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.
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:
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!
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
*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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
EXPOSED: THE HISTORY OF LINGERIE
MUSEUM @ FIT
JUNE 3-NOVEMBER 15, 2014
Guest Exhibition Review By Nadine L. Stewart
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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 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.”
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. “
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.”
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.
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.
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
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*:
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.”
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 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.”
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.
I can’t always review the books that publishers are kind enough to send, but I did want to at least share with you some of the new books that have come out recently, in case they help with something you’re researching:
Fashion and Ethics focuses on issues of power, social positioning, and practices among creators, producers, practitioners, wearers, and consumers of fashion. With a special emphasis on the moral fabric of clothing, contributors to the book offer a critique of some of the fundamental assumptions of ethical fashion and expose how products are often framed as fair trade in order to relieve consumers’ guilt.
Hawai’i is one of the most ethnically and racially diverse places in the world due to its central location in the Pacific. Situated at the crossroads of different cultures, Honolulu has a style all of its own. Honolulu Street Style captures this unique approach as it demonstrates how global trends are transformed by stylish Honolulu denizens to give them a unique, local look. Divided into chapters on hair, hats, accessories, and beachwear, the book features the styles of people encountered on the street and in many different neighborhoods, with an essay on the history and clothing of Hawai’i as a whole.
1000 Dresses by Tracy Fitzgerald and Alison Taylor, Barron’s Educational Series (Mar 1, 2014)
The study of the dress can reveal a wealth of information that can epitomize an era and provide insight into the historical, social, and cultural context of the time. Here, in this comprehensive library of 1,000 garments, the authors explore and document all aspects of the dress, from its evolution and impact on the fashion industry to its ability to move from functional garment to art form. A directory of dresses is organized by style, with variations for each. Cut, construction, embellishments, proportion, symmetry, volume and more are reviewed.
I can’t always review the books that publishers are kind enough to send, but I did want to at least share with you some of the new books that have come out, in case they help with something you’re researching:
Fetish Style by Frenchy Lunning Bloomsbury Academic (April 11, 2013)
Fetish Style traces the history, forms and tendencies of sub-cultural fashions that are popular in both mainstream and alternative fashion cultures. Presenting the world of subcultural fetish clothing design in all of its richness and beauty, this book explores the idea of fetish as subversive and repressive as reflected in clothing choices in people of all ages and cultures. Linking the fetishistic aspects of contemporary culture with everyday clothing as dictated by fashion and merchandizing, Fetish Style presents a fascinating study of historical as well as 21st century subcultures. Case studies include the Japanese-influenced ‘tribes’ of the various Lolita formations, the Shotaru (male Lolita), the club scene, the Goths, the hip-hop fashions and other locally-formed fetishized practices.
A one-stop resource packed full of advice and guidance that will help you to succeed in the fashion world, this book provides a detailed overview of the fashion industry as a business, combined with an insider’s understanding of the creative process and the lifestyle of a fashion entrepreneur.
The colour and shade of dyed textiles were once as much an indicator of social class or position as the fabric itself and for centuries the recipes used by dyers were closely guarded secrets. The arrival of synthetic dyestuffs in the middle of the nineteenth century opened up a whole rainbow of options and within 50 years modern dyes had completely overturned the dyeing industry. From pre-history to the current day, the story of dyed textiles in Western Europe brings together the worlds of politics, money, the church, law, taxation, international trade and exploration, fashion, serendipity and science.
Informative, illuminating, insightful and erudite, Slogan T-Shirts: Cult and Culture is completely unique. Featuring interviews with a wealth of credible fashion insiders, cultural commentators and creative luminaries, from Holly Johnson (of Frankie Goes to Hollywood) to Katharine Hamnett, it offers a multi-faceted approach to the question of what makes the slogan T-shirt so rich, layered and culturally relevant… because slogans are never simply just words; they are emotive and evocative, suggestive and provocative.
Unique and exciting, this ethnographic study is the first to address a little-known subculture, which holds a fascination for many. The first decade of the twenty-first century has displayed an ever increasing fixation with vampires, from the recent spate of phenomenally successful books, films, and television programmes, to the return of vampire-like style on the catwalk. Amidst this hype, there exists a small, dedicated community that has been celebrating their interest in the vampire since the early 1990s. The London vampire subculture is an alternative lifestyle community of people from all walks of life and all ages, from train drivers to university lecturers, who organise events such as fang fittings, gothic belly dancing, late night graveyard walks, and ‘carve your own tombstone’.
Queer Style by Vicki Karaminas, Bloomsbury Academic (October 10, 2013)
Queer Style offers an insight into queer fashionability by addressing the role that clothing has played in historical and contemporary lifestyles. From a fashion studies perspective, it examines the function of subcultural dress within queer communities and the mannerisms and messages that are used as signifiers of identity. Diverse dress is examined, including effeminate ‘pansy,’ masculine macho ‘clone,’ the ‘lipstick’ and ‘butch’ lesbian styles and the extreme styles of drag kings and drag queens.
Divided into three main sections on history, subcultural identity and subcultural style, Queer Style will be of particular interest to students of dress and fashion as well as those coming to subculture from sociology and cultural studies.
From Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay. Fashion and style have played an important role within the LGBTQ community, as well, even as early as the 18th century. This provocative book looks at the history of fashion through a queer lens, examining high fashion as a site of gay cultural production and exploring the aesthetic sensibilities and unconventional dress of LGBTQ people, especially since the 1950s, to demonstrate the centrality of gay culture to the creation of modern fashion.
Wiener Chic by Susan Ingram, Intellect Ltd (November 9, 2013)
Vienna may not be a city of fashion per se, but it is a fashionable city, a city which historically has been structured by changing fashions and fashionable appearances, by the tortured yet glittering façades of personalities and buildings. Like the Litfa säule in Orson Welles’s 1949 urban noir masterpiece The Third Man, which Harry Lime escapes into in order to avoid capture and the guileless visitor presumes are merely surfaces for advertising, and like the stolen letter left prominently on display in Poe’s short story, Vienna wears its charms on its sleeve, confident they won’t be recognized. By focusing on cinematic and institutional mediations of fashion and style, Wiener Chic explores and re-narrates the historical formation of Vienna’s urban imaginary. It takes the material dimension of urban culture seriously and mobilizes fashion as a structure of visibility that can direct the critical gaze at revealing aspects of the urban fabric from façades to festivals.
When Marlene Dietrich makes her entrance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright, the Dior dress she wears immediately draws the viewer’s attention—not because of its designer label, but owing to the dramatic blood stains ruining its stylish surface. Fashion in film goes far beyond glamorous costumes on glamorous stars, as Jonathan Faiers proves in Dressing Dangerously, a pioneering study of the “cinematic negative wardrobe” revealed in mainstream movies. The book emphasizes how problematic, even shocking depictions of dress, until now largely overlooked, play pivotal roles in shaping film narrative.
From clothing to the painted and scarified nude body, through overt, public display or esoteric symbols known only to the initiated, dress can convey information about beliefs, faith, identity, power, agency, resistance, and fashion. Taking a ‘senses’ approach, Hume’s engaging account takes into consideration the look, smell, feel, touch and sound of religious apparel, the ‘smells and bells’ of dress and its accoutrements, as well as the emotions evoked by donning religious garb.