- Matisse, Henri. Woman Reading with Peaches.1923.
This is an exciting time of the year for me as a teacher. All year I throw all manner of resources in a box in the corner of my office. It is around this time each summer when I pull the box out and start sorting through. At the beginning of the summer it is possible to map out course preps and all of that summertime “to do” research we have been putting in a box in the corner of our academic lives.
Pull out your calendars and mark a set number of days/hours for academic enrichment. For example, one morning a week I sit with a large cup of coffee and sort, organize, day dream and move forward with tangible plans for my boxed “to do” materials.
Similarly, now is the time to re-read the course texts and re-engage with the material you will teach in the fall. If you have new course preps you can follow this same schedule, one chapter a week, creating materials for that week. By August you will be organized and can re-touch and final prep before the first day of classes. Mark of a second morning a week for coursework, I do one morning per class. Enjoy your summer now by planning in all of the reading and academic research you are pushing to the side during the school year. Happy prepping!
Thank you we’ve completed receiving apps for 2013-14 interns. We are hoping to pick 2 people within the next week to hopefully start soon. If you sent an app and did not receive a response email, send us another contact letter. We attempted to let everyone know an app was received. Those who did apply may receive some communications from us asking for more details.
Once again, the quality and quantity of the apps is humbling.
Jill Salen’s new pattern book, Vintage Swimwear: Historical Patterns and Techniques (May 2013), is the third in her series of great resources for those who love to sew or want to get closer to the study of historic clothing. Written by a costume maker with extensive experience in the theater world, Vintage Swimwear examines each museum object featured in its pages with respect for the garment itself as well as its clothing-historical context.
Those familiar with Salen’s previous works, Corsets and Vintage Lingerie, will recognize the format. The author begins with an overview of the cultural history of swimwear in the British Isles, focused on the years 1880-1970; the extant garments and the cultural history in this book are exclusively British. Anecdotal historical evidence ranging from the advice on the healthful benefits of bathing in (and drinking) seawater from Dr. Richard Russell in 1753 to the impact of Brigitte Bardot’s world-famous bikinis give the reader a sense of the evolution of bathing suits and bathing. Early in the introduction, Salen acknowledges the materiality of swimwear, the very closeness to our bodies and sensuality of clothing that makes the study of costume so human and exciting:
Comfortable, practical swimwear has been available for over 50 years, supporting our bodies in flattering ways, allowing us to swim vigorously and drying quickly. However, some of the swimwear of the past was certainly not comfortable: many among the older generations will remember how it felt to wear a woollen costume that filled with water and tried hard to pull itself off your body as you left the sea, or a cotton bikini that contained no Lycra, and revealed far more of the body than the designer intended. (6)
Although few will probably re-create the “Red and White Swimming Outfit” of red cotton (c. 1880, 10-11) for their next trip to Watch Hill or Cocoa Beach, the experiential learning that comes from re-creating historic garments is of great value to the scholar. We have relatively little direct, physical access to historic clothing, perhaps with the exception of vintage shops, whose selection is often limited to the twentieth century. Books such as those by Salen and other legendary pattern-makers and costumers, such as Janet Arnold and Jenny Tiramani, give us an alternate route to experiencing historic garments. One without nitrile gloves and collections policies, where you can even try a garment on–in the water!–and feel that heaviness of wet wool described above, and then the relative freedom of a machine-shirred 1930s sunsuit or a flower-print cotton 1960s bikini.
To re-create these garments in their original materials is quite a challenge, however, and because many, especially those from the twentieth century, were manufactured by large companies instead of home-made, the “authentic” experience from drafting the pattern to wearing the garment is unavailable. But Salen’s meticulous work creating patterns from extant garments in the Symington Collection (Leicestershire Museum Service and St Fagans: National History Museum, Cardiff) results in a rich resource for all–even those who cannot sew.
I think it is significant that Salen was not allowed to handle these garments; this will affect her measurements, which were taken by holding measuring tapes “above or alongside” the garments, but never touching them (6). Compare this to an article written in 1980 for the periodical Dress, in which Marcia Prellwitz and Marcia D. Metcalf use basting stitches in nineteenth century garments to document and take measurements of these extant pieces. While each museum has different policies–and I certainly do not advise extensive handling of historic garments–the growing preciousness ascribed to historic clothing severely limits its study. While acknowledging these setbacks in her introduction, Salen provides the reader with detailed diagrams and measurements of each extant garment.
Men’s Swimwear: “Sports Shorts, White With Red Stripes, 1890-1900″ and “Black Swimming Trunks, 1960s.” pp 94-95, “Vintage Swimwear.”
Salen chose twenty-nine swimming outfits to analyze, eight of which are for men. Each garment is heralded with a full-page color photograph, or two when the suit has an interesting feature such as a removable skirt, a famous label, or intriguing design details on back side. Salen uses each of these garments as a material-culture springboard into clothing history, using one accessible page of text to quote from contemporary sources and cite specific wear patterns or idiosyncrasies in the sewing:
The bra cups are interlined with a slightly thicker fabric that has been cut and zigzag stitched together with no overlap, and these form the shaping with the underwire. The edges are bound in the same fabric as the garment, creating the shoulder straps. The bra top has button and buttonhole closure, so there is nothing that could rust and damage the fabric….The shorts or bikini bottoms have a 36 in (91 cm) waist and hip; I think this bikini was aimed at the mature market rather than a teenage one. (Green Flower Print Bikini, 1960s, 79)
These few sentences act both as clues for the home seamstress re-creating the swimsuits as well as the historian; the methods of manufacture are as important as the form and fashion of the garment itself (just ask any couturière). This insider knowledge of the inside of clothing is an important skill to develop, and is largely unavailable in collections databases and from viewing garments on display; few people–even researchers–are allowed to examine garments so extensively, and passing on that information is vital.
“Utility Swimsuit, 1941-49.” Description and photographs, page 53, “Vintage Swimwear.”
Pattern drawn by Salen for “Utility Swimsuit, 1941-49.” pp 54-55, “Vintage Swimsuits.”
Although backed by many years of expertise, the opinions and educated guesses about materials and use in these brief descriptions are highly subjective; however, they do bring the reader closer to a garment, make it more real, and give the impression of a relaxed conversation with a confident expert:
I wondered if this is the work of a factory machinist, making good use of scraps of leftover fabric. Certainly, when I came across this suit in the museum store I thought it could be, as it seemed an unlikely shape and I had never seen anything like it before. However, a friend has since shown me a photograph of her mother wearing a similar suit in the Norfolk seaside town of Great Yarmouth in 1950. (Sun Suit, c. 1930, 45)
This has all the glamour of a 1950s swimsuit, and might possibly have been worn in a beauty contest, as a gold fabric swimsuit was bound to attract attention. (Jantzen Gold Swimsuit, 1950s, 65)
This is another important aspect of these books: although not an exhaustive description, it highlights the fallibility of these objects, the sweat marks and the uniquely-shaped bodies that wore them, often removed from the public’s interactions with historic clothing on display. Amateur stitching and imperfect materials, fading on the top of the breast, “unimpressive” construction: these suits were all made by people, worn by people, and saved by people.
On the pages following the photographic and textual descriptions, Salen provides painstaking pattern drawings, taken from her measurements and observations.
Patterns for “Sports Shorts, White With Red Stripes, 1890-1900″ and “Black Swimming Trunks, 1960s,” pp 96-97 in “Vintage Swimwear.”
They are set on one-inch graph paper, à la Arnold (for Arnold is, herself, the pattern after which we are all cut). Mercifully for American seamsters, the imperial/standard system is used here, with parenthetical metric measurements. I did a lot of pattern drafting for independent studies and college plays, and I would feel very comfortable using these patterns (and common sense) to re-create many of these suits; the patterns may be more challenging for beginning sewers. Most have no instructions–don’t forget to add seam allowance!–and swimsuits, although small in yardage, can be deceptively complicated. I didn’t have a chance to re-create any of the patterns for this review; although a test of her draughtsmanship may have been useful, the opportunity to re-create these garments is secondary to the wider opportunity to learn how to see these 3D objects in a 2D form/pattern.
For those newer to drafting and sewing, Salen dives more deeply into two garments at the end of each of her books as “projects.” Here, they are a “Ladies Bathing Costume, c. 1920″ and a “Blue Satin Bathing Costume, 1947-55.” The reader is given slightly more information on scaling up and drafting her work, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to put the pieces together once you’ve figured out how to cut them in your size. These two featured projects represent a thoughtful date range and are accessible to two levels of skill: the second is of satin, a difficult material, and requires more advanced techniques than the bathing costume, which fits loosely with identically-shaped front and back.
Looking at other costume history resources on swimwear, Martin and Koda’s Splash! focuses on the fashion-y, exhibition-worthy side of swimwear, and Milbanks’ Resort Fashion puts swimwear in its haute luxury context, both laden with photographs of lithe bodies and exotic (or expensive) locales. Schmidt’s more scholarly and textual The Swimsuit comprises various essays on the garment, “from poolside to catwalk.” Albeit far from an exhaustive list of additional sources, these three books are a cohort of typical literature, focused on representations of swimwear in photographic form. Salen’s book fills a material-culture niche ajar in the scholarship, but should be augmented by more text-heavy works for a complete study.
Vintage Swimwear: Historical Patterns and Techniques by Jill Salen offers the reader an excellent entrée into the field of material culture, as well as the history of swimwear. By valuing these objects enough to not only celebrate them but also pick them apart (metaphorically!), she offers the reader a chance to approach the objects with which they seek to engage. Each swimming outfit featured offers a different perspective on and played an important role in the history of the genre in British culture, having an enormous impact on gender roles, social mores, leisure time, and personal identity. By using specific objects to elucidate general trends, she puts a face (or a suit) on typical clothing history texts. But she is willing to take this material culture study to the next level, offering her readers an opportunity to wear, to sew, to physically engage with clothing from pattern to playtime. While perhaps not a book to write into one’s Master’s thesis bibliography, the method should be inspiring to those clothing historians, collectors, seamsters, and enthusiasts who seek to go beyond written and even photographic description as a means of engaging with this tactile subject.
Back Cover of “Vintage Swimwear” by Jill Salen, 2013.
Opening Photo Credit: Cover of Vintage Swimwear: Historical Patterns and Techniques by Jill Salen, published by Batsford (UK), 2013.
For more book reviews on Worn Through, please follow this link.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women, c.1560-1620. New York: Drama Book, 1985. [see also: the other books in the Patterns of Fashion series, and Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, as well as many articles in Costume].
Martin, Richard and Harold Koda. Splash! A History of Swimwear. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.
Milbanks, Caroline Reynolds. Resort Fashion: Style in Sun-Drenched Climates. New York: Rizzoli, 2009.
Prellwitz, Marcia and Marcia D. Metcalf. “The Documentation of 19th Century American Costume” Dress 6:1980, 24-30.
Salen, Jill. Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques. Hollywood, CA: Costume & Fashion Press, 2009 [London: Batsford, 2009].
Salen, Jill. Vintage Lingerie: 30 Patterns Based on Period Garments Plus Finishing Techniques. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012 [London: Batsford, 2011].
Schmidt, Christine. The Swimsuit: Fashion from Poolside to Catwalk. Oxford: Berg, 2012.
Tiramani, Jenny et al. Seventeenth-Century women’s dress patterns. London: V&A Publications, 2011. [see also: Volume 2, 2012].
The Mona Bismarck American Centre for Art and Culture is an informative ground for Americans in Paris. The centre always proposes interesting exhibitions that focus on solely American-centred topics or wider themes that enable visitors to understand the richness of the continent’s culture. The centre is a splendid and typical Parisian townhouse from the 19th century decorated for the countess Mona Bismarck in the 1950s. Therefore, the figure of a fascinating woman stands firmly behind the institution: a wealthy, elegant and beautiful lady who supported arts, fashion and culture. Since her death, in 1981, the building shelters a cultural centre that presents multidisciplinary shows that connect French to American culture.
The current display organised by the centre is Quilt Art: L’Art du Patchwork (on until the 19th May). There are twenty-five works on display, all objects lent by the American Museum in Britain, located in Bath and which opened in 1961 to promote American decorative arts in Great Britain. Their collection of American quilts is the finest and most important in Europe.
Log cabin Quilt, 1875-1900
One of the most popular American quilting pattern.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
To be honest, I barely know anything about quilts, their making and history. To me quilts are associated with a fantasized American history, to the Little House in the Prairie and grandmothers… I personally do not even have a sentimental relationship with quilts: I can only vaguely recall seeing a flowery blue and pink example at my grandparents’ house in England but that is the only encounter I enjoyed with this object.
Queen Kapi’olani’s Fan Quilt, Early 20th Century
Traditional Hawaiian pattern.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
I therefore discovered the Mona Bismarck Centre’s display with much curiosity and expectation. The exhibition is very pedagogic and clear which was great for ignorant visitors such as myself!
Quilts are popular elements of a traditional and humble yet creative art, significant of America’s history and singularity. I appreciated that the display highlighted the concept that the art of patchwork is clearly linked to America’s identity: a melting-pot. The exhibition outlines the idea that a patchwork quilt represents the country with its blending of multiple cultures that come together in harmony without ever annihilating individual identities. A wonderful and accurate comparison.
Baltimore Album Quilt, 1847
Flamboyant gifts made for display rather than domestic use.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
American quilts’ history therefore conveys the country’s pattern. Quilting dates back to the Middle Ages in Europe when padded fabrics were used for military clothing and bedding. When European Settlers arrived in the New World, they brought with them their textile practices that they then adapted to the local materials available. Patchwork is by definition heterogeneous and the centre emphasise the various inspirations patchwork embodies with the help of a combination of European textiles, local crafts, various techniques and motifs and imported materials like silk. The result is a traditional pillar of American decorative arts.
Tumbling Blocks Star Quilt, 1852
Made For the New Jersey State Fair.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
To study the evolution of quilt art is to explore American history: the conquest of the West, the Amish tradition, relationships with Native Americans, the Civil War… The objects presented in Paris range from the eighteenth (the oldest quilt presented was designed in 1760) to the twentieth century. Symbolic motifs and designs indeed evoke political, social and religious realities.
One Patch Quilt: Diamonds variation, 1969
Gee’s Bend quilts design by the Afro American community.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
When observing quilts, you come across various masterful techniques: the layout of dozens of squares of materials, handmade over-stitching as well as modern machine assemblages. I am myself a terrible and shameful seamstress. I could only admire the methods used by the quilt makers who managed to create colourful, poetic and useful pieces with little means.
The ornamental lexicon of American patchwork also illustrates the diversity of their influences and the creation of truly American symbols.
Lafayette Orange Peel Quilt, 1830-1875
Inspired by a popular myth concerning the Marquis de Lafayette.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
When I was studying at l’Ecole du Louvre, I was specialised in decorative arts and I think that what I most appreciated in this discipline is that objects were representative of craftsmanship, but also illustrated the story of people possessing and using them (an interest that was later confirmed by my love of fashion). This emotion was evoked through this exhibit. My imagination visualised images of long and tiring journeys, women patiently working on their designs, children wrapping themselves up with warm blankets…There is something very personal and familiar with objects like these that brings a sentimental feel to the exhibition: an ambiance more pompous displays often lack.
The display is arranged within aesthetic themes which enables the visitors to comprehend the diversity of the designs that somehow have similarities through different times and places while we can establish formal comparisons. We can observe the contrasts between simple Amish designs and rich decorative Hawaiian pieces when constant motifs tend to travel through time (like the Sharon Rose).
Rose of Saron Quilt, 1850
Traditionally made for newlyweds.
Copyright: American Museum in Britain
Quilting also has this distinctive particularity of being practised throughout the whole country, by all women, highlighting the universality of the discipline. Finally, patchwork demonstrates an additional example of decorative arts that from the utilitarian have become works of art.
Another reason I do not know much about quilts is that these objects are often associated with folk museums that, I must admit,I never visit. I am not interested in folk art and I have very bad souvenirs of classes I had at l’Ecole du Louvre about this subject: a trauma. I, consequently, must confess that I would have probably never visited this exhibition if it hadn’t been held at The Mona Bismarck Centre. Thus I have to thank the institution for scheduling this exhibition and gently accompanying me through the process of discovering folk art again. I wouldn’t say that I have since become a huge fan of quilts; they have however aroused a new interest.
Beresford, Laura and Hebert, Kate. Classic Quilts from the American Museum in Britain. London: Scala, 2009.
Kiracofe, Roger. The American Quilt. A History of Cloth and Comfort, 1750-1950. New York, 1993.
Prichard, Sue. Quilts 1700 – 2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories. London: V&A Publishing, 2010.
The V&A Museum’s website also presents an interesting hub on the subject.
You can also read Heather Vaughan‘s post on this blog as well as Brenna Barks‘
In 1626, King Gustav Aldof of Sweden’s wife, Maria Eleonora of Brandenberg, gave birth to a daughter instead of the son that had been predicted. Nevertheless, the birth was celebrated as if for a prince, and the King saw that his daughter, Christina, was raised and educated as a boy and heir to the throne. After her father’s death in 1632, Christina became Queen of Sweden at age six, despite the country’s law forbidding female rulers.
In her writing, Christina expressed contempt for traditional female roles, dress, and concern for appearance. Refusing to participate in contemporary ideals of feminine beauty, Christina controlled her public image through portraits showing her unique style of dress and cross-dress.
Christina on Horseback
Collection of the Prado Museum, Madrid.
The independent-minded Christina was a great advocate of art, literature, and philosophy. In 1654, she abdicated the throne, leaving Lutheran Sweden to convert to Catholicism. She eventually took up residence in Rome, where she aligned herself with Alexander the Great by changing her name to Christina Alexander and wearing jewelry decorated with his image.
When Christina, who never married, died in 1689, she was one of only a few women to have been buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1966, her remains were disentombed by Dr. Carl-Herman Hjortsjö in an attempt to verify whether or not Christina possessed female anatomy.
Queen Christina of Sweden inspired and appears in many works of art, sometimes portrayed as Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, war, and art. She is featured in Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The Dinner Party: Heritage Panel
Photo author’s own.
Popp, Nathan Alan. “Beneath the Surface: The Portraiture and Visual Rhetoric of Sweden’s Queen Christina.” Thesis, University of Iowa, 2010.
Textiles attract through their sensory appeal – their texture and weight, smell, malleability, sound, retention of owners’ and makers’ bodily traces – factors only fully appreciable through physical engagement with them. Yet many, especially modern, historians have relied – often of necessity – on documentary or visual sources to research textile history. The 2013 Pasold Conference, jointly organised by Goldsmiths Department of History and the Goldsmiths Textile Collection will explore how tacit knowledge of material and affective relationships can be traced through the words we think with (Lakoff & Johnson 1999, 2003) with a view to asking: how can our engagement with textile sources extend our knowledge of the past? What can textiles communicate that other sources cannot? Building on a range of recent events which encourage engagement with the materiality of textiles, textile archives and/or the relationship between textiles and other historical sources the Conference will seek to identify textiles’ unique contribution to the advancement of historical understanding and practices.
The organizers welcome proposals for 20-minute papers/presentations from historians, practitioners, writers and scholars in any discipline and concerned with any period or region. Proposals from postgraduate students are warmly welcome. Themes for papers may include, but are not limited to the following and we encourage creative interpretation of the overall conference theme:
· The unique value of textiles as historical sources.
· The relationship between physical and other (documentary, visual, digital) textile sources.
· The nature and purpose of physical textile archives in a digital age.
· The extent to which the value of physical engagement with textiles can be recovered when the textiles no longer exist.
· The challenges of, and solutions to, disseminating research findings which demand physical engagement with textile sources.
· The value of the materiality of textiles for cross-cultural/disciplinary interactions and writing about history.
Proposals, c. 250 words (and enquiries) should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org by June 7 2013
From the TEDEducation Youtube channel, this video by Jessica Oreck reveals the unexpected origin of the term ‘tuxedo’:
Call for Papers: 2014 Global Fashion Management Conference in London – Growing Together: Collaboration and Co-Creation in Fashion Management, February 13-15, 2014, London College of Fashion, London, United Kingdom.
Submission Deadline: August 31, 2013.
Accepted papers will be considered for possible publication in special issues of sponsoring journals such as the Journal of Global Scholars of Marketing Science and the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing after a double blind review process.
Topics include: Branding, Design, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Marketing, Retail, Consumer Behaviour/Culture and Media Studies in Fashion.
Co-Hosted by London College of Fashion and ESCP Europe Business School. Organized by Global Alliance of Marketing and Management Associations and cosponsored by ITAA. See full announcement on the ITAA website for more information.
There comes a point in teaching when you run out of steam. The work just seems to pile on. Keeping up with reports, grading, lectures, and field trips is daunting. All of this activity can affect your lesson plans, lectures, and patients. I’ve discovered some wonderful resources that have saved me from having a meltdown.
Dropbox: This site is like a virtual hard-drive. You can upload large presentations, papers, and readings that are too large to send via email. Dropbox is particularly useful when a powerpoint presentation is too large for sites like Blackboard or Moodle. Once you’ve created an account, you simply upload files which can be accessed on any computer by logging in. The best part? You can create folders and then share them with colleagues or students. Access can be either public, by invitation, or private, so your files area always safe.
TES: This British site is a global repository for teachers to share lessons and assignments. After creating an account, you have access to over 600,000 resources. Teachers from around the world share content they have personally created. I have consistently found wonderful handouts and ideas for student assessments on this website.
Paper Rater: This is a site that helps you check for plagiarism. It is intended for student use before submitting a paper, but can help with endless grading. Many universities are using similar programs to check for plagiarism. If your school doesn’t offer this type of technology, Paper Rater is worth subscribing to to help your grading efforts.
If you have additional resources that help with lesson plans and grading, please leave a comment!
Worn Through is looking for 1-2 new interns to start as early as June and preferably work with us for the entire 2013-14 school year.
We are a volunteer network of individuals who work as thriving museums, schools and doing independent research projects of all sorts, so this is a strong networking and professional experience opportunity for a student or new graduate. Many of our interns move onto nice jobs and/or become contributors here at Worn Through. There is no pay in the internship however I have worked it out with schools in the past to do any paperwork needed to get credit if that is an option for you. Also note we have 30-40,000 hits per month and almost 1000 fb fans so your efforts will be visible to the public and your hard work recognized. Also upon a strong job we are happy to write letters of rec.
Particularly looking for people who are comfortable with Twitter, academic journal articles, and those who want to help with finding and posting CFPs, interesting videos, doing research with contributors, and other tidbits our readers would enjoy.
Need someone who checks email daily and can be fairly quick in response time, although this is the type of position where you can do many of your tasks in chunks (such as pre-posting weeks worth of CFPs). Therefore we can work with your workplace or school schedule as long as you are a good email communicator. The ideal candidates are involved in the research/academic/history & culture side of apparel studies and want to continue in those fields. Although someone in marketing/trend research or similar may be great too.
Please email Dr. Monica Sklar with your CV and brief cover letter by May 15. Goal start date is June 1 or 15 latest. We would like a second person to start by Fall.