Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Q&A with Amy Copeland, Fashion Design Faculty


What is your title and role at Thomas Jefferson University?

Adjunct Professor, Fashion Design

What interests you about textiles and fashion? What inspired you to pursue a career in higher education?

I have always been fascinated by fashion and fabrics since I was a young child. My favorite toy was a little chain-stitch sewing machine that I used to make doll clothes. I then learned to sew and competed in textile competitions in 4-H growing up. I also participated in theater and was always drawn to the costumes. Several work-study jobs as an undergraduate inspired me to teach.

How did you first become involved with the Textile & Costume Collection?  Currently, you serve as a faculty liaison to the Collection.  What does that mean?

I first became involved a number of years ago working on the lace exhibition. Over the years, I have encouraged my Pattern Development I students to find inspiration for their childrenswear projects by researching the childrenswear collection. I was asked to become a faculty liaison because of my relationship with the Textile & Costume Collection and for my love of vintage fashion. As a liaison, I use my knowledge and experience in fashion to help evaluate pieces in the collection. I also assist with decommissioning pieces that are no longer useful to our collection and help to determine where they should next be sent.

What items within the collection are most inspiring to you?  Do you have a favorite object or group of objects?

I particularly like the childrenswear, because it is what I am most familiar with, but I enjoy all the vintage clothing and accessory pieces and am particularly fond of unusual fabrics or style details. I tend to gravitate towards the pieces that might be considered bold or unusual.

In your opinion, how does a historic collection like ours benefit students and faculty on our campus?  Given your background, can you speak to how the objects it holds are useful for burgeoning fashion and textile design students?  

Pictures in books or online only tell part of a story. When it comes to fashion, there are always subtleties that can only be appreciated by seeing a garment in-person. It is also very useful for fashion designers to see the inside of garments to evaluate how they are put together. Likewise, textile designers benefit by being able to examine how a fabric is woven or printed. That experience is lacking when just viewing a photograph.

Do you incorporate the Textile & Costume Collection into the classes you teach

Yes. I always bring my Pattern Development I classes to the design center to view the childrenswear collection, but I also encourage all my students to use the resources. I especially encourage my students to visit when I know there is something particular in the collection that may help inspire them with one of their designs they are working on, especially if there is a historic significance to their design inspiration.

What are your hopes for the Textile & Costume Collection moving forward

I would love to see the collection receive an endowment that would faciltate improvements to the building where it is housed. I would also like to see it be used in more of a museum format – so that it can be enjoyed by the public. It would be great if there could be more special exhibits throughout the year, and even have a small gift shop that could help support it. Perhaps there could even be a logo and a branding campaign to help promote it. There are so many amazing pieces in the collection that deserve to be viewed and enjoyed. Ultimately, I would love to see it expand to the point where it could support some new certificate programs or majors – perhaps in costume history or conservation.

Images of objects in our collection are copyrighted by Thomas Jefferson University. For inquiries regarding permissions and use fees, please contact: