Sarah Scaturro: The Life of a Fashion Conservationist

September 9 - On The Dot
 
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: Preserving History

When I was on a tour of a historic home in Louisiana, the tour guide spoke about the owner, saying, “We believe you die twice: once in the literal sense and another time when people stop telling your stories.” How true! While we have only a brief time on earth, stories have the power to keep us alive long after we’re gone.

By preserving those stories, we are able to learn about women from all walks of life who have accomplished some amazing things throughout history. Engaging in their stories of survival and strength often provides us with that extra encouragement we need to keep forging on and breaking down barriers.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 850 Million

A great way to learn about the past is to visit the world’s vast number of museums, a pursuit that continues to remain popular. In fact, American museums take in an astounding 850 million visitors each year. That’s more than visits to theme parks and major-league sporting events combined!

And, as art lovers, women are more likely than men to take in a little bit of art and culture at these museums, and volunteer their time to help keep history alive.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sarah Scaturro, Head Conservator for The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

A lot of time and energy goes in to curating and conserving the historical pieces in museums. As the caretaker of the fashion items displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Sarah Scaturro is responsible for the preservation and conservation of the museum's wide collection of costumes and accessories—a pretty darn important job.

The Costume Institute’s collection includes 35,000 pieces from five continents and seven centuries of dress. The museum hosts amazing themed exhibitions each year showcasing items like superhero costumes and the beautiful clothing Jacqueline Kennedy wore as first lady, while also highlighting high-end designers like Alexander McQueen.

On a scale of one to 10, how jealous are you of Sarah’s job right now? It sounds like a great gig! But while you may think Sarah tries on the garments and pretends she’s in a Jane Austen book, her daily grind is a lot more difficult than that. She and her team work diligently to prevent degradation on every fashion item at the institute, mitigating risks like light, heat, moisture and pests.

Further complicating her already difficult job, Sarah must adhere to the rules and code of ethics established by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Sarah enforces lab rules that everyone must adhere to: No pens are allowed (Can you imagine a pen accidentally marking a classic Dior dress? Yikes!), and most jewelry must be removed to prevent potential snags on delicate fabric.

Sarah views herself as a detective of sorts, analyzing garments and deducing all kinds of info about where they came from, how they were originally worn and how to repair them.

So, you ask, how does one land such an enviable, if not demanding, job? Quite simply, for Sarah, it’s been her lifelong pursuit. After earning her bachelor’s degree in history and Italian, she got her master’s degree in fashion and textile studies, and continues to expand her education, now pursuing a Ph.D. in decorative arts, design history and material culture.

As the woman behind the scenes at the Met’s Costume Institute, Sarah Scaturro is doing her part to ensure these historical treasures remain a source of inspiration for museum visitors now and for years to come.

QUITE THE QUOTE

While it might be scary to dive into a career that’s so niche, like Sarah, if you’re doing what you were meant to do, you’ll never regret it. Take designer Marc Jacobs’ advice:

“Let’s do what we love and do a lot of it.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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