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Beverly Gordon

Title: Professor (Retired)
Joined DS:  1984

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Background & Interests

Professor Gordon has been teaching, making objects, curating exhibits, and researching textiles and related aspects of the material world and the designed environment for over 30 years.

Her research interests generally involve the meanings of objects in people’s lives, particularly in relation to women and the domestic environment. This translates to an involvement in the fields of textile and costume history; material culture; and folk, decorative, and design art. Gordon has been a prolific writer.  Her latest publication (in press) is a comprehensive volume entitled The Fiber of Our Lives: Why Textiles Matter, and previous books include The Saturated World: Aesthetic Meaning, Intimate Objects, Women’s Lives, 1890-1940 (2006); Bazaars and Fair Ladies: The History of the American Fundraising Fair (1998); Shaker Textile Arts (1980) and Feltmaking: Traditions, Techniques and Contemporary Explorations (1980). Her articles range from studies of individual artists to articles on the history and meanings of quilts, blue jeans, dress-up costumes, beadwork, needlework and crepe paper. Her theoretical explorations include the meanings of souvenirs; the conflation of women’s dress and interiors in the 19th century; the underlying meanings of a “backstage women’s space;” and "The Hand of the Maker: the Importance of Understanding Textiles From the Inside Out."

Gordon is also returning to her "roots" as a studio artist.  Her work is generally sculptural, incorporating fiber with natural materials such as bones, shells and other plant and animal parts.  Especially inspired and informed by the ways native peoples have worked with such materials of the earth, she calls her figural series "Tierras," or "people of the earth."  She is documenting her experience with these materials and the deep design intelligence they arry, she is also working on a book of photos and lyrical essays, Natural Encounters: Experiences with Earth Materials.

Gordon is active in inter-college programs including Material Culture, Folklore, and Visual Culture. Professional service included serving as President of the Textile Society of America for several years.  


Professor Gordon teaches courses in textile and fashion history and appreciation, material culture analysis, world dress, and global perspectives on design and culture.

Specific DS courses taught include:

  • DS 360: Global Perspectives on Design and Culture
  • DS 355: History of Fashion, 1400 - Present
  • DS 464: Dimensions of Material Culture
  • DS 655: Comparative World Dress

Graduate Student Research Topics

The general focus of research conducted by Beverly's advisees is the historical/cultural aspects of design.

Advisee dissertation titles (past and present) include:

  • The Logo as Design Motif and Marketing Concept: A Case Study of Handbags and Hand Luggage
  • Things We Don't Talk About: Healing Narratives from the Red Tent
  • Clothing and Sustainability Project
  • Nature Fancywork: Women’s Discourse with Nature in Late 19th Century America
  • Lithuanian Folk Costume: A Contested Symbol of National Identity
  • Characterization and Preservation of Weighted Silk (Advisors: Gordon and Sarmadi)

Advisee MS thesis titles (past and present) include:

  • Creating Buddhas (Tibetan applique thangka) (film)
  • Making Sense of Dress: Embodiment and Senses in Dress Exhibitions
  • WPA Work Relief and Ojibwa Weavers: A Study of the Indian Weaving Unit, Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin 1939- 1941
  • Vietnamese Ao Dai: Modern Traditional Dress
  • The Values and Meanings of Ceyiz (Trousseau) Textiles for Contemporary Urban Turkish Women
  • The History and Contemporary Meanings of the Charro Suit
  • A View of Women through the Written Word: References to Dress by New England Women, 1850-1860
  • A Profile of Signature Designers in the Interior Textile Products Industry
  • Sweeping Changes (Brooms as Culture and Art)