Parisian Insights: Sonia Delaunay – The Colors of Abstraction

I first began to develop an interest in Sonia Delaunay’s work during my early years at l’Ecole du Louvre, studying history of art. It was with the avant-garde movements of art that mingled all forms of creation, from painting to furniture and textile, that I built my passion for the history of fashion. Sonia Delaunay thus belonged to those innovative artists that fueled my curiosity and it is with much pleasure that I visited the Musée d’Art Moderne’s exhibition dedicated to her. The display is an incredible retrospective that features about 400 works raging from her earliest expressionist paintings and drawings to her late abstract pieces and, of course, her experiences in design and fashion.  Sonia Delaunay, The Colors of Abstraction perfectly emphasizes the artist’s affection for color and how she used it to built dynamism and unusual forms on any kind of canvas. Her life and work spreading from the Belle Epoque to the 1970s, the exhibition explores how her work evolved during those years, placing it in a wider historical context thanks to photographies and videos of the periods.

From a Russian background, Sonia Terk settled in Paris in 1906 and soon met Robert Delaunay who would become her husband and with whom she would explore new form of abstract art based on the constructive and dynamic power of color: Simultanism. Promptly, Sonia Delaunay applied these colorful and rhythmic researches to various supports and techniques. Her relationship with textile began at her son, Charles’ birth when she imagined a blanket – presented in the display alongside her early abstract paintings – inspired by Russian folklore: a patchwork of colorful cubes that fuel their artistic concept and her will to apply their art to a new supple canvas. When World War I begins, the Delaunay family settles in Spain and Sonia Delaunay collaborates with Serge Diaghilev for the creation of costumes for a Cleopatra show danced by the Ballets Russes. Her costumes being a huge success, Sonia Delaunay becomes highly popular and thus opens a lifestyle boutique in Madrid, the Casa Sonia. When they return to Paris, the artist and designer concentrates on fashion and creates numerous textiles for the home but also simultaneous dresses, bathing suits, coats with forms dictated by colors and movement built by her intense geometric patterns. At the same time, she also works with the Dutch department store, Metz & Co that sold her fabrics.

Sonia Delaunay- Gloria Swanson coat

Sonia Delaunay- Gloria Swanson coat

In the display, textiles and fashion mostly occupy the central room within the sections dedicated to the Factory and the 19, boulevard Malsherbes, the dress of their home and dressmaking workshop – a commercial venture far from her artistic ideals but that met with much success at the 1925 International Exposition during which she collaborates with the Parisian couturier, Jacques Heim. Her colorful fashion is the mark of avant-garde personalities who dare to stand out and some of her clients are Nancy Cunard or Gloria Swanson for whom she imagined an impressive art coat presented here. The sections dedicated to Dance and Theatre (and cinema) also feature textile objects, the drawings and costumes she created while she joined forces with literature when she imagined the concept of the poem dress: dresses that bore her colors and the words of poets such as Tristan Tzara and Blaise Cendrars, once again adding a fundamental sense of modernity to her practice.  Sonia Delaunay saw color as ‘the skin of the world’, thus no wonder she intended to apply her art to fashion, our very own second skin. With her bold designs, she offered 1920s chic and modern women a daring alternative to couturier’s elegant designs. She enabled them to wear the latest innovative fashion but also the piece of art of an avant-garde artist. Often compared to Italian Futurists, Sonia Delaunay differed from their experiments as she concentrated on the chromatic effects that changed the dynamism and forms of her clothing while Giacomo Balla and the Futurists insisted on the cuts of garments and their movement in action.

After the stock-market crash of 1929, Sonia Delaunay put an end to her fashion venture and remained concentrated on textile design until her husband’s death, in 1941. She then returned to painting and was finally recognized as a major artist, from the 1960s. An artist that broke all the boarders between arts and was eager to link art and everyday life and announced with much modernism, the rise of ready-to-wear.

A bright and airy display, the Musée d’Art Moderne exhibition is beautiful and so complete with its numerous hanging photographies, paintings, drawings, illustrations…It is lively and buoyant and never marks any rupture between her painting and her design work. A must-see!




Around the World with Worn Through!


Did you know how global Worn Through is?!*

Now is a good time to check out our mast head if you haven’t before. We’ve had a few personnel changes lately and some fresh voices have joined for 2015.

As always, Worn Through features contributors from around the globe, representing international ideas in apparel scholarship.

Take a look at our bios and you’ll see we’ve got people writing in from: many places in the United States, Germany, multiple place in the UK, France, and Sweden. And that’s just where we live now, as many of our writers originate from yet more countries and have moved around for school and jobs.

We hope the varied perspectives help the breadth and depth of what you see on Worn Through! If you’d like to see more places represented or you have a new idea you think would regularly benefit our readers, drop me a line to discuss. We are considering adding one more museum professional to post monthly and would possibly like one graduate student to monthly share experiences. Those are a few ideas…

*image pulled from bellabox


Call for Submissions: British Art Studies

British Art Studies: announcing a new online journal

Call for Submissions
Deadline for the first issue is March 31, 2015

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Yale Center for British Art are pleased to announce their collaboration on a new online, open access and peer-reviewed journal. The aim of British Art Studies is to provide an innovative space for new research and scholarship of the highest quality on all aspects of British art, architecture and visual culture in their most diverse and international contexts. The journal will reflect the dynamic and broad ranging research cultures of the Paul Mellon Centre and the Yale Center for British Art, as well as the wider field of studies in British art and architecture today.

The editors are keen to encourage submissions that will make the most of the journal’s online format and want to publish articles that propose visually stimulating ways of presenting art historical research. British Art Studies will be one of the few completely open access journals in the field of art history, providing a vital forum for the growing debate about digital scholarship, publication and copyright. An editorial group based in London and New Haven will manage the journal and an international advisory board will offer advice and support.

The first issue of British Art Studies is planned for Autumn 2015. Texts should be between 5000 and 8000 words in length (although the editors are willing to discuss shorter and longer formats). Authors must include a list of proposed images and sources. See the full call for writing guidelines and a style guide.

For all enquiries about British Art Studies, contact Dr Hana Leaper,


You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Age


During my many years of fashion retail experience, mainly at upscale sportswear brands, one of the most common pieces of feedback I received was the lack of choice for older women. Yoga tops and running shorts designed with the 21 year old in mind, but priced out of her reach, dominated the shelves, while more mature women (often the mothers of these 21 year olds) with successful careers and the spending power to match struggled to find clothing designed with their bodies and tastes in mind. The recent release of advertising campaigns and cult documentaries featuring older women would suggest that the fashion industry has finally begun to take notice of their more mature consumers – but is it just another trend, or are the ‘Bright Old Things’ here to stay?

1. Julia Twigg and Shinobu Majima (2014). ‘Consumption and the Constitution of Age: Expenditure Patterns on Clothing, Hair and Cosmetics Among Post-War “Baby Boomers”.’ Journal of Aging Studies 30, 23-32.

The article addresses debates around the changing nature of old age, using UK data on spending on dress and related aspects of appearance by older women to explore the potential role of consumption in the reconstitution of aged identities. Based on pseudo-cohort analysis of Family Expenditures Survey, it compares spending patterns on clothing, cosmetics and hairdressing, 1961–2011. It concludes that there is little evidence for the ‘baby boomers’ as a strategic or distinctive generation. There is evidence, however, for increased engagement by older women in aspects of appearance: shopping for clothes more frequently; more involved in the purchase of cosmetics; and women over 75 are now the most frequent attenders at hairdressers. The roots of these patterns, however, lie more in period than cohort effects, and in the role of producer-led developments such as mass cheap fashion and the development of anti-ageing products. – Full Article Abstract

See also: Julia Twigg (2013). Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life. London: Bloomsbury.

Listen to Julia Twigg discuss fashion and later life on BBC Radio 4.

2. Robin Mellery-Pratt. ‘Bright Old Things and the Silver Spend.’ The Business of Fashion. 2 January 2015.

Robin Mellery-Pratt, fashion writer for The Business of Fashion, outlines the need for fashion businesses to successfully engage with their older customers to remain both financially competitive and culturally relevant. The British department store Selfridges’ decision to amend their 3 year tradition of featuring ‘Bright Young Things’ in favour of ‘Bright Old Things’ at the start of 2015 would suggest that some retailers are beginning to take their aging consumers seriously. Mellery-Pratt identifies other steps that fashion brands and retail outlets should take to attract and accommodate for ‘silver spenders,’ including lighting levels, product labelling, employing the right staff, and most importantly, engaging with mature consumers on an emotional level instead of neglecting them.

3. Vanessa Friedman. ‘Fashion’s Two-Faced Relationship with Age.’ The New York Times. 7 January 2015.

Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic for The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman discusses fashion’s recent obsession with older women. Citing recent advertising campaigns featuring famous mature women such as Joni Mitchell (Saint Laurent) and Joan Didion (Céline), Friedman identifies the discrepancy between brands ‘paying lip (and advertising) service to the importance of the mature market’ and actually designing with the older woman in mind. The article acknowledges the influence of Ari Seth Cohen’s blog and accompanying documentary Advanced Style and the British documentary Fabulous Fashionistas on the fashion industry, as well as the economic reality of the growing spending power of those over 50. Friedman summarizes the paradoxical relationship between fashion and aging well, stating that ‘on the one hand, fashion plays endless aesthetic homage to youth; on the other, it remains firmly in the thrall of and power, of the mature.’

Image Credit: Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent via


On Teaching Fashion: Personal technology in the classroom – friend or foe?



As the New Year starts and I return to teaching after a long break, I wonder whether technological gadgets are a friend or foe in a classroom setting. When I last taught, I did not have to be concerned about mobile phones in the classroom, let alone tablets or ipods. This is because just a few years back, mobile phones were very basic and could only send and receive calls and text messages. Do you remember those days?

My students at a boarding school in England thus never once looked at their phones during class. And when I taught a summer program in Paris, my hard-working students – who had come to Europe mostly from the USA – were rendered to using cheap calling cards in combination with the school’s land line to communicate with their families. But technology has rapidly evolved and now everyone seems to have personal smart technology on them. For me it is a concern and I need to find the right approach or else I fear ending up like Mrs Krabapple in the Simpson’s episode “Bart gets a Z”. It’s a funny episode which – in the first 10 minutes or so – shows a disaster situation in a classroom where every single child is busy with a smart mobile device. Poor Mrs Krabapple confiscates them all in her desperation, but then looses her job for the duration of the episode.

Personally, I find that smartphones have the power to be extremely distracting and I am much more productive when I put it away or even turn it off. Recently I overheard two high-school girls speaking on the bus: “Don’t worry,” one of them addressed her friend, “I will make you switch off your phone and lock it away while we study for the exam. You won’t believe how well you will learn!”

So is this the way to go? Should the phones and other smart gadgets be simply locked away during class time? Have you ever asked yourself this question or was it addressed amongst your colleagues?

There are different opinions circulating amongst educators on the net, some claiming that easy access to internet information can help with communication and discussions in class. My colleague who teaches sewing and draping states that since her students’ hands are busy with creative work, their mobile phones are left untouched. But what happens when you are teaching fashion theory and everyone is sitting behind a desk? Do you feel there should be a different policy depending on the type of lecture?

At my particular institution the students receive a laptop when they start university, and naturally it is intended for use in class. So this I will have to tolerate and I should embrace it in the classroom. In fact, I look forward to giving presentations and asking students to look up a certain important website or see them type up their notes instead of writing them on paper, using the laptop very professionally like one would do in an office.

Interestingly, exactly this opinion has been supported in recent studies: “Two classroom-based studies reveal that the use of laptops, in particular, can have a positive effect on student attention and learning—if these tools are used for course-related, instructional purposes. However, when in-class laptop-use was not a required part of the class, the students in these studies reported lower levels of engagement and learning.”

Still, there are the mobile phones (and tablets) which can have chat and messenger applications, photos to exchange, etc. which certainly are not course-related. And today, when I sat in on a colleague’s lesson I whitnessed the use of them: Once the students’ brains were tired from all the theory, they effortlessly resorted to tapping away on their smartphones or chatting. It seemed to me that their dwindling attention was reinforced through phone usage. Had they resorted to doodling, I think they would have still perceived more of the lecture.

Actually, if you look on the net, there is quite a lot of research proving that phones are a nuisance and should be banned from classrooms.

For example, “a study by Duncan, Hoekstra, and Wilcox (2012) demonstrated that students who reported regular cell phone use in class showed an average negative grade difference of 0.36 ± 0.08 on a four-point scale. Students also underestimated the number of times they accessed their phones while in class. While students reported an average access rate of three times per class period, observation data showed the rate was closer to seven times per period. An interesting finding is that other students are distracted when students text in class (Tindell and Bohlander, 2012). So while a student may claim he’s only hurting himself when texting, studies show that others are affected also.” (- See more at:

And in Japan, a country which loves its very advanced mobile phones, just a few years ago the government stated that “students will be prohibited from using cell phones at the majority of public primary, middle and high schools.” (Source:

For me, this information is very insightful. In on-line forums, teachers who have a no-phone policy point out that this must be made clear at the beginning of the semester. Some make students lay their phones on a table so that they are in sight, but out of reach. A stricter method is to drop students’ grades or even fail them if they do not comply with the policies. However, an exception must be made out of consideration for students who are parents and need to be reachable by their child’s day-care facility.

Now having read up on this topic, I personally feel that most personal technology in the classroom is rather foe than friend. I might try this approach in the upcoming semester and tell the students:

“A few years ago I worked for Japan Airlines as a flight attendant.” (This was my way of researching Japanese culture and language.)

“So let’s imagine that this classroom is an airplane. We are taking a flight into the most interesting topics. During the duration of our flight, all mobile pohones must be switched off and put away. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Please enjoy your classroom flight!”


Photo credit:

What were your experiences with technology in the classroom and what are your personal policies and those of your institution?

Have you tried to integrate technology into the course material and how did it benefit the students? Do you perceive technology to be distracting or helpful?

Nota Bene: By the way, most airlines make you turn off electronic devices during take-off and landing not because of electronic equipment interference, but because in case of an emergency your full attention is necessary in order to hear the crew’s commands and successfully survive a dangerous incident.


(Opening Image credit:


Review: Women Fashion Power, Design Museum, London

Women Fashion Power opened at the Design Museum on the south side of the Thames in London on 29 October 2014 and is on display until 26 April 2015Co-curated by Donna Loveday, Head of Curatorial at the Design Museum, and Colin McDowell, fashion commentator and writer, the exhibition offers an unprecedented look at how princesses, models, CEOs, Dames and designers have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world.”

A view of the exhibition from the back so you can see the third section Fashion and Women in the foreground, the second section Power and Fashion in the background.

Over one floor, the curators have chosen to approach the subject by splitting sources into three sections: Women and Power; Power and Fashion; Fashion and Women.  The first section, Power and Fashion, presents the visitor with a line up of historical portraits representing well known women in positions of authority including Cleopatra, Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Queen Elizabeth II.  The second section, Fashion and Women, invites the visitor to look at how fashion has enabled women to obtain a range of increasing freedoms since the mid 19th century.  The final section, Women and Power, is dedicated to a display of 28 mannequins, dressed in a range of outfits lent by women considered to be successful in the fields of fashion, politics, business and culture.  Each outfit is accompanied by a photograph of the individual woman and her explanation of its significance in her working life.

A view of the first section Power and Fashion, featuring portraits and descriptions.

Upon reading the museum’s description of this exhibition, I was given the impression that the third section, featuring what Loveday describes as a series of “fashion portraits of contemporary women” would be the main highlight and therefore would have the most space given over to it.  For me, this was an exciting prospect because, as Loveday explained in an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley before the exhibition opened to the public,  ‘women are the heroes’ of what they wear, not fashion designers or retailers.  Since I received Women in Clothes for Christmas, I have poured over endless case studies of women thinking about what they wear, in all sorts of ways and with all sorts of clothes.  Each women featured is a hero in her own life, often the result of a complex and intimate relationship with what they wear so I could not have agreed more with Loveday’s comment.  Subsequently, I expected Women Fashion Power to invite me in and contemplate the ways in which fashion, dress, authority, success and politics create interesting intersections within the lives of a bunch of real women who hold a range of positions of power in society.

A view of the stairwell going up to the exhibition entrance featuring graphics by Lucienne Roberts.

Unfortunately, I could not have been more wrong.  To begin with, the exhibition is dominated by the second section on Fashion and Women. Covering over 150 years of fashion developments from the corset to ethical fashion, the displays chart how changes in what women have worn are the result of important social, political and economic changes, not just whims of fashion or frivolity. Despite Loveday’s insistence that it is not a history of fashion, it clearly is and this is reflected in the physical layout of sources, which are arranged chronologically.   I was met with predictable displays dedicated to eponymous designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Diane von Furstenburg or Coco Chanel and arrangements on the promotion of fashion or couture. Teleological in approach, this section appears to make very simplistic links between developments in fashion and increasing freedoms bestowed upon women in the last century.  

image1 image2

‘Feminism’ and the Wonderbra (authors own photographs)

To see ‘Feminism’ reduced to a small display was disheartening, given how much the ideas associated with both the historical movement and theoretical discipline have not only informed women’s dress since but also reframed our understanding of women lives in the past.  When I came across a display of the well analysed Wonderbra advertisement featuring Eva Herzigova from 1995 without any explanation, it was difficult not to feel further disappointment.  Where were the documented experiences of women at certain historical moments and how they related what they wore to those events?  I did manage to find one example of this in a clip from a documentary in 1979 by the BBC called An English Woman’s Wardrobe.  It featured Margaret Thatcher going through her wardrobe, pulling out outfits that she had worn and explaining their significance to the presenter.  It was absolutely fascinating to see how interested and aware Thatcher was about what she wore and when.  If women in positions of power are this highly aware of what they wear, surely the rest of us are pretty conscious of the fact too?


Margaret Thatcher discussing her wardrobe (authors own photograph)

To get to the third section, Women and Power, where I was hoping to find the real women, I had to go to the very back of the exhibition.  Given that this was a fashion exhibition that claimed to show how women related to fashion in their work lives, I think the fashion figures were unnecessary; many of them already feature in the second section.  Other figures include Camila Batmanghelidjh, Skin from Skunk Anansie and Dame Zaha Hadid.  Anyone familiar with those I have just named will know they represent a diversity of shapes, ages, ethnicities and styles so I was very surprised to find that all their outfits had been presented on identical mannequins, thereby diminishing both the status of the wearer and the significance of their clothes.

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Camila Batmanghelidjh’s photograph and outfit (authors own photographs)

I felt better when I discovered there are interviews, Q&As, with all the women featured about what they wear and their daily work lives, nicely ecohing the ethos of Women in Clothes and reminding us of their various individualities. Yet, these are presented as printouts within A4 binders so could easily be overlooked.  They require time to read, and after having spent too much time trying to negotiate the second section, I was unable to give them my full attention.


Q&As on display at the back (authors own photograph)

Although the selection of women represent important sectors such as business, politics and culture, it was a shame not to see education, health or science included.   It is not surprising, therefore, that like many I was drawn to the outfit of Morwenna Wilson, a chartered engineer who has led the Kings Cross construction project in London.  Here is a woman whom we might never see otherwise, given what she does for a living.  Her decision to compliment a daily uniform of black trousers and white top with a range of interesting jackets, including one by Carven featuring a map of Paris, in an effort to be noticed within her work environment spoke volumes.  As a successful woman in a field dominated by men, Wilson drew attention to the subtle but important way clothes can help to define oneself in environments where dress conformity tends to be standardised.  Her interest in what to wear reminded me just how much gender roles and stereotypes inform what women wear and how little this is addressed throughout the exhibition.

Morwenna Wilson wearing her Carven jacket

If, as Loveday suggests, this is an attempt to explore fashion beyond the obvious term ‘power dressing’ associated with the 1980s then, yes, the exhibition definitely does that but, overall, it is underwhelming, only hinting at the complexities of how actual women negotiate power in their lives through dress.  There is a certain irony in this, considering just how many fantastic objects are on display.  

I probably should have spotted the clue in the title.  Women Fashion Power.  Not a Multiple Choice.  This exhibition is about women and fashion, which is the obvious bit.  Power, arguably less apparent but much more fascinating is sort of stuck on at the end. Fashion, power and women may not be about multiple choices but its a shame that the exhibition did not fully explore these limitations or discuss how women could have more choice in the future.  A more impactful exhibition might have emerged if the title had been rearranged to become Power Women Fashion.

I would love to hear what you thought of this exhibition, especially the 28 fashion portraits and the Q&As if you had a chance to read them.  How is what you wear informed by what you do in your work, where you work and with whom?


Opening image from the exhibition of women wearing beachwear in the 1930s. Image credit: []


Conference Review: Fashion, Dress and Society in Europe during World War One


Last month I was lucky enough to attend the Fashion, Dress and Society in Europe during World War One conference, co-hosted by Dominique Veillon, Lou Taylor, Adelheid Rasche and Patrick Fridenson, and held at l’Institut Français de la Mode in Paris on December 12th and 13th, 2014.

A packed program featuring 60 speakers, the conference brought together academics, curators, journalists and independent researchers from across Europe and North America. Dominique Veillon, director of research at l’Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, opened the conference on Friday with an overview of the massive social, political and cultural upheaval which took place during the four years of World War One. The rest of the morning’s speakers included Mary Lynn Stewart on marketing haute couture in America, Catherine Join-Dieterle on the fashion magazine l’Art et la Mode, Adelheid Rasche on fashion images in Paris, Berlin and Vienna, Amy de la Haye on British Women’s Land Army uniforms, Alexandra Palmer on war and fashion in Canada, and Lourdes Font on American buyers, designer and journalists in Paris. I especially enjoyed Rasche’s presentation on her exhibition ‘Wardrobes in Wartime 1914-1918,’ which used graphic works from the Lipperheid Costume Library at the National Museum in Berlin.

In the afternoon, attendees heard from Victoria Rovine on French fashion and colonial influence, Margaret Vining and Barton C. Hacker on American female military uniforms, Guillaume de Syon on French aviation uniforms, Patricia Tilburg on the patriotic cockade-making French garment workers, and Marguerite Coppens on French and Belgian lacemaking. Lou Taylor from the University of Brighton concluded the first day of the conference with a paper discussing British nurses’ uniforms and their appropriation by upper-class women volunteers, raising issues of class tension, control and authority through the use of clothing.

On the second day, papers were grouped by subject and presented simultaneously in three different rooms. I had been deliberating my choices since the Eurostar train ride over on Thursday and was now faced with a few difficult decisions. For the morning’s first session, I chose the ‘Images of War’ panel of speakers, featuring Muriel Berthou-Cresty on Adolf de Meyer’s photography for Vogue, Cally Blackman on fashion in the autochromes of Albert Kahn’s Archives de la Planète, Änne Söll on Viennese men’s fashion magazine Die Herrenwelt, and Enrica Morini on Italian fashion magazine Margherita. Four presentations accompanied by beautiful, vivid imagery, I was particularly struck by Blackman’s study of autochromes, early colour photographs which have been under-used by fashion historians to date.

‘Haute Couture & Couturiers’ was the theme of the second session I chose, with papers presented by Ana Balda on haute couture consumption in Spain, Emmanuelle Polle and Johanna Zanon on the early years of Jean Patou, Sophie Kurkdjian on the wartime fashion publications of Lucien Vogel, and Katy Conover on haute couture in England. The highlight from this session for me was Polle and Zanon’s presentation, as I am thoroughly enjoying my copy of Polle’s recent book on Patou and could not help but envy the author’s unprecedented access to the Patou family archives.


In the afternoon, I must confess that I skipped out on the third session to visit the Sonia Delaunay: Les Couleurs de l’Abstraction exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Although I would have liked to attend one of the three sessions (‘War in the Archives,’ ‘Women & Identity,’ ‘Women during the War’), the exhibition certainly did not disappoint – stay tuned for Hayley-Jane’s review of the exhibition for Worn Through in the coming weeks.

Returning for the final session of the conference, I just barely managed to get a seat for the ‘Production & Consumption’ session upstairs in a smaller classroom. Papers presented by Suzanne Rowland on ready-made blouses in Britain, Marta Kargol on dress production and homemade clothing in the Netherlands, Marie McLoughlin on the evolution of the trench coat, and Laura Casal-Valls on fashion production and consumption in Barcelona provided an excellent conclusion to the conference, albeit with a slightly dramatic trench coat controversy. Final comments by Lou Taylor and conference organizers Maude Bass-Krueger and Sophie Kurkdjian, along with an excellent bistro dinner that evening, rounded out a weekend very well spent in Paris.


Overall, Fashion, Dress and Society in Europe during World War One brought together a very interesting and diverse group of presenters. My only suggestion for improvement would have been the addition of simultaneous translation, as nearly half of the papers were delivered in French but not all attendees were French speakers. However, many of the presenters were prepared with translated copies of their papers to distribute or bilingual presentation slides, and all were willing to answer questions following their talks in either language.

Image Credits: (first image, second and third author’s own)


CFP: Fashion to Deconstruct and Reimagine Gender

Call for Proposals

Crossing Boundaries: Fashion to Deconstruct and Reimagine Gender
Submissions due: March 1, 2015

This call for proposals is to gauge interest in a potential new publication which has already had strong interest from Bloomsbury publishing. Please see submission procedures (below). Our hope is the final text will be approximately 250‐300 pages with each paper no more than 7,000 words including figures and references.

Andrew (Andy) Reilly, Associate Professor, University of Hawai`i, Mānoa, USA
Ben Barry, Assistant Professor, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Dress is primarily vehicle by which we experience, embody and enact gender. While dress constructs a gender binary system, it also has the power to deconstruct this very system that it has created. This book examines how dress has divided particular modes of dress into specific gendered categories as well as how dress is being used by people to deconstruct the gender binary and re‐imagine gender altogether. From Afghani girls who dress as boys to mature men who borrow their wives clothing to contemporary menswear designers whose collections conflate gender categories, this book reveals the multitude of ways in which fashion destabilizes gender in diverse contexts. While previous works have focused on the relationship between fashion and crossdressing in relation to queer communities and for men or women specifically, this book brings together a diversity of situations and contexts in which people actively cross gender boundaries through fashion and selfpresentation.

This edited volume will include classic and new articles on the role of dress in constructing and reconstructing gender. The book will be divided into four chapters:

1. The construction of gender through dress
2. Femininities
3. Masculinities
4. Androgyny

Target Audience:
The primary target market is students in upper level (3rd and 4th year) fashion oriented classes that focus on behavioral aspects of fashion and dress. The secondary market is undergraduate students in gender, sexuality, anthropology, sociology, and psychology studies courses. The tertiary market is general readers of fashionoriented academic books (e.g., researchers, academics). The text will be broad enough to serve the needs of one course (e.g., a course on Fashion and Society), but could also be used as an enhancement where a primary text is used (e.g., Cultural Anthropology, Gender Studies).

Examples of suggested topics

Geopolitics and crossdressing
Social and legal regulation of gender through appearance
Transgender issues related to appearance and style
Body image/body management related to maintaining or disrupting gender boundaries
Historic development of gendered clothing
Gendered clothing related to children (e.g., princess culture)
Consequences of violating gender appearance norms
Fashion consumption and dressing practices of gender nonconforming garments
Cultural differences with regard to gender and appearance
Straight men who crossdress
Fashion designers, brands and retailers who disrupt gender norms
Fashion imagery and models that challenge gender codes
Fantasy and eroticism related to crossdressing
Genderless, sexless clothing
Men and beauty pageants / women and bodybuilding

Submission Procedures: Please note these dates are estimates and subject to change

1. Proposals for a paper should clearly reflect the main topics covered in the paper, paper structure, approximate number of words and an overview of the relevant sources. With the proposal submit a biographical sketch of 5060 words. The sketch should identify where authors earned their highest degrees, their current affiliations and positions, current research interests and publications, and an email address. Please submit to or no later than March 1, 2015.

2. Authors will be informed about acceptance or rejection of their proposals no later than April 15, 2015. The entire book proposal will then be sent to Bloomsbury for a thorough review by international scholars. A response from Bloomsbury is expected in August 2015.

3. Based on the expected date (August 2015) that Bloomsbury accepts the proposal, authors will be sent article guidelines and full chapters should be submitted by January 20, 2016.

6. Authors will be informed about editorial decisions on the full paper by April 1, 2016.

7. The author(s) will be invited to execute revisions and submit the revised chapters by June 1, 2016.

8. The entire book will be submitted to Bloomsbury by September 1, 2016 where it will go through the publisher’s own manuscript peer review.

Please contact the Editors with any questions: Andy Reilly ( or Ben Barry (


You Should Be Watching: Contemporary Collecting in Museums

As many museums confront issues of limited storage space and the costs associated with maintaining and conserving their collections, the question of what artefacts are worthy of collecting has become increasingly important. At the same time, museums must be willing to adapt to the changing expectations of their visitors in an increasingly fast-paced and technologically advanced time. The following five videos from three different institutions explore different approaches to contemporary collecting in museums. What do you think of museums commissioning designed objects specifically for their collections, in the case of the ROM and the Museum of London, or collecting objects the minute they hit the headlines, in the case of the V&A? We welcome your comments below.

1. Christian Dior Haute Couture for the ROM

Two videos from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto outline the museum’s acquisition of a Christian Dior Couture coat dress, displayed in the exhibition ‘BIG‘ in 2012-2013. Named ‘Passage #5,’ the dress is from the Spring/Summer 2011 Couture collection, inspired by the illustrations of René Gruau and designed by John Galliano (in a collection which would be his last for Dior, a fact which the ROM would not have been able to predict at the time of their order, but has no doubt added value to the garment as a result). The first video, also commissioned by the ROM, follows the creation of the dress in the Paris ateliers of Christian Dior, as well as the pleating atelier Lognon and embroidery house Hurel. Beautiful shots of the Dior seamstresses at work are interspersed with footage of the dress being modelled on the catwalk. The second video briefly shows the curators at the ROM unpacking the delivery of the Dior dress and its accessories to a small, anticipating audience. The museum’s acquiring of this piece raises questions surrounding motives for collecting. The ‘Passage #5′ dress was created specifically for the ROM in standard judy measurements and traveled directly from Dior’s ateliers in Paris to the museum store room, scarcely inhabiting the ‘outside’ world and never worn by an actual person. Does this lack of provenance diminish the historical significance or value of the object, or is the ROM making a statement regarding fashion’s place in the museum, as a work of art and craftsmanship worthy of just as much admiration as a painting?

2. Rapid Response Collecting at the V&A

This Lighthouse Arts Monthly Talks video features Corinna Gardner, curator of contemporary product design at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Gardner discusses the museum’s recent ‘rapid response collecting’ strategy and its reception by the public over the past year. Seeking items that represent ‘material evidence of social, political, economic and technological change,’ the museum has acquired the world’s first 3-D printed gun, a pair of Primark cargo pants that may have been made at the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka and Christian Louboutin’s Nudes Collection high-heeled shoes. Gardner states that the V&A wants to generate ‘discussions and debates about objects in the institution while they’re still ongoing,’ but the museum has been accused by some of collecting sensationalized objects based solely on their headline-grabbing status.

Read more reactions to the V&A’s rapid response collecting from The Guardian and The Independent.

3. Sherlock Holmes Tweed for the Museum of London

Coinciding with the exhibition Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, the Museum of London has commissioned the creation of a Sherlock Holmes Tweed fabric, as well as a deerstalker hat and three-piece suit made from this tweed. Designed and created by Lovat Mill of Hawick, Scotland, the tweed is intended to represent the city of London while incorporating colours that feature prominently in the stories of Sherlock Holmes. After a series of mesmerizing shots of the tweed in production through warping, drawing, weaving and finishing, the finished textile is cut and sewn into the detective’s iconic deerstalker hat. Meanwhile, the second video takes the newly created Sherlock Holmes tweed to Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons to create a three-piece suit for British rapper and 2015 London Collections: Men ambassador Tinie Tempah. Like the ROM’s Dior dress, the tweed fabric, deerstalker hat and three-piece suit were commissioned specifically by the museum and will enter the museum’s collection after the exhibition – however, the museum is also selling Sherlock Holmes Tweed merchandise to its visitors, adding a commercial element to the discussion surrounding these objects’ places in a museum collection. According to the press release, the entire project is ‘another milestone in the GLA and BFC supported project to position London as the home of menswear,’ but should these commissioned objects also be collected by the Museum of London to represent today’s British menswear industry?


On Teaching Fashion: Inspiring creativity from the beginning

In the Christmas holidays I find myself reflecting on the autumn term, as the first third of the academic year. In this part of the year I undertake the most challenging projects with my students. A Fashion and Clothing course must be as wide as possible as quickly as possible. With precious time in the first year up-skilling and broadening horizons must commence.

I remember particularly the initial project I delivered in my first year of teaching, which I called ‘Radical Fashion.’ The stimulus for this came from my college days where I could be found clutching Claire Wilcox’s ‘Radical Fashion’ which was a great inspiration of textures, materials and shapes. Starting work I had great creative ideas, aiming to get the students to be innovative and outlandish to start their course. I showed images of clothes and costumes that would definitely not be found on the radar of teenagers’ high street shopping excursions or Internet buying experiences, and challenged the students to ‘think outside the box’.  Such as McQueen’s use of creative materials and how throughout his career he pushed the boundaries of acceptability.

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With a class of 24 students who had a range of established knowledge as they entered the course, each member of the class also had different skill levels and preconceived areas of interest. Teaching in this sector is a fast paced environment with valuable little time; as soon as students arrive you begin by saying- where are you going to go next? At the end of their 1st year there are open days galore to attend and in the autumn of the 2nd year the University applications go off! I must say though, the biggest misconception you hear is that if you are doing ‘fashion’ it means of course you will become nothing else but ‘fashion designer.’

To inspire students in my teaching I also often refer to the work of Martin Margiela, who until he collaborated with H+M in 2012 probably was not a name teenagers entering their course would be aware of. I visited the ‘20’ retrospective at Somerset House in 2010 where his skill in history, craftsmanship and innovation was shown throughout his timeless contemporary work. Margiela is noted as an inspiration to McQueen in contemporary Fashion and part of the legendary Antwerp Six group from the late 80’s. Quoted by Marc Jacobs in 2008:

“Anybody who’s aware of what life is in a contemporary world is influenced by Margiela.”

Teaching Fashion, when initial key skills are delivered and learnt, is a very one-to-one topic. Like any creative subjects when the primary inspiration stimulus is given, students develop in different directions. Our job now is to juggle multiple projects at once. Giving varied and cutting edge visual examples and research trips inspires unique creativity in all. Also I have found inspiring students with images of work, contemporary or historical which is new to them draws in attention and develops innovation. Many of these derive from my own CPD, attending shows and exhibitions to ensure my knowledge is current. How do you inspire a new cohort of students? Do you have any techniques which you use to widen a fresh intakes’ thought process?

As I think back on my first term in work it was a rather fraught term, but a learning curve for all involved, including me.