Threads of time: Dress History Association unravels fashion, creativity

On Jan. 25 the Dress History Association held their first meeting of the semester at the Memorial Union, with a historical fashion-themed Kahoot.

The Kahoot, created by a member Sophie Kissimba included questions about the historical association of blue with boys and pink with girls, the inspiration for a new hairstyle among noble French women following beheadings, and the connection of the US military with ‘bikinis’.

The Dress History Association is a club run by President Aniket Mahija, Vice President Sophie Kissimba, Secretary Kennedy Miller and Treasurer Elizabeth Wiley.

Every Thursday at 7 p.m., the club meets at the Memorial Union and dives deep into dress history – learning theory is only one part of the club activities. During meetings, they also watch movies and organize themed parties. Hands-on experience is another special attribute to DHA. Together, they learn sewing, knitting and embroidery.

Let’s look at knitting, for example. Engaging in the process of knitting fosters increased cognitive functioning and induces feelings of calmness and happiness, according to a study in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy. There is scientific evidence supporting the idea that knitting can effectively lower blood pressure and ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

There are 161 student-run clubs on campus, according to URI Involved. The DHA is the one where curious students explore the past and its fashion traditions. They investigate the topics that intersect on the borders of history, clothing and textiles.

The term “dress” or ‘“costume history,” according to, means “the chronological study of dress.” Dress, not in the sense of a fashion object, but rather as “the totality of body alterations and additions that help an individual establish credibility of identity in everyday life.”

Most of the members of the Dress History Association are not pursuing a degree in fashion or history. The majority of student members are in STEM programs, including the founder, Mahija, who is ma joring in Nutrition and Dietetics and Physical Assistance. Other members of the club are majoring in chemical engineering, computer science and sustainable agriculture.

“This club is in a perfect niche,” Miller said .

“[The club] is a relaxing thing to do with STEM degrees,” first-year Caroline McCullough said.

During the pand emic, Mahija came across Bernadette Banner, a YouTuber with over 1.5 million followers, introducing them to the subject of costume analysis and history. Dress history was a hobby that kept them “sane” throughout the lockdown, Mahija said. It inspired him to create that opportunity for others.

If you are curious about fashion, history, hand-made art projects or if you simply need a safe space to express your creative vision and make friends, then the DHA might be the club for you. You can find them on Instagram at @dresshistoryassociation. Among many, their upcoming activities will include the critiques of historical costumes in cinema, doll-making and dress ing up in Victorian costumes for a potential fundraiser .