Elizabeth McMahon is a scholar and an artist. She takes pride in both her research, which focuses on the politics of sixteenth-century dress, as well as the custom-fitted gowns she has crafted. She completed her B.S. at Bowling Green State University of Ohio, and also took an A. A. in Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (1988), where her final garment was chosen for both the annual students’ fashion show and the “Best of Everything” show.
After working in the fashion industry, she decided to pursue her interest in the social history of clothing, and returned to F.I.T. for an M.A. in Museum Studies with an emphasis on Fashion and Textiles (1999). Her thesis, “The Interpretation of Historic Reproduction Costume for Presentation by Living History Sites” was awarded the Museum Studies program’s Excellence award.
Elizabeth currently works in the Gladys Marcus Library at F.I.T., where she curated the collection of fashion, textile, and interiors periodicals from around the world. She also began the library’s collection of historical fashion forecasting materials. More recently she manages much of the library’s social media presence, and she writes for the library here: blog/fitnyc.edu/volumesandissues/ She has also taught in the Graduate Division at FIT and at Berkeley College.
In 2006 Elizabeth returned to school, this time to Bard Graduate Center. Elizabeth’s dissertation topic, “‘Robes of Court and Palace’: Dress and Queenship at the Court of Henry VIII, 1509-1547”, explores her fascination with the court of Henry VIII, as well as the burgeoning ideal of princely magnificence which drove other sixteenth-century courts. She is currently hard at work on her dissertation.
Her other research interests include the history of textiles and their role in the global economy; the nineteenth- and twentieth-century fashion industries and the rise of the designer; American domestic architecture of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries; the history and architecture of New York City; and the rise of color forecasting in the late-twentieth century fashion industry. She has written catalog entries for BGC exhibitions (“‘Twixt Art and Nature'” 2009) and the Oxford Dictionary of Art Online, given papers and chaired sessions on dress and fashion at the annual International Congress of Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, directed M.A. theses at FIT, and worked in the garment collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum at F.I.T. More recently, she developed a series of workshops (“Art Pilgrimages”) to encourage textile and dress scholars to interact with experimental archaeologists so that both can gain deeper understanding of medieval garments. The most recent pilgrimage was to London in October 2016, to coincide with the Victoria & Albert Museum‘s upcoming exhibition on Opus Anglicanum. Which was amazing, and you should plan a trip to see it before it comes down in February 2017.