have a big col­lec­tion of work­ing class, and one of the things I found is that at the time women wore lots of un­der­wear — pet­ti­coats and that stuff. In win­ter time … they wore lay­ers,” Eluwawalage said. “The Co­cal­ico col­lec­tion: they had a pet­ti­coat un­der­neath. It’s quilted and it’s so smart. I’ve never seen any­thing like it anywhere in the world.”

Though, she does some­times run into prob­lems with her re­search. Mu­se­ums don’t al­ways know who wore cer­tain pieces of cloth­ing or where they are from, ac­cord­ing to Eluwawalage.

“That’s why the ev­ery­day per­son is im­por­tant,” Eluwawalage said. “The good thing about ev­ery­day peo­ple is that they’re very wel­com­ing and they want to show off their an­ces­tors.”

Eluwawalage is hop­ing to open an ex­hi­bi­tion for sur­viv­ing ar­ti­facts within two or three months. She men­tioned it may pos­si­bly be held at Dou­ble­Tree in Read­ing. She cur­rently has 60 to 80 sur­viv­ing cos­tumes and would like to present around 30 at the ex­hibit.

Da­mayan­thie Eluwawalage is con­ducted re­search on his­tor­i­cal cloth­ing and ar­ti­facts.

“I’m a his­to­rian. We tell the story about a na­tion,” Eluwawalage said. “This is my con­tri­bu­tion.”

Eluwawalage can be con­tacted to dis­cuss sur­viv­ing cos­tumes or ar­ti­facts that any­one has at deluwawalage@al­ or 607-353-5005. She would come, take phots, sketch the items, and dis­cuss them with the owner.


Al­bright As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor


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