Heather A. VaughanA writer and historian, whose work focuses on the study of dress in the late 19th through the 20th century. Covering a range of topics and perspectives in dress history, she is primarily known for her research on designer Natacha Rambova, American fashion history, and the history of knitting in America.
Also by Heather
- A Beaten Copper Lamp of Deplorable Design
- Costume Society of America Western Region
- Dress a Day
- Dress Address
- Exhibiting Fashion
- Fashion Is My Muse
- Fashion Projects
- Fashion School Daily
- FIDM Museum Blog
- Historic Costume Preservation Workshop
- House of Nines Design
- Irenebrination: Notes on Art, Fashion and Style
- Made By Katrina
- Material World
- Monica D. Murgia
- Object of Fashion Blog
- Of Ravens and Writing Desks
- On Pins and Needles
- The Way We Wore
- The working life of Museum of London
- Thread for Thought
- Vassar College Costume Collection
- Worn Through
“For their work in bringing national attention to San Francisco’s apparel industry, these folk last night won ‘Fashion Oscars’ at a banquet of the Manufactures & Wholesalers Association. Left to right, front row, Cyril Magnin, vice president of Joseph Magnin Stores; E. C. Lipman, president of Emporium-Capwell Corp.; Miss Joan Bennett (who won a special award as outstanding representative of California fashions and spirit); J. L. Sherk, second vice president of the White House, receiving the award for Michel D. Weill, and Thomas E. Brooks, chief administrative officer of San Francisco. Back row, George De Bonis, vice president of the City of Paris, receiving the award for Paul Verdier; Sylvan Frank, president of the association, and Daniel Koshland, vice president of Levi Strauss & Co.”
If you enjoyed the brief look into Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration from last week, you’re going to love “Part II” of my interview with Natasha Rubin, who contributed a fascinating essay to this book:
Heather Vaughan: Who was your favorite person to interview for this project?
Natasha Rubin: “Deborah interviewed the vast majority of the living illustrators for the book; I contacted some of the new guard (e.g. Oksana Nedavniaya, Phillip Boutte, Jr, and Christian Cordella) for quotes. All of the interviews are pretty compelling. Julie Weiss is great to listen to because she has so many wonderful stories, I mean, she worked with Bette Davis!
The interview with designer Anthea Sylbert about working with her illustrator, Pauline Annon, was fascinating in many respects. She had worked with her for several years, but knew so little about her personal life. Pauline is still alive, but didn’t want to be interviewed; she’s a fine artist and the Hirshhorn Museum in DC has collected some of her work.”
HV: Was there one sketch that you wish you could have included that you could not?
NR: “We were able to include almost every sketch we wanted, except a few due to various reasons. In addition to museums and archives, we were lucky to have so many generous lenders including collectors, designers, illustrators, and also the cooperation of auctions houses such as Christie’s, Profiles In History, and Heritage Auctions.”
HV: How has yours and Deborah Landis’ affiliation with UCLA changed the scope of the research you’ve been doing?
NR: “The support of David Copley has given us the resources to cope with the extensive research demands that all of these projects require. UCLA has provided us with a space to work, an academic community, and of course the UCLA name acknowledges the Center’s credibility and lends prestige. It has also increased our visibility in the costume design community, both nationally and internationally. The Center is now a clearinghouse for information and personal stories about costume design history. Every day I field more requests and calls of interest; it’s very exciting!”
HV: What can you tell me about how the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design at UCLA, and what it will be able to provide for interdisciplinary historians researching this subject? What sorts of materials and resources does it provide?
NR: “The David C. Copley Center for Costume Design is in the process of digital archiving, creating a visual database of film costume illustrations, first-person accounts, and scholarly research placing costume design in the center of a century of cinema storytelling. We also continue to offer opportunities to learn more about costume design for film through panels and lectures. We welcome questions from scholars and those interested in learning more about costume design history.”
Many many thanks to Natasha for being so generous with her time, and for providing many of the images in these two posts. To learn more about the history of film costume illustration be sure to pick up a copy of Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration.
Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to go to a Costume Society of America Meet – Up (an informal and free event giving CSA members the opportunity to mix and mingle with their fellow enthusiasts) at the UC Davis Design Museum. Organized by past-president, Jo Ann C. Stabb, we had gathered together to see Structures, Signifiers and Society: People and Textiles which happened to include a curators walk-through with Mary Schoeser, a UC Davis alumna.
Schoeser, who also has a beautiful new book out Textiles: The Art of Mankind provided an amazing depth to the exhibition — highlighting unique objects and connections within the UC Davis collections. Objects ranged in age, country, technique and quality. It included both hand and machine-made textiles intended for both the art connoisseur and mass market consumers. The exhibition included groupings of historic and ethnographic textiles as they related to environment, identity, and other groupings. In her walk-through, Schoeser drew fascinating connections between the development of the loom and the development of the computer; the rise of the QR Code and it’s connections to textile weaving; in addition to the links between brain chemistry and textile production. It was truly a unique experience.
Making the meet-up all the better were the people in attendance. CSA past presidents, board members, conservators, professors, curators, as well as current students in attendance made for a valuable exchange of ideas. Following the tour, attendees mingled in the hallway over two pieces of historic clothing and examined their ins and outs. Melissa Leventon and Meg Geiss-Mooney pored over the two garments (one from c.1917, the other from c.1894) discussing their ideas about their history while attendees listened in, hovering nearby and asking questions. It was a marvelous day, and a wonderful opportunity.
Structures, Signifiers and Society: People and Textiles is on view through March 18, at the UC Davis Design Museum. Below are some photos to further tempt you:
Deborah Nadoolman Landis recently released the fantastic resource, Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration (Nov. 2012) as a follow-up to her Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design (2007). My dear friend Natasha Rubin has a marvelous essay in the book that provides depth as well as some unique insights into the research process of the book. After reading it, I wanted to know more. Natasha was kind enough to grant me an interview, which I’m pleased to share with you here:
Heather Vaughan: In your essay you note that you researched costume illustrations that had no signature or movie title: how often did that happen, and were any ‘mysteries’ solved in the book?
Natasha Rubin: “Many mysteries were solved while researching the book. The author, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, and I began to recognize designers’/illustrators’ styles and this helped us match illustrators with designers as well as identify some of the movie titles. Deborah and I had always wondered if Jean Louis drew the sketches he signed for A Star is Born (1954). Due to issues with the production, this film had three credited designers (Jean Louis, Mary Ann Nyberg and Irene Sharaff). One day, while searching the Cinémathèque Française’s digital archive, I came across costume illustrations for additional films that Mary Ann Nyberg designed and the drawings were a perfect stylistic match.
Another huge surprise was learning that John Truscott did not draw all his own sketches. Truscott only designed two films, Camelot (1967) and Paint Your Wagon (1969). The sketches from both of these films are immediately recognizable because of their distinct style, so I was quite surprised when I came across an interview on Galactica.TV’s website with costume illustrator Haleen Holt, which credits her as an illustrator for Truscott on Camelot.
I immediately contacted her and she came over to our offices at UCLA and identified—to the best of her memory—which drawings were hers and which were Truscott’s. Ms. Holt has spent over 35 years working in the entertainment industry as a costume illustrator and assistant designer, yet no collector knew her name and no museum or archive identified her in their records. In addition, Ms. Holt noted that Judy Evans (who went on to become an Emmy-winning costume designer) painted many of the aged, speckled backgrounds of the Camelot sketches. Really, if there was one illustrator I thought could not be copied, it would have been John Truscott. In the interview, Haleen recounts the difficult task she had in mimicking his style. This experience was eye-opening in terms of research and what is still unknown. Whether the lack of information was intentional on the part of the designers or the studios or deemed unimportant at the time varied from production to production and sometimes sketch to sketch.”
HV: The bibliography and resources sections of this book are extensive, though mostly primary resources. You also make note that this field has “little academic research, we are establishing the foundation of a field of study.” Who else would you say is at the forefront of historic film costume illustration research?
NR: “First, I must acknowledge the extensive research of Susan Perez Prichard, who wrote Film Costume: An Annotated Bibliography (Scarecrow Press, 1981). Ms. Prichard’s book provided the cornerstone of cinema costume history, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her. Sketch collectors and Golden Age fans have also been helpful.
While there are extensive collections of costume illustrations at archives and museums such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the British Film Institute (BFI), the Cinémathèque Française, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Deutsche-Kinemathek and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), there has been very little scholarship on their holdings. At the Cinémathèque Française Deborah was told she was the only non-museum employee who had ever come to look at the collection.
Additionally, these sketches are rarely, if ever, exhibited. Scholarship takes time and requires financial support, which has become more and more scarce. As the internet continues to compile information, more and more is available online. It would have been virtually impossible to publish this book even ten years ago, just tracking down the sketch collections would have been prohibitive, much less the text research. Though too late for our research on Hollywood Sketchbook, the Theater Library Association published Documenting: Costume Design (2010), edited by Nancy Friedland, which will provide guidance to future scholars in the field.
Also, Lynn Pektal wrote an excellent book called Costume Design:Techniques of Modern Masters (Back Stage Books, 1999), but it focuses primarily on theater designers. Many of today’s working illustrators are much more savvy about getting their work seen, whether through their own websites or book publishing; it’s fantastic that there will be a record of their contribution.”
CONFERENCE: “Conserving Modernity: the Articulation of Innovation,” 9th North American Textile Conservation Conference
San Francisco, California
November 12th – 15th, 2013
Synthetics. New ideas to old problems. Wearable art. Creative treatment solutions. Evolving installations. Collaborations with contemporary artists. These are some of the topics that will be addressed in two days of papers and posters presented in the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park for the 9th biennial North American Textile Conservation Conference.
Two days of workshops will precede the presentations and will cover aqueous cleaning solutions for textiles, natural and synthetic fiber identification, and progressive display techniques. There will also be workshops offered by San Francisco artists on innovative techniques for resist dyeing and working with ribbon to custom design trims and other embellishments.
The opening reception will take place in the Jackson Square District hosted by Peter Pap Oriental Rugs and the Lotus gallery. The closing gala will be held at the Asian Art Museum.
Following the conference, two additional tours will be offered: a cultural adventure throughout the East Bay and a tour of the Levi Strauss & Co Archives.
For more information contact: contactNATCC@natcconference.com
5th Global Conference: Fashion
Monday 9th September – Thursday 12th September 2013
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
Call for Presentations
Fashion is a statement, a stylised form of expression, which displays and begins to define a person, a place, a class, a time, a religion, a culture, subcultures, and even a nation. This inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary conference seeks to explore the historical, social, economic, political, psychological and artistic phenomenon of fashion, a powerful component of contemporary culture. Fashion lies at the very heart of persons, their sense of identity and the communities in which they live. Individuals emerge as icons of beauty and style; cities are identified as centres of fashion; the business of fashion is a billions of dollar per annum global industry, employing millions of people. The project will assess the history and meanings of fashion; evaluate its expressions in politics, business, pop culture, the arts, consumer culture, and social media; determine its effect on gender, sexuality, class, race, age, nation and other sources of identity; and explore future directions and trends.
Building on the foundations of previous meetings, publications and collaborations, the conference will be structured around 5 main areas of focus. Each area will have the opportunity to enjoy specific as well as whole group sessions. Papers, presentations, demonstrations and workshops are invited on the following themes:
1. Understanding Fashion
- Fashion, Style, Taste-Making, and Chic
- Fashion and Fashionability
- Fashion and Zeitgeist
- History of Fashion
- The Future of Fashion
2. Learning and Fashion
- Tools and Methodology
- Theorizing Fashion: Disciplines and Perspectives
- Fashion Education and Fashion Studies
- Identifying, Defining and Refining Concepts (e.g., ‘style,’ ‘fashion,’ ‘look,’ ‘fad,’ ‘trend,’ ‘in and out’)
- Studying and Documenting Fashion (curatorial practice, collections, archives, and museums)
- Fashion Specialists (e.g., pattern makers, fitters, embroiders, tailors, textile experts)
- The Materials of Fashion
3. Representing and Disseminating Fashion
- Fashion Icons
- Designer and Muses
- Style Guides and Makeover Shows
- Fashion Photography
- Fashion Magazines, Blogs, and Social Media
- Films and Documentaries about Fashion
- Fashion and the Performing Arts, Music and Television
- Celebrities as Fashion Designers
4. Identity and Fashion
- Fashion and Identity (e.g., class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, nation, transnationalism, religion, etc.)
- Fashion: (Sub)Cultures
- Fashion, Politics, and Ideology: e.g., ‘message’ fashion; political platform, regimes, and revolutions)
- Ethical Issues in Fashion (e.g., cruelty free fashion, eco-fashion, exploitative labour, the ‘fakes’ market)
- Fashion as Performance
- Fashion, the Body, and Self-Fashioning (e.g., beauty standards, body art, weight, plastic surgery, etc.)
5. The Business of Fashion
- Fashion Professions and Trades
- Fashion Cities, Fashion Weeks, Fashion’s Night Out
- Fashion Marketing (e.g., brands, flagship stores, guerilla stores, eCommerce)
- Fashion Models
- Fashion Forecasting
- Marketing Platforms (e.g., communication, streaming video, social media, etc.)
- Fashion Markets: Vintage, Nostalgia, Mass, Luxury, Emerging
- Producing Displaying Fashion (production sites, showrooms, runways, window displays, websites, etc.)
- The Rise of the Accessory as a Driving Force of Fashion
The conference is part of the Critical Issues series of research projects. The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted for and presented at this conference are eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to go forward for development into a themed ISBN hard copy volume.
For further details of the conference, please visit:
As you might have noticed, the last few weeks here at FashionHistoria have focused on book reviews. In October I began to receive a steady-stream of packages with glorious, lovely, over sized, and decadent fashion history books. I slowly, but methodically, began sharing their insides with you, starting back in October with Katherine Hepburn’s Costumes: A Book and An Exhibition. Each week in November, there was a new topic and a new book to explore:
- Kaffe Fassett: Dreaming in Colour (An Autobiography)
- “A to Z of Style” by Amy de la Haye
- Lee Alexander McQueen: Love Looks Not With The Eyes
- W: The First 40 Years
Just this last week I shared what might have been my favorite of all of them: Knitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft by Sandy Black. Today, I have the last book to share for the holiday season.
Available as of November 15, Vernier: Fashion, Femininity, and Form by Robert Muir and Becky Conekin (Hirmer Publishers) offers a highly illustrated documentation of Eugene ‘Gene’ Vernier, a photographer at British Vogue from 1954-1967. Beautiful, evocative photographs of 1950s British high fashion are included in this volume, with equally stunning essays by Robin Muir, Becky Conekin and Alistair Layzell.
Admittedly, I had not heard of Vernier (blame it on my American bias), but his covers and interior photography for Vogue in the 1950s and 1960s are absolutely stunning, and deserve the attention that this publication brings. For a quick over-view (and sneak-peek at the images included in the book), BBC News has a great video interview with Vernier from May of last year. More images can be found in this Flickr set.
Allstair Layzell’s essay, “Eugene Vernier: A life” uses the uniquely modern invention of the QR code to link still images to nine clips of film online, allowing readers to see some of Vernier’s early film work for Pathe (he was a camera man). (I’ve included one below) It’s a unique feature of Vernier: Fashion, Femininity, and Form, and one that I’ve not seen implemented in a book before.
Around Britain: 1947 (Click Image to go to watch the video)