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Issey Miyake to Western Wear to Amazons at CSA Western Region Symposium

 

Issey Miyake’s Tattoo (1970)

The Western Region of the Costume Society of America held their symposium this year at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, OR, on October 11. I was fortunately enough to attend and was treated to seven lovely papers (some works in progress), and two lively discussions with attendees on the papers presented, as well as on the state of the western region and what members want more (and less) of. Attendees were very engaged in the discussions, more than I’d seen at a regional level.

The papers topics were based loosely on the topic “From the Street to the Catwalk, Cultural Influences on Contemporary Fashion” and the Museum of Contemporary Craft made for a wonderful setting (especially because of their exhibit, Fashioning Cascadia, which ended that day.

After opening remarks, the Annual Business meeting, and a short talk by CSA National President, Kathy Mullet (who is a Western Region member), the papers were presented. Given by Brenna Barks, Clara Berg, Meghan Hanson, Jennifer M. Mower, Linda Florence Matheson, Ilana Winter and JoAnn Stabb, the papers were varied – both in their topics, as well as in the progress of research. Topics included

  • Issey Miyake’s use of Japanese revival style,
  • GLBTQ style clothing in a regional museum,
  • a preview of the Michel Arnaud Fashion Photography Archive at FIDM,
  • pre-WWII WPA sewing rooms,
  • Street to runway fashion from the 40s-80s,
  • A history of Rockmount Ranch Wear, and
  • Romaine Brooks’ Amazon/Tuxedo fashions and their influence through history

It was also a good mix of emerging professionals and well –seasoned presenters. Regional diversity was good too – presenters were from Fresno, Los Angeles, Davis, Seattle, and Corvalis, covering three states (California, Oregon, and Washington).

Happily, attendees were also given packets of information with abstracts for all the papers presented, and much discussion was generated by the topics in the symposium wrap-up. I was glad to get to spend such good time, considering these interesting topics. It makes me glad that there is still so much research left to do! Below are some photos I took from the Fashioning Cascadia Exhibition:

Photo Oct 11, 8 26 30 AMwtmkPhoto Oct 11, 8 25 40 AMwtmk  Photo Oct 11, 8 26 45 AMwtmkPhoto Oct 11, 8 26 34 AMwtmk

New #FashionBooks for October: Cartier, Havana style, Haute Couture artisans and Textile tales, !

Fall is always a busy time for books, and this month a number of publishers have provided some unique offerings. Of particular note is a new book on Cartier – a tie-in with an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum (opens November 16). Strange Material: Storytelling through Textiles, was recently reviewed at TheLongThread.com, in an overview of her trip to Portland (I’ll have my own wrap up of my recent trip to Portland for the CSA Western Region Symposium soon!) In the meantime, please enjoy these new books!

Strange Material: Storytelling through Textiles

by Leanne Prain (Arsenal Pulp Press, October 7, 2014)

From the publisher:

 Through text, the act of weaving a tale or dropping a thread takes on new meaning for those who previously have seen textiles—quilts, blankets, articles of clothing, and more—only as functional objects. This book showcases crafters who take storytelling off the page and into the mediums of batik, stitching, dyeing, fabric painting, knitting, crochet, and weaving, creating objects that bear their messages proudly, from personal memoir and cultural fables to pictorial histories and wearable fictions.”

Havana: Street Style

by Conner Gorry and Gabriel Solomons (Intellect Books, October 15, 2014)

From the Publisher:

When it comes to fashion, few metropolitan areas are more synonymous with style than New York, London, Paris, and Milan. But the couture capitals of tomorrow may be located in less likely locales. Addressing the interplay between the development of fashion centers across the world and their relationship to consumption and street style in both local and global contexts, the books in the Street Style series aim to record emerging fashion capitals and their relationship to the physical landscapes of the street. By examining how particular ecologies of fashion are connected to the formation of gender, class, and generational identities, this series establishes a new methodology for recording and understanding identity and its connection to style. Havana Street Style is the first book that explores and reveals the relationship between culture, city, and street fashion in Cuba’s capital. Matching visual ethnography with critical analysis, the book documents a unique street style few in the United States have yet experienced.”

Haute Couture Ateliers: The Artisans of Fashion

By Hélène Farnault (Vendome Press, October 7, 2014)

From the Publisher:

Haute Couture Ateliers takes the reader on a tour of fashion’s backstage, inhabited not only by exceptional designers but also by lace makers, weavers, textile finishers, pleaters, jewelers, feather workers, leather makers, embroiderers, and many other special­ized craftspeople. With painstaking attention to detail and exceptional workmanship, they can create anything and everything a designer can imagine. Exquisite photogra­phy captures this unchanged world of small workshops where artisans practice ancient trades—though a number have evolved with the times: while some weavers still use looms, others use high-speed precision machines, guided by proprietary software. Hélène Farnault, France’s leading authority on haute couture crafts, explains the rarefied hierarchies and mysteries of these extraordinary artisans, bringing talented milliners and trimming experts into the spotlight.”

Cartier in the 20th Century

By Pierre Painero (Vendome Press, October 14, 2014)

From the Publisher:

Created with the expertise of Cartier Heritage, this exquisite book showcases the rich holdings of the Cartier Collection and archive. It features not only a sumptuous array of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and tiaras, but also cocktail and smoking accessories, mystery clocks, and lavish objects created by Cartier’s ateliers in Paris, London, and New York. Organized thematically, the book features magnificent jewels and accessories owned by such arbiters of taste as Daisy Fellowes, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace, Barbara Hutton, and Elizabeth Taylor. Throughout, specially commissioned photographs of Cartier’s legendary jewels are accompanied by vintage photographs—drawn from the Condé Nast and Cartier archives—of these royals, socialites, and Hollywood stars in their Cartier finery, including work by Steichen, Horst, Beaton, and Charbonneau.”

 

 

The Kimono: Two Exhibits, Two Reviews

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Right now two major museums, on opposite coasts of the United States, both have exhibitions on the Kimono. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has Kimono for a Modern Age (through October 19, 2014) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has Kimono: A Modern History (through January 4, 2015). This unique situation requires a unique review. And so, I’m happy to present two simultaneous reviews of the two exhibitions by two experts in the field: Brenna Barks agreed to review the LACMA exhibition, and Nadine Stewart reviewed the Met’s exhibition. Below are their reviews. Happy Reading!

Kimono for a Modern Age

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (through October 19, 2014)

Guest Review by Brenna Barks

Little attention is paid to what can be called the decline of the kimono in Japanese fashion. Most museum-goers, and thus most museum exhibitions, concentrate on the “expected”: what is seen as the traditional, soft, delicately patterned kimono that so inspired the Impressionists and the patrons of Japonisme. Indeed, this is the majority of kimono. However, kimono – like all clothing – followed fashion. And the fashion during the last “heyday” of the kimono is the subject of the Kimono for a Modern Age exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Leading up to and immediately after the second World War, while the traditional patterning remained popular, a new style of kimono emerged: the meisen. The fabric for meisen is unusual in that the warp and weft threads were stencil dyed individually before being woven, creating a marvellous faux-ikat pattern. These patterns were typically large and boldly coloured, contrary to the expected tradition.

Woman’s Kimono with Large Dewdrops (mizutama), Japan, early Shōwa period (1926–89), c. 1935, purchased with funds provided by Grace Tsao, photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA

Much has been made of the influence that the West had on the patterning of meisen – and LACMA does point out the references to Art Deco motifs or motifs taken from famous Western painters, such as Matisse, in the exhibition. But what LACMA does with their exhibition of over 30 meisen is to properly place them back into context within the Japanese tradition. Yes, there are Western art influences, but predominantly meisen were reinterpretations of Japanese art: landscape paintings, calligraphic motifs, and more often new, bold re-imaginings of traditional Japanese kimono patterns such as arrows or dewdrops.

Some of these re-interpretations can even be seen as forms of protest against American occupation after World War II. At least two meisen in the exhibition feature the Japanese war flag of the rising sun being not-so-subtly worked into the pattern. One in blue as a vague “star” pattern, another into what would otherwise be an image of dawn over a village. Or perhaps instead of open protest, these patterns were a silent message of surviving patriotism and a hope that they would rise again after re-inventing themselves as well as their traditions? LACMA masterfully and tactfully addresses the subject of war and occupation, tradition and fashion head-on through the display of such kimono and their thoughtful, well-written tombstones about each piece.

With the increasing popularity of Western clothing due to ease of wear and maintenance, the kimono declined rather sharply in popularity after the war. The meisen, while largely ignored in the West until now, was in many ways the last hurrah of this beautiful garment. The Kyoto kimono industry closed for good in the early 2000s; so few Japanese people today know how to wear it that schools exist to teach the proper wearing of the kimono, or simply to dress clients when occasion calls for traditional clothing. The LACMA exhibition not only fills this gap in the history of the “symbol of Japan”, but inspires visitors to question what the term “fashion” really means: it does not necessarily mean a shift in shapes and hemlines, but can mean the re-adaptation of tradition and the extended survival of an ancient garment into the modern age.”

Kimono: A Modern History

Metropolitan Museum of Art (through January 4, 2015)

Guest Review by Nadine Stewart

Over Robe (Uchikake) with Long-Tailed Birds in a Landscape Period: Edo period (1615–1868) Date: second half of the 18th century Medium: Silk and metallic-thread embroidery and stencil paste-resist dyeing on silk satin damask Credit Line: Gift of Charles Zadok, 1959 Accession Number: 59.46

Kimono: A Modern History is a stunning exhibit, not to be missed. The fifty kimonos on display span the period from the eighteenth century to the present day, a time when the kimono evolved from a garment worn by the nobility and the peasantry. Though “kimono” literally means a “thing to wear,” this exhibit shows how much more this garment has meant to Japanese culture over the centuries and how it has influenced fashion in the rest of the world.

The first things on display are swatch samples from the Edo Period (1615-1868), exquisite examples of tapestry weaving in silk and silver thread. In one piece the fighting dragons are made entirely of tiny French knots. In another, we see Western ships with their flags, a reminder that Japan opened up to the West in this period, which would mean a new set of influences and textiles techniques would come flooding into the country. The kimonos in this section are the elegant silk padded kimonos for ladies of the nobility. The fabric of each one is an example of the highest level of craftsmanship–damask grounds overlaid with couched gold thread and silk embroidery.

Elegant as they are, the kimonos are not the only items featured here. A beautiful inlaid cosmetic box with brushes and combs, a large screen showing dancers whose fluid sleeves accentuate their movement, and an etiquette book on how to dress give a sense of the special place the kimono had in this society. The entire exhibit is full of objects that amplify the kimono story from elegant prints that show members of the Japanese court mingling with Western men and women suits and bustles to a “Basket Derby” from 1880-97, a city style made from simple reeds to be worn by the Japanese dandy with his walking stick.

Working class kimonos are just as beautiful as the kimonos for the nobility. Firemen in Japan wore heavy cotton kimonos with figures painted inside for protection as they fought the many fires in a nation of wooden buildings. The kimonos were soaked with water as the men fought fires. The designs inside were only seen during festivals when they were turned inside out. Even rarer, is a farmer’s kimono of recycled rags and a coverlet kimono worn over a person in bed, painted with image of a lobster, the symbol of longevity.

Woman’s evening coat Date: 1910–20 Culture: France Medium: Silk velvet, silk satin collar, cuffs, and lining Credit Line: Lent by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Mr. William B. Gannett

A significant section of the exhibit shows how Japan and the West influenced each other from 1868 to 1912. The Japanese adopted Western chemical dyes and weaving techniques, while the Western fashion was swept up in beautiful images from Japan as these pieces from the collection of the Costume Institute show. A lush pink silk velvet opera cloak by Jean-Charles Worth is displayed next to a kimono robe made by Tashimaya Department Store for the foreign trade. It features short kimono-like sleeves and a simpler printed fabric with Japanese-style motifs. Finally, a light green wool Western-style robe with frog closures features embroidered flowers, which are a fine example of Japanoism.

As Japan moved into the twentieth century, the influences changed, the artistry did not. Modern inventions like cameras, express train tickets, and sheet music appear. Tow kimonos show sobering signs of the nation’s increasing militarism—one shows the siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War and another, antiaircraft guns, tanks and planes backing Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Kimonos for the masses appear sold in department stores with design influenced by Art Deco and the De Stijl movement. There is even a child’s kimono treasured by Frank Lloyd Wright with a pattern of wisterias climbing over abstract trellises.

The Exhibition Catalog (Click to purchase)

After World War II, Japan began an effort to preserve its cultural heritage, preserving and honoring the craft of the kimono makers, weavers, and dyers through the Living Treasure Movement. Three kimonos created by these artists give testament to the beauty of their work. At the end of the exhibit are garments from prominent Japanese designers, who have brought the nation to the forefront of fashion while honoring their unique traditions—Hanae Mori, Issey Miyake, and Yojhi Yamamoto, and one more designer, Bonnie Cashin. Her simple black wool kimono-style coat shows her love of the Japanese kimono. It was a design she repeated often though her career.

Kimono: A Modern History is tucked into the Arts of Japan Galleries in the Met’s Asian Arts Wing. The galleries surround the lovely basalt Water Stone (1986) by Isamu Noguchi, whose soothing sound pervades the galleries. It underlines the timelessness of the fashions displayed here and their lasting beauty. This is a fashion exhibit from another perspective, a valuable reminder that Western fashion is not the only fashion.”

A very special thanks to Brenna and Nadine for cooperating on these reviews for Fashion Historia. Can’t make it to New York to see their exhibition? You can buy the exhibition catalog, but the Met has all 170 objects from the show available online for you to look at (sans curatorial insights/labels/wall text) . While there isn’t an exhibition catalog to accompany LACMA’s show, they have created this beautiful video:

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*Image: Utagawa Kokunimasa (Japanese, 1874–1944). Swimming at Ōiso, Distant Views of Mount Fuji, 1893. Meiji period (1868–1912). Japan. Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1960 (JP3382a–c)

**Image: Woman’s Kimono (kosode) with Abstract Hemp-Leaf Pattern, Japan, late Taisho+ (1912-1926) – early Sho+wa (1926–1989) period, Silk plain weave, stencil-printed warp and weft (heiyo+-kasuri meisen), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume Council Fund, M.2012.130.9.

**Image: Woman’s Kimono (kosode) with Abstract Hemp-Leaf Pattern, Japan, late Taisho+ (1912-1926) – early Sho+wa (1926–1989) period, Silk plain weave, stencil-printed warp and weft (heiyo+-kasuri meisen), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume Council Fund, M.2012.130.9.

Fall Book Notes and Previews (Biba, Art Noveau, and the 19th Century)

The books just keep coming! And not surprisingly, there were many released in time for the new school year. The vast majority of these are museum publications, however, reflecting the ever-increasing popularity of fashion exhibitions in museums.

The Biba Years, 1963-1975 By Barbara Hulanicki and Martin Pel

(September 23, 2014, V &A Publishing)

A revealing look at the fashion revolution of the 1960s and ’70s through the groundbreaking, hip, and now-legendary London emporium Biba, this book looks at “the most beautiful store in the world.” Biba, founded in 1963 by designer Barbara Hulanicki, quickly gained cult status and outgrew several locations before the five-story “Big Biba” opened in 1973. More than a store, it was a haven of cool for artists, movie stars, and rock musicians. This book tells the story of the Biba decade, and how the label revolutionized retail and fashion culture. With a wealth of previously unpublished material, including full-color facsimiles of the six luxurious Biba catalogs and archival photographs, The Biba Years, 1963-1975 looks at the first retailer to bring affordable fashion to young consumers. Stunning new photography documents the unique Biba look, and the designer and her contemporaries offer their personal insights.”

Art Noveau Fashion By Clare Rose (September 16, 2014, V & A Publishing)

The stunning designs of Worth, Paquin, Poiret, Fortuny, and more are showcased in this look at the glamorous world of Art Nouveau fashion. Providing an introduction to the style, which overlaps with late Arts and Crafts in the 1890s and early Modernism in the 1910s, the book focuses on these important designers before discussing Art Nouveau jewelry and accessories, advertising, the influence of exotic Eastern cultures, and artists, among them Beardsley, Klimt, and Mackintosh. New color photographs of gar­ments from the V&A’s collection are accompanied by period images of such style icons as Lily Langtry, Loïe Fuller, and Consuelo Vanderbilt, many previously unpublished. Striking and seductive, Art Nouveau styles were revived by the counterculture in the late 1960s and continue to resonate today.”

Fashioning the 19th Century: Habits of Being 3 By Cristina Giorcelli and Paula Rabinowitz (August 7, 2014, Univ of Minnesota Press)

In nineteenth-century Europe and the United States, fashion—once the province of the well-to-do—began to make its way across class lines. At once a democratizing influence and a means of maintaining distinctions, gaps in time remained between what the upper classes wore and what the lower classes later copied. And toward the end of the century, style also moved from the streets to the parlor. The third in a four-part series charting the social, cultural, and political expression of clothing, dress, and accessories, Fashioning the Nineteenth Century focuses on this transformative period in an effort to show how certain items of apparel acquired the status of fashion and how fashion shifted from the realm of the elites into the emerging middle and working classes—and back.

The contributors to this volume are leading scholars from France, Italy, and the United States, as well as a practicing psychoanalyst and artists working in fashion and with textiles. Whether considering girls’ school uniforms in provincial Italy, widows’ mourning caps in Victorian novels, Charlie’s varying dress in Kate Chopin’s eponymous story, or the language of clothing in Henry James, the essays reveal how changes in ideals of the body and its adornment, in classes and nations, created what we now understand to be the imperatives of fashion.
Contributors: Dagni Bredesen, Eastern Illinois U; Carmela Covato, U of Rome Three; Agnès Derail-Imbert, École Normale Supérieure/VALE U of Paris, Sorbonne; Clair Hughes, International Christian University of Tokyo; Bianca Iaccarino Idelson; Beryl Korot; Anna Masotti; Bruno Monfort, Université of Paris, Ouest Nanterre La Défense; Giuseppe Nori, U of Macerata, Italy; Marta Savini, U of Rome Three; Anna Scacchi, U of Padua; Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, U of Michigan.

 

Guest Exhibition Review: “Exposed: The History of Lingerie”

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EXPOSED: THE HISTORY OF LINGERIE
MUSEUM @ FIT
JUNE 3-NOVEMBER 15, 2014

Guest Exhibition Review By Nadine L. Stewart

Saks Fifth Avenue camiknickers, crepe chiffon, silk satin, c. 1924, France, Museum purchase, P86.63.5.

Exposed: The History of Lingerie explores a fashion story that often takes a secondary place in the fashion history—what’s been worn underneath our clothes. These are the pieces that give our bodies the current fashionable silhouette or the clothes we wear for our most intimate moments in bed or lounging at home. Curator Colleen Hill has been fascinated with lingerie since 2008 when she curated Seduction, an exhibition that focused on the erotic nature of fashion. Through the intervening years she kept track of the Museum’s lingerie collection, which occupies the back of its huge clothing storage area. Her interest intensified when the Museum acquired several beautiful collections of custom lingerie, with pieces that were marvels of beautiful details and exquisite craftsmanship. The result is a fascinating exhibit of intimate wear from the eighteenth century to the present.

The first thing one sees in the Museum’s vast lobby is a platform with five underwear ensembles designed by the 2014 BFA students of FIT. Hill told me she decided these garments should provide the prologue to the exhibit because the students’ work was so professional. In the outside entry case stands a mannequin in a witty 1994 Moschino evening dress with a pouf skirt made entirely of 20 black underwire bras complete with their dangling shoulders straps.

But it inside that the real spell of the exhibit takes hold. Mounted on the first platform is a raspberry colored satin corset from around 1889 that glows like a jewel in the low light. Hill told me this corset surprised her for several reasons. One, it was an early example of colored lingerie, which was just becoming acceptable. Even more important, the corset’s bones were made of coraline, a plant based material that was probably more comfortable to wear than the steel bones common at the time. That meant it was probably marketed by Warner Brothers as a “healthy” garment for the stylish woman. The corset shares the platform with a Peter Sorensen evening dress from 2007 with a corset bodice and another jewel-colored corset from the 1850s, this time in blue satin.

Claire McCardell evening dress, printed nylon, 1950, USA, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adrian McCardell, 72.61.182.

Throughout the exhibit garments are often paired, making it possible to see how the intimate “under” garment was morphed into an “outer” garment. For example, an Empire line nightgown from the 1950s is paired with a Claire McCardell evening gown from the same decade, both in the new wonder fiber—nylon. A princess line slip from 1910 replete with eyelet trim stands next to the lingerie dress—a glorious confection of white eyelet and sheer muslin.

The panorama continues. In the next room is an eighteenth century corset with tie-on sleeves. Such a garment could be worn as outerwear. Next to it is quilted petticoat, which would have been visible too. A lady would pull her overskirt and tied it up, so she could show off the petticoat’s elegant stitch patterns To remind us of that an eighteenth century lady was expected to stand straight, whalebone busk from the 1780s lies in a case in front. This piece would have been inserted into the corset in a place provided between the breasts to keep the wearer erect and stately.

Amid all the elegance and couture work are two companies from the present day that show us how lingerie still fascinates women today. Both Victoria’s Secret and Hanky Panky give the consumer fashionable linger at an affordable price. Hill was also impressed by Hanky Panky’s ethical standards of production in these days of concern over sustainability. But how can one forget that Hanky Panky claims to produce the “worlds most comfortable thong” for a wide range of sizes? There it is–in a colorful three pack!

Another notable company is Cadolle of Paris, a family-owned firm still producing beautiful ready-to-wear and custom lingerie after 5 generations. Founded in 1889 it pioneered innovative brassiere designs and is one of the few companies to produce custom lingerie today. On view is a baby doll nightgown and corset in pink lace.

One of the loveliest lingerie styles was the tea gown, a robe that women of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries wore to relax and entertain in the privacy of their homes. Hill chose several to display. There’s an early white cotton and lace dressing gown from the 1850s that hides the body under its generous cut. By 1900 the robe was an alluring confection of chiffon, silk and lace. The Fernende Burel gown on display is accented with silk roses placed strategically on each breast! Next to it is an elegant brown silk hostess gown hand printed with gold by Suzanne Bertillon from the 1920s and a Delphos dress which, we are reminded, was originally designed to be worn as tea gown without a corset.

It’s a stunning array that continues with choice examples that bring the exhibit to the present day with the Wonderbra from 1994 and the overtly sexual style of Agent Provocateur. One of the joys of this exhibit is the simplicity of the exhibit layout. It has been well edited, so that the garments are clearly visible without excess clutter. After following the styles of fashionable dishabille, we know that lingerie and the urge for special underwear is something that has continued through the centuries. What’s next?”– Nadine L Stewart

Exposed will be on display till November 15th. On Thursday, November 6, Curator Colleen Hill will host Poupie and Patricia Cadolle in a conversation about their unique family-run business. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Register online.

The accompanying exhibition catalog, written by Colleen Hill and Valerie Steele, is also available now:

*Corset (stay), silk, silk ribbon, whalebone, c. 1770, possibly Europe, Museum purchase, P82.1.16

Come to the CSA Western Region Conference for the papers! (Details)

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I’m excited for the upcoming Costume Society of America Western Region conference (October 10-12 in Portland, OR). You can still register (through October 1). The paper presentations have just been announced and will include:

  • From Rice paddies to Parisian Runways: Issey Miyake’s Revival and Reinvention of Traditional Japanese Peasant Textiles by Brenna Barks (Worn Through and CSA Western Region board member)
  • Queering the Costume Collection: Collecting and Displaying GLBTQ style in a Regional History Museum by Clara Berg
  • The Michael Arnaud Fashion Photography Archive by Meghan Hanson (of FIDM Museum)
  • WPA Sewing Rooms in the Pacific Northwest, 1935 to 1943: Developing a Regional Study by Jennifer M. Mower
  • Convergence of Clothing Cultures: From 20th Century Streets (1940’s to 1980’s) to 21st Century Runways by Linda Florence PhD
  • Fashioning the Weil West: the Influence of Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Company  by Ilana Winter
  • Romaine Brooks and the Amazons in the Drawing Room: The Tuxedo Deconstructing Gender by JoAnn Stabb (UC Davis professor emeritus)

*Women at work in a WPA sewing room.

Fashion Books of Summer 2014: Turquoise, Dress Patterns, Luxury, Branding, and the Kimono

This summer saw a number of fashion-related titles published from both University and traditional Trade publishing houses. Here’s a quick round-up of some of those titles you might want to add to your fall reading list:

The Sky Blue Stone: The Turquoise Trade in World History by Arash Khazeni (UC Press, May 2014)

This book traces the journeys of a stone across the world. From its remote point of origin in the city of Nishapur in eastern Iran, turquoise was traded through India, Central Asia, and the Near East, becoming an object of imperial exchange between the Safavid, Mughal, and Ottoman empires. Along this trail unfolds the story of turquoise–a phosphate of aluminum and copper formed in rocks below the surface of the earth–and its discovery and export as a global commodity.

In the material culture and imperial regalia of early modern Islamic tributary empires moving from the steppe to the sown, turquoise was a sacred stone and a potent symbol of power projected in vivid color displays. From the empires of Islamic Eurasia, the turquoise trade reached Europe, where the stone was collected as an exotic object from the East. The Eurasian trade lasted into the nineteenth century, when the oldest mines in Iran collapsed and lost Aztec mines in the Americas reopened, unearthing more accessible sources of the stone to rival the Persian blue.

Sky Blue Stone recounts the origins, trade, and circulation of a natural object in the context of the history of Islamic Eurasia and global encounters between empire and nature.”

History of the Paper Pattern Industry by Joy Emery (Bloomsbury, June 2014)

Sewing patterns have been the principle blueprint for making garments in the home for centuries. From their origins in the tailoring manuals of the 16th century to the widely produced pamphlets of the 18th and 19th centuries, through to the full size packet patterns of today, their history and development has reflected major changes in technology (such as the advent of the sewing machine), retailing and marketing practices (the fashion periodical), and shifts in social and cultural influences.

This accessible book explores this history, outlining innovations in patternmaking by the companies who produced patterns and how these reflected the fashions and demands of the market.

Showcasing beautiful illustrations from original pattern pamphlets, packets and ads, as well as 9 complete patterns from which readers can reproduce vintage garments of different eras, the book provides a unique visual guide to homemade fashions as well as essential exploration of the industry that produced them.”

Luxury: Fashion Lifestyle and Excess by Patrizia Calefato and Lisa Adams (Bloomsbury, June 2014)

Luxury has been both celebrated and condemned throughout history right up to the present day. This groundbreaking text examines luxury and its relationship with desire, status, consumption and economic value, exploring why luxury remains prominent even in the context of a global recession.

Using approaches from cultural studies, semiotic research and aesthetics, Luxury presents a wide range of case studies including urban space and new technologies, travel, interior design, cars, fashion ads and jewellery to explore what luxury represents, and why, in the contemporary world.”

Global Fashion Brands: Style, Luxury & History by Joseph H. Hancock II, Gjoko Muratovski, Veronica Manlow and Anne Pierson-Smith (Intellect, Aug 15, 2014)

Fashion branding is more than just advertising. It helps to encourage the purchase and repurchase of consumer goods from the same company. While historically fashion branding has primarily focused on consumption and purchasing decisions, recent scholarship suggests that branding is a process that needs to be analyzed from a style, luxury, and historical pop cultural view using critical, ethnographic, individualistic, or interpretive methods.

In this collection, the contributors explore the meaning behind fashion branding in the context of the contested power relations underpinning the production, marketing, and consumption of style and fashion as part of our global culture. “

Kimono: A Modern History by Terry Satsuki Milhaupt (Reaktion Books, Aug 15, 2014)

What is the kimono? Everyday garment? Art object? Symbol of Japan? As this book shows, the kimono has served all of these roles, its meaning changing across time and with the perspective of the wearer or viewer.
Kimono: A Modern History begins by exposing the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century foundations of the modern kimono fashion industry. It explores the crossover between ‘art’ and ‘fashion’ in this period at the hands of famous Japanese painters who worked with clothing pattern books and painted directly onto garments. With Japan’s exposure to Western fashion in the nineteenth century, and Westerners’ exposure to Japanese modes of dress and design, the kimono took on new associations and came to symbolize an exotic culture and an alluring female form. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the kimono industry was sustained through government support. The line between fashion and art became blurred as kimonos produced by famous designers were collected for their beauty and displayed in museums, rather than being worn as clothing. Today, the kimono has once again taken on new dimensions, as the Internet and social media proliferate images of the kimono as a versatile garment to be integrated into a range of individual styles.
Kimono: A Modern History, the inspiration for a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, not only tells the story of a distinctive garment’s ever-changing functions and image, but provides a novel perspective on Japan’s modernization and encounter with the West.”

My Nightstand: Schiaparelli in “Fashion and War in Popular Culture”

I’ve had the same book resting on my nightstand for months now: Fashion and War in Popular Culture by Denise N. Rall (Intellect, (March 15, 2014). It’s there for those now increasingly rare moments when I have a little free brain space (and time) to pick it up. My main interest has been Chapter 4 “In the service of clothes: Elsa Schiaparelli and the war experience” by Griffith University Professor, Annita Boyd.

1940. “As her status as an Italian in Paris is becoming risky, she sets off to live in New York until 1945 and continues to help France through many initiatives across the Atlantic.” (Schiaparelli.com)

This chapter focuses on how war, and the military, influenced Schiaparelli’s design – but it also offers some valuable information on what she was up to during the war (and how those experiences later influenced her work). I’ve not read much about her career during and after the war, so I was immediately drawn to this particular essay.

As explained in Boyd’s essay, Schiaparelli’s career was viewed as a failure after the war and her work was seen as ‘out of step with post-war sensibility.’ – Boyd examines this notion, but also offers information on what Schiaparelli was doing during these years (1945-1954 and 1955-1973). This in itself makes the book worth it’s (quite affordable) price.

Very little has been written on Schiaparelli during this time. It is fascinating stuff: she was accused of being anti-French (for promoting French couture in America); of being a fascist for wearing a hat; but smuggled American money to friends in Europe in a hat, toured America lecture about French couture in 1940; and volunteered (along with her daughter) for the American Red Cross in New York. The all too brief chapter goes on to discuss how Schiaparelli’s military and surrealist influenced designs failed to take hold in the post war years, and also to discuss the recent Schiaparelli revival.

1940. Elsa Schiaparelli in New York Legion of Honor, George Hoyningen-Huene.

Other essays in this book include historical and more recent military and fashion interactions, including: “Fashionable fascism: Cinematic images of the Nazi before and after 9/11″ by Kylee M. Harman-Warren;  “The discipline of appearance: military style and Australian flight hostesss uniforms 1930-1964″ by Prudence Black; and “Battle dressed – clothing the criminal or ‘the hoddie’ in Britain” by Joanne Turney.

PS: You can follow author Annita Boyd on Twitter at @AnnitaBoyd

 

Catching up: Fashion books you should know about

Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve found myself swimming in a wealth of new fashion history scholarship. In the coming weeks and months, I hope to share some of these gems with you: some in passing and some in greater depth. If you’ve read any of these and have comments, I hope you’ll share them with me and other readers as we go. Here are just a few that I should have already mentioned, that have come out relatively recently*:

Fashion and Age: Dress, The Body and Later Life by Julia Twigg (Bloomsbury, September 2013)

Throughout history certain forms and styles of dress have been deemed appropriate – or more significantly, inappropriate – for people as they age. Older women in particular have long been subject to social pressure to tone down, to adopt self-effacing, covered-up styles. But increasingly there are signs of change, as older women aspire to younger, more mainstream, styles, and retailers realize the potential of the ‘grey market’.

Fashion and Age is the first study to systematically explore the links between clothing and age, drawing on fashion theory and cultural gerontology to examine the changing ways in which age is imagined, experienced and understood in modern culture through the medium of dress. Clothes lie between the body and its social expression, and the book explores the significance of embodiment in dress and in the cultural constitution of age.

Drawing on the views of older women, journalists and fashion editors, and clothing designers and retailers, it aims to widen the agenda of fashion studies to encompass the everyday dress of the majority, shifting the debate about age away from its current preoccupation with dependency, towards a fuller account of the lived experience of age. Fashion and Age will be of great interest to students of fashion, material culture, sociology, sociology of age, history of dress and to clothing designers.”

The Language of Fashion by Roland Barthes (Bloomsbury, December 2013)

Roland Barthes was one of the most widely influential thinkers of the 20th Century and his immensely popular and readable writings have covered topics ranging from wrestling to photography. The semiotic power of fashion and clothing were of perennial interest to Barthes and The Language of Fashion – now available in the Bloomsbury Revelations series – collects some of his most important writings on these topics. Barthes’ essays here range from the history of clothing to the cultural importance of Coco Chanel, from Hippy style in Morocco to the figure of the dandy, from colour in fashion to the power of jewellery. Barthes’ acute analysis and constant questioning make this book an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the cultural power of fashion.”

The Handbook of Fashion Studies by Amy de la Haye, Agnès Rocamora, Joanne Entwistle and Helen Thomas (Bloomsbury, December 2013)

The Handbook of Fashion Studies identifies an innovative spectrum of thematic approaches, key strands and interdisciplinary concepts that continue to push forward the boundaries of fashion studies. The book is divided into seven sections: Fashion, Identity and Difference; Spaces of Fashion; Fashion and Materiality; Fashion, Agency and Policy; Science, Technology and New fashion; Fashion and Time and, Sustainable Fashion in a Globalised world.

Each section consists of approximately four essays authored by established researchers in the field from the UK, USA, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Australia. The essays are written by international subject specialists who each engage with their section’s theme in the light of their own discipline and provide clear case-studies to further knowledge on fashion. This consistency provides clarity and permits comparative analysis.”

Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style by Deirdre Clemente (University of North Carolina Press, April 2014)

As Deirdre Clemente shows in this lively history of fashion on American college campuses, whether it’s jeans and sneakers or khakis with a polo shirt, chances are college kids made it cool. The modern casual American wardrobe, Clemente argues, was born in the classrooms, dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and gyms of universities and colleges across the country. As young people gained increasing social and cultural clout during the early twentieth century, their tastes transformed mainstream fashion from collared and corseted to comfortable. From east coast to west and from the Ivy League to historically black colleges and universities, changing styles reflected new ways of defining the value of personal appearance, and, by extension, new possibilities for creating one’s identity.

The pace of change in fashion options, however, was hardly equal. Race, class, and gender shaped the adoption of casual style, and young women faced particular backlash both from older generations and from their male peers. Nevertheless, as coeds fought dress codes and stereotypes, they joined men in pushing new styles beyond the campus, into dance halls, theaters, homes, and workplaces. Thanks to these shifts, today’s casual style provides a middle ground for people of all backgrounds, redefining the meaning of appearance in American culture.”

 

 

*Please note these descriptions come directly from the publishers.

Exhibition Review: Civil War Quilts at the New York Historical Society

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Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War at the New York Historical Society

ends August 31, 2014

Guest Review by Nadine Stewart

“Cotton thread holds the Union together; unites John C. Calhoun and Abbot Lawrence. Patriotism for holidays and summer evenings, with music and rockets, but cotton thread is the Union.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, May 23, 1846

Homefront and Battlefield is a bland title for a powerful exhibit that gives us a unique look at the reign of “King Cotton,” the fiber that shaped American history. The subtitle “Quilts and Context in the Civil War” is even blander. There are quilts throughout, each with its own powerful story. But was really gives the exhibit its impact are the many, small items that show how important textiles were for those on the battlefield and at home. There are small shreds of fabric—including commorative ribbons, dress swatches, and uniform clothing fragments—that were treasured for the memories they evoked of a loved one or an event in the tragedy that shapes our history to this day. Each piece, no matter how simple, evokes the individuals caught up in a dangerous time and struggling to survive it. The result is a unique exhibit that shatters many of our myths about the past.

The first thing one sees in the gallery is a huge bale of cotton, the raw cotton of the South that accounted for 50% of American exports by 1850. New York State banned the slave trade in 1827, but like all the Northern states, the state’s businesses profited from trade with the slave states. The bonds between North and South were so strong, so strong plantation owners in the South could not imagine that northern businesses could exist without the materials produced by the slave economy. A small example of this interdependence is a book of fabric swatches from Rhode Island. The cheap, coarse material is “negro cloth” intended for the slave clothing. Rhode Island lead the country in producing this material. Nearby is a small child’s vest of that coarse cloth, clothing that would mark the wearer as enslaved. Close by is a “Free Labor Dress” of the 1850s, a blend of wool and silk worn by an abolitionist Quaker, part of a group who refused to wear garments produced by the supply chain that depended on slave labor.

The 1867 “reconciliation quilt,” by Lucinda Ward Honstain of Brooklyn, is in the show “Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War” at the New-York Historical Society.

A full section is devoted to quilts and textiles with patriotic imagery—items as large as full quilts, and as small as “housewifes,” small handmade rolls for sewing supplies that featured flag images. Even children wore clothing to show which side their family was on. One example is a little girl’s cotton dress from Xenia, Ohio printed with a small repeat pattern of Union flags and soldiers. Another is a small apron from 1862 with Confederate symbols appliquéd on its bib and skirt. A garment like this would silently show an entire family’s defiance of the North.

Another section shows more practical things– blankets, bandages, tents, or uniforms for the troops made by women volunteers North and South. When the war began, neither side had enough of these basic supplies. Women filled that gap, volunteering countless hours to roll bandages, knit stockings, and sew uniforms. A soldier could go through on pair of socks in a week. Machine made socks were considered inferior. An 1861 Peterson’s print shows soldiers at Christmas exulting over a shipment of new socks. There are posters for fund raising fairs that sold fancywork of all kinds to raise money for the war effort. It is estimated that women’s volunteerism on both sides raised a billion dollars to support the troops in the four years of the war.

The story of business during the war is not so admirable. Near the section on women’s goods are mosquito nets, tents, uniforms, and blankets all produced by war contractors. There are also pieces that show the dark side of all that production, uniforms made of shoddy. This cloth made of recycled wool fiber, made huge profits for wartime merchants, like Brooks Brothers, but disintegrated in the first rains. Industries often slowed down production to make scarce goods more profitable. Mill owners from Lowell, Massachusetts sold their raw cotton at inflated prices and laid off ten thousand women workers.

Intimate items of clothing tell their own story. On display is a nightshirt modified for an amputated left arm, a money pocket and money belt designed to be worn under women’s crinolines, so money and valuables could be kept safe from marauding soldiers; and, of course, mourning clothing. Dressing properly for mourning the dead was so important that a Confederate nurse scolded her sister, “How could you come out of New Orleans without any black cloathes (sic) for me?” A mourning day dress in a soft lavender print is on display, its voluminous sleeves and gathered skirt remind us also just how much cotton cloth it took for the proper lady’s dress. The hold of King Cotton on fashion was a strong one.

The small textile pieces amplify the stories of this exhibit’s extraordinary quilts, each with a special story. The curators refuse to allow us to sentimentalize these stories or use them to “prettify” history. A simple quilt in dark, somber wool material made of blanket scraps and old uniforms hangs in the first section of the exhibit. A Union soldier in a hospital stitched it after he after he escaped from Confederate troops. An album quilt from upstate New York is beautifully pieced in the Chimney Sweep pattern. But what distinguishes it are the handwritten messages, like “Brave soldier thou will ever be remembered.” on each block. A beautiful piece with floral appliqués shows no sign of the war, but it was sold to raise funds for Confederate troops around 1862.[1]

The exhibit ends with Reconstruction. We usually think Reconstruction ended in 1876 as the nation prepared for its Centennial year, united again. Mourning ribbons for President Abraham Lincoln surround the “Reconciliation” quilt made in Brooklyn, New York in 1867. Two blocks stand out. One shows Confederate President Jefferson Davis next to a young woman holding an American flag. Another shows a black man facing a white man with the words “Master I am free.” It is clear the quilt’s maker hoped the nation could resolve its divisions.

But two items remind us that the problems of the War still affect us today. Mounted in a lone vitrine is a single white Ku Klux Klan hood From the 1920s. Nearby hangs a KKK banner from same period. The Klan resurged in 1915 due to anti-immigrant feeling. A closer look at these pieces tells a chilling story. The hood belonged to a woman. The banner is from the “Realm of Vermont.” When the Klan reappeared, women were accepted as members. Its chapters spread into the North. These mute artifacts confront us with one final question—how much did the Civil War actually resolve?

After Lincoln was assassinated, his secretary of the navy wrote reflected in a diary entry that “…. the incidents are fresh in my mind and may pass away with me by cannot ever by me be forgotten.” Through the display of many objects saved by people of all classes, Homefront and Battlefield gives us an understanding of that troubled time.

Those memories haunt us still 150 years later.

Author’s note: New York Historical has mounted a large sampling of Bill Cunningham’s Facades in the back hall of the first floor, so you will be able to see them when you exit Homefront and Battlefield! A nice bonus!”

 

[1] The exhibit is careful to dispel a myth about quilts that grew up in the 1990s. The story arose that escaping slaves were guided in on their way north by quilts that were hung out in a special “code.” A label states firmly that no record of this has ever surfaced from escaped slaves or participants in the Underground Railroad. It adds such a story does a “disservice to the true heroism and ingenuity of the slaves who escaped and those who helped them.”

*Made for “AK” in Pennsylvania by an unidentified quiltmaker, this textile illustrates the life of a Zouave soldier. It includes fabrics used by seamstresses at the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia to make Zouave uniforms. “AK” may have been Adam Keller or Albert Keen, both of whom served with the 88th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, which boasted two companies of Zouaves. Collection of Kelly Kinzle.