Prior to joining the Theory and History of Art and Design and Apparel Design departments at RISD, Hannah Carlson trained as a conservator of costume and textiles at the Fashion Institute of Technology and then earned a PhD in Material Culture at Boston University in 2009. She teaches classes on the history of dress, 20th-century American visual and material culture and research methods for graduate and undergraduate students.
Carlson is currently working on a history of pockets and pocketed possessions. Her article, Vulgar Things: James Fenimore Cooper’s “Clairvoyant” Pocket-Handkerchief, appeared in Common-Place (2007) and won the journal's Uncommon Voice Prize. With research supported by Stella Blum Research Grant from the Costume Society of America, her article Idle Hands and Empty Pockets: Postures of Leisure was published in Dress (2010). Her research has been funded by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington Library, the Winterthur Library, the Costume Society of America and the Boston University Humanities Foundation. She was faculty fellow in Costumes and Textiles at the RISD Museum from 2012–14.