We’re feeling generous this months and have been giving out a book a week!
U.S. replies only please–sorry I need to save on postage fees
In this post we’re giving away:
Punk Style by me(Monica Sklar)
The first reader to email me with the correct answer to the following trivia question about Worn Through question can have this book!
Here is the question. The answer can be found reading previous blog posts.
What Parisian design house is in the process of digitizing and sharing an extensive online archive?
Thanx for playing! Look for more giveaways in 2015.
Worn Through Research Award winner, Sophie Pitman is a second year AHRC-funded PhD student of History at St. John’s College, Cambridge, supervised by Ulinka Rublack. Her dissertation, ‘Tailoring the city: the making of clothing and the making of London, c.1560-1660,’ uses material, visual, literary and archival sources to explore the ways clothing contributed to the development of early modern London and, in turn, how London’s rapid growth changed the making, wearing, and meaning of clothing. Her methodology is based on interdisciplinary approaches to visual and material culture that she developed during her Frank Knox Fellowship at Harvard (2010-11) and her Master’s at the Bard Graduate Center (2011-13).
Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Civitatis Orbis Terrarum, (c.1574), MAP L85c no.27. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Early modern London was full of clothing. Fabric-laden boats traversed the Thames, bringing textiles in and out of the city to customers hungry for a wide-range of colours, textures, and patterns. Young apprentices wearing large ruffs were disciplined by their masters for their transgression, merchants imported and exported textiles which were then sold in new shopping spaces such as Thomas Gresham’s Royal Exchange, actors wore sumptuous costumes on the public theatre stages, and cast-offs were re-sold in the second-hand shops of Long Lane. This was a city growing rich from the trade of textiles, and on whose booming streets an ever-increasing range of fashions could be seen.
I am attempting to study the growth of early modern London through the ways clothing was made, worn and understood by inhabitants and visitors to the city. As Vanessa Harding has explained, “historians of early modern London do not expect to find new caches of unknown documents.” Most of the manuscripts and printed books that I pore over in the archives have been consulted, discussed and debated by generations of scholars fascinated with the history of London. But when I embarked upon a PhD focusing on clothing in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century London, a period of rapid and uncertain change in which London grew from a small European outpost into one of the continent’s largest cities, I decided to not limit my search to textual sources alone. In addition to consulting archival documents, I look to images and – most excitingly – to extant objects.
The Museum of London is widely celebrated for its vast costume collection, containing over 24,000 objects. But while a handful of its earliest pieces from the Tudor period have been well-preserved and are well-known, particularly through Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion books, most of the early clothing collection is under-represented in the online catalogue and little has been published on it. Though not a completely unknown cache, the collection is certainly a promising trove waiting to be explored, and provides much exciting material for my research.
Until recently, the Museum of London’s walls were decorated with a huge sculpture based on a diamond and emerald studded salamander brooch, part of the Cheapside Hoard, a cache of sixteenth- and seventeenth century jewels found in the City of London 1912. Photograph by Sophie Pitman
The costume stores under the galleries of the Museum of London are as tantalising as any other museum I have visited. Rows of umbrellas, concealed with protective white covers, hang from a rail, their horn handles peeking out. One apparently unpromising cupboard, which could be confused for a filing cabinet, opens to reveal shelves full of children’s shoes – rows filled with tiny pairs of Victorian boots and leather slippers which give a slightly eerie feel to one corner of the collection. But most of the objects I consulted were carefully laid out for me on large tables in the centre of the room.
This is where I was able to view the Isham doublet (A7577) – a black silk cut velvet piece dated to the first quarter of the seventeeth-century. The doublet, one of the most common forms of male upper-body wear, is much degraded, but this deterioration enables a close examination of the tailoring techniques used in this fashionable garment’s construction. The silk, patterned with leaves and scrolls, covers a layer of dark brown wool fabric, underneath which is a coarse linen interlining. The doublet has been quilted with wool, the neat ridges of which are covered with an inside lining of pink silk. The collar, now coming away from the body of the doublet, is constructed of four layers of stiff canvas. The doublet was fastened with thirty-four buttons constructed of wood and wrapped in black and silver gilt thread. Similar buttons are at the collar neck and the lower sleeves. The metal hooks along the waist of the doublet show how it could be attached to a pair of breeches or hose. Around the lower edge of the doublet at the waist there are small tabs or ‘laps’ made from different felted brown fabrics. We can almost imagine the thrifty tailor at work, selecting off-cuts from previous commissions to line these small decorative flaps. Though this doublet is said to have been worn by a wealthy nobleman – either 1st Baronet of Lamport John Isham (1582-1651) or his son Justinian (1610-1675) – it bears evidence of quick and economic manufacture. This branch of the Northamptonshire Isham family gained their fortunes in London in the cloth trade, and so this doublet contains many threads (please pardon the pun) of the development of the city – as a site for the dynamic and lucrative commercial trade in textiles, as a centre full of quick and clever tailors, and as a stage upon which the well-dressed could show off their new silk velvet doublets tailored to the most fashionable shapes.
While most of the pieces I was able to consult were laid out carefully on tables, I had the most fun rifling through the storeroom drawers. These wide and shallow wooden trays are filled with fragments carefully protected with foam and card supports. Excavations of London sites over the past century have furnished these draws with pieces – laces, shoes, belts, codpieces, hats, decorative bands, cloth fragments. Unlike the Isham doublet, we have few clues as to the identity of the original owners of these pieces. But as an historian, I have long been fascinated by the way that clothing carries the imprint of its former owner. Sweat stains, rips and tears, even deposits from a decaying body all give us insights into the life (and sometimes death) of the body beneath the clothes.
One brown and black cloth slipper, (A.26847) heavily patched and pieced together with large clumsy stitches, suggests many days of pounding the streets of London. Possibly a lining for a pair of outer shoes, this well-worn piece was found in Worship Street and brought to the museum in 1924. When the former owner of this slipper was busy repairing another hole or tear, this area lay outside of the city walls and was mainly fields. Close by, London’s first theatres – The Theatre (1576) and The Curtain (1577) were drawing audiences from across the urban area. Why this slipper was left behind and who took such care to patch and repair it, we will probably never know. But it does demonstrate how early modern Londoners valued their clothing, which bore the brunt of the climate, the urban environment, and the demands of labour on the body.
But the feather in the cap of the Museum of London’s collection of sixteenth-century clothing must be its unparalleled collection of knitted hats worn by non-elite men. As John Stow explained in his Survey of London (1598), such hats were ubiquitous in the city, ‘the youthful citizens also took them to the New fashion of flat caps, knit of woollen yarn black.’ In 1571, the Cappers act even made it obligatory for men from the middling and lower end of the social spectrum to wear an English-made knitted wool cap on Sundays and holy days. It was said that there were over eight thousand people in London alone occupied ‘in the trade and science of capping’ and this act attempted to ensure continued business and stability in a city rocked by fashion trends and imported goods. Fifty-seven knitted caps, all found in excavations within the City of London, demonstrate the range of knitting, dying, and finishing techniques and suggest that many wearers attempted to personalize their headgear with ribbons, slashes and tabbed brims. It was these individual efforts that I was most fascinated to see up close, to witness how early modern Londoners attempted to stand out, adapt and make even the most humble and necessary items of clothing fashionable in a city bustling with dressed bodies.
Unknown, Portrait of Edward Courtenay, 1st Early of Devon (1526-1556), c. 1555, oil on panel, via Wikimedia Commons
As I am particularly interested in the manufacture of clothing, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to see evidence of craftsmanship in the Museum of London’s collections. One dark brown leather jerkin (36.237) on display in the ‘War and Fashion’ section of the Medieval Gallery, is decorated all over with scored diagonal and vertical lines and diamond, heart and star pinking. Sized for a young man and dated to the second half of the sixteenth-century, the jerkin shows how even a relatively mundane item of outerwear could express the emotions and decorative interests of a young man. In conjunction with my trips to the museum, I have been learning the techniques required by the tailors and other makers in the period, and during a weekend course on ‘Historical Stitching & Decorative Techniques on Leather Clothing, 1400-1800’ at the School of Historical Dress, I was able to recreate this punched and scored design myself. In doing so, I realised that such effects could be achieved quickly with fairly simple punching and scoring tools, requiring no more than the patience and eye accuracy of a leatherworker.
A detail of the star punch and my sample reconstruction of the Museum of London Jerkin. Photograph by Sophie Pitman
I am very grateful to Worn Through for the support that enabled me to make research trips to London, and to discuss my research in this blog. I would also like to thank Tim Long, Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts at the Museum of London, for his help and assistance. Thanks also to Hilary Davidson for her kind generosity – electronically and in person – of information and encouragement. I would also like to thank Karl Robinson and The School of Historical Dress, and my supervisor Professor Ulinka Rublack for their support and interest in the academic value of historical reconstruction. I have much more work ahead of me, especially with regard to the archaeological provenance of many of the pieces, but I am sure that these investigations and the photographs that I was able to take (though unfortunately not able to share online at this stage) will form a central part of my PhD thesis, which – in due course, will hopefully be adapted for publication.
If you have any suggestions, comments, or tips for Sophie, please feel free to leave a comment!
 For images and information, see ‘Jerkin, 36.237’: http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/Online/object.aspx?objectID=object-118831&start=474&rows=1
 Vanessa Harding, ‘Recent Perspectives on Early Modern London,’ The Historical Journal, Volume 47, Issue 2 (June 2004), pp 435 – 450, 447
 In particular see Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, c1560-1620. London; New York: Macmillan ; Drama Book, 1985 and Janet Arnold, Jenny Tiramani, and Santina Levey, Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540 – 1660. Unabridged edition. (Hollywood, CA: Macmillan, 2008).
 For photographs and close examination of the Doublet, see ‘Early Doublet in The Museum of London,’ (9 December 2011) http://thegoodwyfe.blogspot.com.es/2011/12/early-doublet-in-museum-of-london.html
 John Stow, A Survey of London ed. H. Morley, (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1997), 445-6. As quoted in Maria Hayward, Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), 122.
1571 13 Eliz. cap, 19 as in George Nicholls, A History of the English Poor Law in Connection with the State of the Country and the Condition of the People, (reprint Clark: The Lawbook Exchange, 2006), 173-4.
 Fortunately, many of these caps have been photographed and documented in the online catalogue: http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/Online/. Thanks to Hilary Davidson and Jane Malcolm Davis for sharing their prepublication copy of ‘“He is of no account … if he have not a velvet or taffeta hat”: A survey of sixteenth century knitted caps’ which is forthcoming….
The exhibition entitled Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945* is truly extensive! A few weeks ago I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to see their first ever fashion exhibition as well as interview Assistant Curator of Textiles Nicole LaBouff, PhD.
The MIA is a solid museum and I knew the exhibition originated from the Victoria & Albert Museum, however I was still surprised at the breadth and depth of the show. Therefore I’m spending two visits at the museum and devoting two distinct Worn Through posts to the tour/interview and then to the review.
A little background from the press release:: “Trace the evolution of Italian design, from Gucci and Prada to Missoni, Versace and more. A major retrospective of the fashion that has defined a nation—and a rare chance to see Milan’s finest in Minneapolis. An MIA first, this groundbreaking exhibition examines the craftsmanship and entrepreneurial verve that catapulted Italy from the ashes of World War II to the style powerhouse it is today. Immerse yourself in impeccable design, rare ingenuity, and the head-turning glamour of celebrity style.”
Nicole was generous enough to walk me through the exhibit discussing its development by the V & A staff as well as any adjustments made for the Minneapolis space and audience.
Dolce & Gabbana
Leather Ankle Boots with Gold, White and Pink Embroidery
2000 Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Tom Ford for Gucci
Man’s Velvet Evening Suit
Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
As I walked thru the sprawling space looking at the numerous items Nicole explained that V & A curator of 20th century and contemporary fashion, Sonnet Stanfill, did extensive research into archives and an array of other sources to pull together this comprehensive show.
Monica: How did Italian Style come to the Minnepolis Institute of Arts?
Nicole: Negotiations mostly were before I arrived. The way it happened was that the V&A typically reaches out to our museum and gives us a sense of what traveling exhibits were lined up. (The MIA) was interested in doing a fashion show and what our director and our leadership really liked about Italian Style is that it wasn’t one designer that was featured, it was focusing on an entire a national industry and that was a huge draw for them.
When the show completed its run at the V & A it was packaged for touring. It will come to a handful of U.S. spots and was constructed to be transported virtually pre-built. The MIA purchased new modular cases to showcase the dress objects and plans to repurpose the cases for future shows. When the exhibition was being installed the V & A sent their choice of individuals to assist and to handle all dress objects.
Sequined Evening Dress and Silk Coat
Worn and given by Princess Stanislaus Radziwill Worn to Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball 1966 Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Monica: Can you discuss some of the challenges and highlights of the preparation and install?
Nicole: It came all prepared. That made it really exciting, the fact that we had these massive crates that would be wheeled into the galleries and when we would pry it open it would be like unwrapping these giant Christmas presents day after day! That created an install that was really high on drama.
I can’t really think of any in particular challenges as it was very smooth install. I attribute it to the fact that things were dressed everything as very fast really very pleasant.
Bamboo-handled Pigskin Bag, early 1960s
Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Monica: What are some of the fan favorite pieces and you must have a favorite?
Nicole: I love the Fendi mink coat for the intricacy of construction and the “How did they do it?” factor. When we were unpacking objects I was really puzzling over how did they get those pieces (together). [Note from Monica-It's a patchwork coat and is displayed adjacent to its mock up]. There are so many fan favorites but the Fendi coat is something that there is a lot ooo-ing and aaahhh-ing and gasping. But, I kind of worry that people walk past it because it kind of doesn’t look like a fur coat. I think it’s easy to walk past it and think it’s a velvet coat and printed or something. [Note from Monica--it is part of a large display of items versus an isolated spotlight piece].
People really love the Audrey Hepburn dress. That’s an older Hollywood actress that even young people are really familiar with and spans all ages. I think it’s really interesting that it’s a film costume and you can see it moving in that film clip so it’s wonderful to have it contextualized with that material.
The Elizabeth Taylor jewelry is a really great story and it’s a great object. [Note from Monica–In her blog post for the MIA, Nicole tells the fantastic tale of Eddie Fisher buying Taylor the Bulgari earrings in an attempt to save their marriage during her affair with Richard Burton, only to have her foot the bill when it didn’t go his way.]. I’m always sure to mention on tours one of the things I think people really would appreciate about it is that the gemstones are set on springs so it would have trembled when the wearer moved so it would have been such a spectacular piece to see it in motion.
I think there’s a lot of really attractive and exciting pieces in the final gallery about the designer. The Dolce and Gabbana is hand painted, so if anyone has a difficulty understanding why a fashion exhibit belongs in an art museum I always make the point that that’s a very literal translation that bridges because it’s a painting. A lot of people catch that (and show) a lot of nodding and understanding that fashion has relevance in art museums. Also the Capucci piece in that last gallery is also a stunner; the green and pink one.
Silk Evening Dress, 1987-88
Courtesy Roberto Capucci Foundation
Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The exhibition is built on the idea of the history of Italian style shifted from magnificent designers and their craftsmanship, then makes its way toward mass production, ready to wear and the entertainment industry, and then circling back through to unique pieces and artisans again.
Monica: What is meaningful about this exhibition to the average Minnesotan (and other U.S. cities it will travel to)? Is it the familiar designer names? Why do you think the Italian designer really grabs the American public’s interest?
Nicole: The didactics explain that the story of the growth of Italian fashion is really implicated in American history too. So it’s really an important symbiotic relationship between Italian producers and American consumers. And that’s something the exhibition really demonstrates very clearly.
I don’t imagine it’s a draw. The drama of having a major fashion exhibition here at the MIA, the first ever, is the draw, but then once they’re here they’ll find it’s really not just Italian designers doing something over in Italy. It’s actually we as American buyers helped to grow this industry and this would be really interesting to the person going through the exhibits.
If we had one on French fashion we’d see people coming in great numbers. It’s an exciting new type of artwork for people to engage with in a large scale.
In a couple of weeks look for my review of the exhibition which will be from the lens of an audience member as well as colleague. I look forward to giving all of the items a second look!
Photograph by Gian Paolo Barbieri for Gianfranco Ferre advertisement Fall/Winter 1991
Model: Aly Dunne
Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945 at Minneapolis Institute of Art
Runs Thru January 4, 2015, ticketed exhibition in the Target Galley, see the website for details
Exhibition organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Presented by Nordstrom and the Blythe Brenden-Mann Foundation.
Major Sponsor: Delta Air Lines
Generous support provided by: Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Topsy Simonson
In this new column for Worn Through, Interns Jaclyn and Michelle will explore the new and emerging field of digital resources and their potential for primary research in fashion.
Godey’s Magazine, also known as Godey’s Lady’s Book, was the most popular American women’s magazine of the mid-nineteenth century. It contained fashion plates and commentary on current fashions, advice, recipes, poems, sheet music, lessons in morality and etiquette, and sentimental fiction. The fashion plates were hand-colored by women employed by magazine founder Louis A. Godey. Godey established the title in 1830, and hired poet and novelist Sarah J. Hale as editor in 1837. During Hale’s forty-year tenure, circulation rose from 25,000 to 150,000 subscribers per year. Writers contributing to Godey’s at this time included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Edgar Allen Poe.
Portions of Godey’s have been digitized by several university libraries and made accessible for free on the online archive Hathi Trust. The most extensive run is linked here. The journals are not listed chronologically, which makes browsing more onerous, but clicking any issue title will open an e-book display. In this view, users can search by keyword and download page ranges or whole issues as a PDF. To search all issues at once, click the “full text” tab at the top of the page and then the Advanced Full Text Search. Enter a keyword in “Full-Text + All Fields” and “Godey’s” in “Series Title.” For a more robust search experience, the Accessible Archives database includes all issues, and allows Godey’s fashion plates to be searched separately. Many research libraries subscribe to Accessible Archives.
I have used Godey’s repeatedly in my own research towards my MA in Fashion and Textile Studies. The October 1894 issue contained a detailed description of the tea gown, describing the fit, trimmings, and the proper occasion on which to wear one; July 1897 extolled the convenience and ease of shirtwaists; April 1857 heralded the new round hats, and where to wear them (only in a carriage, a concert room, or at the opera). Godey’s never included content that was controversial or unpleasant; politics were expressly excluded. Nonetheless, it provides a window into American women’s lives and influences over decades of the 1800s. As stated in A History of American Magazines, “here is a history of manners, a history of taste, a history of costume.”
Image credits: Accessible Archives and HathiTrust
If you find yourself at Somerset House over the festive period, stop for a moment to have a look at an interesting series of small displays that draw attention to the relationship between fashion, winter and leisure pursuits in a subtle but poetic manner.
Fashioning Winter, an exhibition created by nine curators, offers a poignant backdrop to Somerset House’s annual ice rink experience. As you discover the various displays, made up of inventive interventions in and around Somerset House, you are reminded that London is not only a fashionable capital but also a city that celebrates winter pastimes.
‘Skating is Streatham’ by Beatrice Behlen
This is particularly well achieved by Beatrice Behlen’s display highlighting the craze for ice skating during the interwar period in London with ghostly photographs of art deco indoor ice rinks and a pair of ice skates worn by a regular skater from the 1930s.
‘Skating on Film’ by Caroline Evans
Caroline Evans’ display of silent ice skating films from the early 20th century are mesmerising and perhaps the closest thing we might get to of a re-enactment of London’s 17th century frost fairs on the river Thames.
‘White Perspectives’ by Sofia Hedman and Serge Martynov
The display ‘White Perspectives’, curated by Sofia Hedman and Serge Martynov fills an entire staircase with objects illustrating the way in which the colour white has historically informed fashion. I particularly loved a fascinating video about the work of designer Iris Van Herpen who uses white 3D printing to create her fashion designs.
‘Winter Mode’ by Rebecca Arnold
Another staircase is adorned with homemade Christmas cards by photographer Angus McBean. This display, curated by Alistair O’Neill, nicely captures the festive spirit. Yet, it is Rebecca Arnold’s display on how fashion has informed our need to dress warmly in the winter months that for me best encapsulates the exhibition’s main title.
Fashioning Winter is a free exhibition at Somerset House until 11 January 2015 and you can download the exhibition guide here. I would also recommend Furzsi’s post about the exhibition on the Courtauld’s Documenting Fashion blog.
First image credit is to Professor Amy De La Haye who provided the image for the London College of Fashion website. It can be found here http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/fashion/2014/11/11/lcf-alumni-curate-fashioning-winter-exhibition-somerset-house/ [Accessed 15 December 2014]
I had already talked about a fashion auction here when I had reviewed the Elsa Schiaparelli exposition at Christies. I had intended to post today an article about the Sonia Delaunay exhibition held at The Musée d’Art Moderne but my attention was caught last week by the announcement of a major vintage and contemporary fashion auction held until today at Millon & Associés and I thought I could share that first. As often with fashion auctions, not much is said about the history and origins of the items sold: when individuals decide to sell off intimate belongings, it rarely has something to do with very positive compromises. But the catalogue is definitely eye candy for fashion amateurs with a heterogeneous selection of fashion and accessories from the 1930s to the present time.
Christian Dior Ensemble, 1979-1980
Copyright: PB Fashion
The auction is not a celebrity sale but it does provide us with interesting pieces such as a Jeanne Lanvin 1939 wedding dress, a 1960 Chanel white tweed jacket, a 1971 Bill Gibb ensemble and of course the star object: an Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian 1965 dress….just to name a few. The 400 pieces on auction resemble the ideal wardrobe of an elegant Parisienne with its fancy furs, exquisite accessories and international garments.The Mondrian dress is a true piece of history of fashion and a major example of the combination of art and fashion – Yves Saint Laurent paying tribute to the constructivist lines of the artist, Piet Mondrian. The dress also brought an innovative comprehension of haute couture that was no longer only made of frills, flounces and strass but could also be strikingly minimalist.
Yves Saint Laurent, Mondrian dress, 1965
Copyright: PB Fashion
To whom do such auctions address themselves? I would say, everyone. The fashion lovers, institutions and private collectors…Some buy items they could not afford at full price (such as the contemporary pieces or the attractive Hermès and Chanel handbags), others invest in fashion as they would do in art pieces (I remember one of my childhood friend’s mother who possessed an exquisite black dress that had belonged to Marilyn Monroe and who displayed it with pride and passion) and finally the museums that enrich their fashion and costume collections with rarely seen objects.
Jeanne Lanvin Wedding Dress, 1939
Copyright: PB Fashion
Yet a fashion auction (and its exposition) has nothing to do with the solennel and formal atmosphere of a fashion museum display: the public is allowed to touch, even try on, speak loud…the whole while fighting upon prices and enjoying an enthralling ambience of heart-racing and fighting for one’s favorite item.
The iconic Mondrian dress is ultimately the big draw of the auction (I’ll update this post once the reached selling price is known and why not its buyer, by any chance!) while the accessories attract a younger crowd interested in fancy shoes and bags that add a ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’ chic and nostalgic feel to their high street outfits.
Bill Gibb Ensemble, 1971
Copyright: PB Fashion
Before being a fashion professional, I am above all a fashion lover who enjoys nothing more than to see and touch clothing pieces I would never have the chance to put my hands on in another context although I have never bought anything at auction. Have any of you?
I would be curious to hear from museum professionals and what they think of fashion auctions and if they are useful to their work and collections?
You can browse the full catalogue of the action here.
University of York, UK
May 28-30, 2015
CFP Deadline: January 15, 2015
Disseminating Dress is a three-day international and interdisciplinary conference that explores how ideas and knowledge about dress have been shared, sought and communicated throughout history. In bringing together academics, curators and industry professionals, this conference is an invitation for interdisciplinary discussion concerning methods of communicating concepts of what someone should, could, or would wear. Dress has been demonstrated to be central to the creation, expression, and subversion of cultural and national identity. However, what remains relatively unexplored is how these ideas were conveyed and perceived. If fashion is the result of a mixture of innovation and emulation, then we need to ask how these new ideas came to be circulated around and between societies.
From the London of the Blitz to Renaissance Italy, men and women have both sought out and been instructed in what to wear, forming personal, social and cultural aesthetics, while driving trade and mercantile success. This conference welcomes a broad interpretation of how dress has been disseminated throughout history, and will be an open forum for work undertaken from a variety of disciplinary and professional viewpoints.
Disseminating Dress invites proposals for 20-minute papers that explore the manifold media, methods, perceptions and motivations driving fashion dissemination across history. Paper topics might include, but are certainly not limited to, the following methods and media for transferring fashion ideas and information:
Correspondence and social networks.
Global networks for trade and cultural exchange.
The written word – including novels, journals, and fashion magazines.
Costume books, home sewing patterns, and other instructional sources.
Visual and material culture, including both fine art and popular culture.
Advertising, the role of fashion designers, and branding.
Famous persons, from court culture to modern celebrities.
Film, television, the Internet, and modern social media including MMS-ography.
The history of taste, and the influence of outside cultural forces such as developments within architecture and the decorative arts on fashion.
Abstracts of 250 words in length, with an accompanying 100-word biography should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than January 15, 2015.
In one of my favorite holiday films, the 1945 classic “Christmas in Connecticut,” viewers are first introduced to Elizabeth Lane (played by Barbara Stanwyck) as she receives an exciting delivery at her New York City apartment – her first fur coat. She tells her friend Felix that she needed the coat, despite it costing six months of her salary. “You need it?” he asks. “Nobody needs a mink coat but the mink.” In that era, it was a lighthearted line for laughs and not a condemnation. In the twenty-first century, there is more attention on the ethics of wearing fur and its potential environmental impact. Designer Pamela Paquin of Petite Mort has her own idea of ethical fur: roadkill pelts. Luxury consumers may not attribute the same level of glamour and status to a raccoon muff that Paquin refers to as “accidental fur,” but the price is still high, with pieces starting at $1,000 each. The more popular ethical alternative to fur, synthetics, are often constructed of materials that are harmful to the earth. Despite increased discussion of these issues, the International Fur Federation reports that sales are at an all-time high of $14 billion worldwide. For many designers and shoppers, fur still signifies elegance and extravagance. Three articles below discuss fur in the fashion industry. The earliest examines the conflicting representations of Victorian women adorned with animal skins in public spaces and in the paintings of John Collier; next, an overview of key ethical issues in fur production; and, conversely, a final look at the negative consequences a decline in the fur market would have on indigenous economies. What’s your stance on fur in fashion? Let us know in the comments.
1. Gauld, Nicola. (2005). Victorian bodies: The wild animal as adornment. British Art Journal, 6(1), 37-42.
Victorian artists’ representation of women adorned with animals is examined. In the late 19th century, the wearing of animals was an increasingly integral part of wealthy fashion and undoubtedly evident in the art of the period, but with very different meanings. In fashion, animal products signified wealth and status while symbolizing Victorian power over nature, which was also intimated in representations of men and animals in art. In John Collier’s paintings Maenads, Lilith, and A Priestess of Bacchus, which show provocative images of women covered by animal skins, the inclusion of the animal suggests the much more disturbing idea of female sexuality, however. These images clearly show the Victorian perception of the female as, in the words of Edward Carpenter, “more primitive . . . more intuitive and . . . more emotional” while suggesting the presence of “a separate species from men.” – Full Article Abstract
2. Sorenson, John. (2011). Ethical fashion and the exploitation of nonhuman animals. Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty, 2(1-2), 139-164.
Fashion theorists have largely ignored ethical concerns about the industry’s exploitation of nonhuman animals. While critical theory and political economy approaches stress the centrality of animal exploitation to global capitalism, an animal rights perspective critiques the fashion industry’s use of nonhuman animals as a ‘theatre of cruelty’ which turns them from living beings to mere products, or raw materials. Adopting these perspectives, the article provides a brief survey of some key issues, and examines the resurgence of fur sales and fur industry rhetorics. The evidence and the arguments presented illustrate why a critical approach to ethical issues in fashion and beauty cannot exclude nonhuman animals. – Full Article Abstract
3. Strege, Gayle. (2014). Fur as fashion in America. Fashion, Style and Popular Culture, 1(3), 413-432.
Animal skins and furs are some of the earliest clothing items worn by humankind and the practicality of their toughness and warmth is one of the reasons why they are still worn today. Beyond its practical use, fur acquired the added appeal of decoration and luxury throughout fashion history, and its wearers, criticism via accusations of ostentation. With the rise in the late nineteenth century of a middle class with economic means, greater demand for luxury fashions such as fur ensued. To meet market and fashion trend demands, overharvesting of fur species led to rapid declines in animal populations. This in turn resulted in industry regulations protecting endangered species and domestic farming of fur animals. Aggressive activities of animal rights organizations in the late twentieth century resulted in devastating consequences for indigenous economies dependant on fur hunting. These peoples in turn organized to counter misinformation and promote fur as the ultimate natural fibre contrasted to fake furs that are petroleum by-products with their own harmful environmental harvesting issues. – Full Article Abstract
Image credit: Still frame from Christmas in Connecticut via Movie Star Makeover.
Costume and textiles scholar, and Worn Through Research Award winner Susan Neill has eighteen years of experience as a museum curator and has also practiced independently. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology; has curated more than a dozen exhibitions of textiles, ethnographic dress, and historic fashion; and has presented her research at national and international symposia including the Costume Colloquium in Florence, Italy. Her current research interests are couturier Bob Bugnand and the American textile designer Mary Crovatt Hambidge. She works at the Field Museum as an exhibition project manager.
Discovering Bob Bugnand
No matter how long I work in museums or how many costume collections I visit, I get a thrill every time I enter one of those exalted closets. There is a mix of pleasant anticipation – of encountering old friends like a 1960s paper dress or a full-skirted antebellum gown – and the promise of discovery – of garments that spark questions I never thought to ask before. So it was in February of 2012, as I began selecting objects at the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) for an exhibition of twentieth-century dress that became Dior & More – For the Love of Fashion (closed May 24, 2014).
Having worked with the treasure-trove of WRHS in the past, I expected the major challenge would not be in selecting garments so much as it would be paring down a long list of worthy candidates until the most compelling cast remained. Such an exquisite dilemma! As the days passed and haute couture designs by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Hubert de Givenchy, Madame Grès, Lucien Lelong, Jeanne Paquin, Callot Soeurs, and others began to fill out the ranks, I turned my attention to lesser-known couturiers to add dimension to the story. And that is when I met Bob Bugnand.
Paris label, ca. 1960, author photo, Western Reserve Historical Society, 89.83.17
Evening dress, ca. 1960, courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society, 89.83.17
Ultimately, eight Bugnand designs were located in the collection and two were featured in the show. These evening dresses were made for Elizabeth Parke Firestone (Mrs. Harvey S. Firestone, Jr.), a discerning client who began buying made-to-measure clothing in Paris in the 1920s and amassed an extensive wardrobe by leading designers. Writing exhibit labels proved challenging, since references to Bob Bugnand were cursory. Some basic facts were repeated: 1) he designed for Jacques Heim and Robert Piguet before going out on his own, and 2) Jacqueline Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor were both his clients. The tidbit that stayed with me came from a letter Firestone wrote in 1970, saying Bugnand had relocated to New York, where he “makes only for a very few people, [and] does all my work” (Orr 2006: 80). (Let’s hear it for graduate research – thank you, Lois Orr!)
Evening dress, ca. 1959, courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society, 89.83.16
Still wondering about Bugnand several months after the exhibition opened, I inquired about pieces in other collections containing Firestone garments and soon a dozen more had surfaced. When I learned his papers had recently been made available through the Special Collections at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT),I knew I had stumbled onto a topic worthy of exploration.
Thanks to the Worn Through research award, I was able to go to New York to examine the Bugnand archives and begin piecing together the arc of his career. Though it is tempting to craft a research melodrama of alternating dead-ends and puzzle pieces fitting together, instead what follows is more straightforward and, I hope, somewhat more useful. These paragraphs offer a basic chronology of Bob Bugnand’s career and my initial assessment of his work, which helps situate him in the context of twentieth-century fashion and can assist in dating his surviving fashions.
To date, 75 Bugnand designs have been identified in 15 collections and I have personally examined 37 of them. Nearly all of the designs are complete garments or ensembles, but the number also includes a few separates. Fully half of the pieces were made for Firestone.
Limited information about additional Bugnand garments is available in a 1991 Sotheby’s catalog featuring pieces from Firestone’s estate. Images and descriptions of several other garments are available through auction house websites. Garments with Bob Bugnand for Sam Friedlander labels are beyond the scope of my current research and are excluded from the data set.
This preliminary study has also been informed by Bugnand’s archives in the Special Collections at FIT and Firestone’s papers at the Benson Ford Research Center, The Henry Ford. Women’s Wear Daily, newspapers, and magazines further document the designer’s life and work.
Fashion designer Bob Bugnand was born Antoine Bugnand in France on Feb. 23, 1924. The city of his birth is unknown, as is the source of his seemingly American nickname. He studied architecture at the Beaux Arts before focusing on couture, then apprenticed with Lelong, and was chief designer for both Piguet and Heim (New York Times Oct. 3, 1958). An undocumented press clipping reports Bugnand also worked with Alwynn Camble, another young designer, for several seasons.
In 1954, Bob Bugnand “opened a Couture house [in Paris] based on the formula of original designs which will not be repeated” (Women’s Wear Daily May 21, 1954). The venture was unusual, if not entirely unique. Rather than presenting traditional collections and incurring the associated expense of production and showings, he instead presented to private clients and buyers original sketches from which they made selections. The press described Bugnand as a “personable young designer” (New York Herald Tribune Feb. 25, 1959). His early enterprise had the capacity to produce fifty original models per month.
Bugnand apparently met Firestone, one of his most important clients, in May of 1956, after which she commissioned this evening dress now in the collection of The Henry Ford. In a letter the following spring, Firestone told the designer the red evening gown was her favorite and ordered a second version in white, which resides at WRHS.
Evening dress, 1957, courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society, 89.83.19
Draping, 1957, courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society, 89.83.19
By the summer of 1957, Bugnand expanded his business from sketch-based exclusive designs to include traditional seasonal presentations (Women’s Wear Daily July 23, 1957). Though Firestone did not attend the showing of forty models in his fall collection, she did place a significant order while in Paris that September. She commissioned a black velvet dress called Blackmail; the Florence dress of blue wool; the Jaguar coat ensemble; and Platinum, a gray flannel suit with embroidery, mink trim, and a matching chiffon blouse. Regrettably, none of these have been identified in collections.
Paris Without a Passport
Bugnand opened a custom-order salon in New York on East 62nd Street in the fall of 1958. This additional location enabled him to better serve existing American clients while also making his designs accessible to women who did not make seasonal trips to Paris to have clothes made. With another unconventional strategy, Bugnand simultaneously reinforced the allure of French fashion – the cachet of garments designed in Paris, constructed of French fabrics, and made in the couture tradition – while removing the obstacle of transatlantic travel.
According to the press, Bugnand seemed to have found “a magical formula for selling made-to-order clothes to American women,” though it was actually more of an innovative business practice than alchemy or even sleight of hand (New York Times Feb. 25, 1959). The “magic” happened by making and fitting a muslin of the desired dress in New York, flying the muslin to the designer’s Paris workroom where it was used to make the dress, and then flying the finished model back to New York for final fittings – voila! The entire process took only about three weeks. To uphold their prestige, Bugnand collections were shown first in Paris and presented again several weeks later in New York.
Jacqueline Kennedy (Mrs. John F. Kennedy) was a Bugnand client during this period, though whether she placed orders in Paris or New York is unknown. The future First Lady used his fashions helped shape her public image. She chose a simple pink wool dress by Bugnand for the Life magazine cover story, “Jackie Kennedy: A Front Runner’s Appealing Wife” (Life August 24, 1959). Numerous photographs demonstrate his black-and-white houndstooth wool suit with black braid was a workhorse on the campaign trail during her husband’s presidential run in 1959 and 1960. The graphic, easy-to-wear combination was featured in the popular exhibition, Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, and is the sole Bugnand design in the Kennedy Library. Notably, the catalog for the Hamish Bowles-curated exhibition contains the only scholarly reference to Bugnand published to date (Metropolitan Museum of Art 2001: 47).
Haute Couture Years
In the summer of 1960, Bugnand’s reputation advanced considerably when he was recognized with membership in the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and opened his salon at 372 rue St. Honore in Paris. Women’s Wear Daily anticipated his inaugural showing could “be the big opening of the year,” noting the designer “already in New York has a fine reputation for elegant young clothes which have a sophisticated zip” (July 25, 1960). Though the collection received mixed reviews, the New York Times lauded his “trompe-l’oeil tricks” – reversible jackets and overskirts that transformed dresses for wear after five. Remarking on his evening clothes, the paper reported, “Bugnand can be aptly called the bead boy. His lady-like dazzlers included one hound’stooth [sic] check done in jet, another in a fabric patterned like an old Victorian rose wallpaper and covered with shining bugle beads” (July 28, 1960). Sparkling eveningwear was the designer’s hallmark and featured prominently in all his collections.
Evening dress, ca. 1965, courtesy The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection, 1986.162.25
Beadwork, ca. 1965, author photo, The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection, 1986.162.25
Burchard Galleries auctioned one of Bugnand’s characteristically brilliant confections in 2012 (below). The calf-length gown commissioned by Firestone may well have been from the designer’s Spring 1959 collection, about which the New York Herald Tribune reported his “[s]hort evening dresses sparkle like the ceiling of the Hayden Planetarium. They’re almost all bare topped with semi-full skirts and what appears to be the labor of forty seamstresses worked into their elaborate surfaces” (Feb. 25, 1959).
Evening dress, ca. 1959, courtesy Burchard Galleries
Many fashion-conscious women in the United States learned about Bob Bugnand in the pages of Vogue. The magazine first mentioned him in its April 1960 issue. A larger feature two months later called readers’ attention to his design for a new night look described as “a plaid overlay of baguette beads, worked on Argyll [sic] lines in navy-blue and clear crystal on a dress of white silk net” (Vogue June 1960). Also noted were its navy blue patent leather belt and “underplayed shaping….” This dress survives – albeit unlabeled and without the belt – in The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection.
Evening dress, courtesy The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection, 1986.162.15
Firestone ordered an iteration of the design with short sleeves and a more conventional gathered skirt. In December of 1961, a Bugnand design graced the Vogue cover, accompanied by enchanting copy, “In a season of stupendous night-looks, one of the greatest: a rangy net sweater, beaming with glitter and crystal, and pulled down on the hipline of a long white silk satin dress.” This garment also resides at Ohio State.
Evening overblouse, courtesy The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection, 1986.162.24
Despite having salons on both sides of the Atlantic, a growing list of clients, and accolades from the fashion press, Bugnand did not rely solely on custom-made clothes to make ends meet. He also sold designs to manufacturers, though there is minimal documentation of those transactions. Some American department stores prided themselves on selling faithful copies of the latest Paris fashions. For example, at a fall 1960 event, Orbach’s showed “translations” of styles by Bugnand, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Grès, Nina Ricci, Cardin, Fabiani, and other designers, claiming they were “so exact…done with such unhurried perfection…they’re actually re-creations” (New York Times Sept. 14, 1960). A few months later, Bugnand announced his own ready-to-wear line named for the French national flag, the Tricolor Collection, which was targeted to select stores (Christian Science Monitor Nov. 7, 1960). When Bugnand began designing cocktail and evening dresses for the wholesale house, Sam Friedlander, in 1962, he stayed true to himself as a designer. According to the New York Times, “The beading and jet trim usually reserved for couture fashions trimmed moderately priced clothes” (June 12, 1962). Other designs for the manufacturer even included fur trim.
As the fashion world evolved, Bugnand continually revamped his business strategy to keep pace. Sometime in the mid-1960s, he closed the doors of his Paris salon and moved his entire business to New York, presumably to be closer to loyal clients such as Firestone and the socialite and philanthropist Judith Peabody (Mrs. Samuel P. Peabody). In 1965, the New York Times reported that Peabody –an avid supporter of the American Ballet Theater, New York Shakespeare Festival, and the Dance Theater of Harlem – had single-handedly “boosted the stock” of couturier Bob Bugnand by invariably appearing in his designs at parties and premieres (New York Times June 7, 1965).
Though it is unclear how Bugnand felt about leaving Paris to work full-time in the United States, the designer seems to have approached his work with good humor. The earliest dated garment with his signature New York label is the sequin-covered minidress dubbed Scuba Duba from 1968. [Image 11 WRHS 92.43.45a label] [Image 12 OHCT 1990.576.3]
New York label, author photo, Western Reserve Historical Society, 92.43.45
Scuba Duba evening dress, 1968, courtesy The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection, 1990.576.3
He continued to create and show collections and worked closely with long-time clients. Bugnand sent Firestone sketches of new collections and custom designs and often offered suggestions, which she sometimes heeded. [Image 13 WRHS 92.43.46] In the summer of 1975, Bugnand shifted his course again by opening a shop in Westhampton, Long Island, where he sold ready-to-wear resort clothes along with his custom designs. He continued to create collections as late as 2001 and he died at age 81 in 2005. No obituary has surfaced.
Day coat, ca. 1971, author photo, Western Reserve Historical Society, 92.43.46
This preliminary investigation shows that designer Bob Bugnand’s career reflects the changing realities of Paris couture from its “golden age” in the decade or so following World War II through the end of the century. Although he was steeped in the couture – or perhaps because he understood its realities – Bugnand committed himself to the world of fashion and all its unpredictability. His longevity seems to be due to a combination of passion, flexibility, resourcefulness, and a commitment to his clients, to whom he gave what they wanted and needed, in a way they felt good about. His designs never shock, occasionally amuse, and invariably appear effortless. “I am always happy,” he said, “when I have succeeded in making a woman look her best. I consider it a personal victory…” (Christian Science Monitor Nov. 7, 1960). Making a woman the focal point – rather than her clothes – earned Bugnand earned a loyal following.
Once again, I am grateful to Worn Through for the research award that facilitated my inquiry into designer Bob Bugnand. Likewise, I appreciate the dozens of generous individuals in museums, archives, auction houses, and vintage sales who fielded my inquiries and provided information and access to materials. I intend to publish an article on Bugnand’s career and would appreciate any additional leads you can provide. It is my hope the overlooked designer will soon receive the attention he deserves.
Bowles, Hamish. 2001.Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bugnand, Bob Collection. Special Collections and FIT Archives, Gladys Marcus Library, Fashion Institute of Technology.
Firestone Family Papers. Benson Ford Research Center, The Henry Ford.
Orr, Lois. 2006. “Elizabeth Parke Firestone: Her Couture Collection and Her Role as a Woman of Influence.” M.A. thesis, University of Akron. http://sc.akronlibrary.org/files/2010/12/Elizabeth-Parke-Firestone.pdf
Sotheby’s. 1991. Collectors Carousel: Including Couture Clothing from The Elizabeth Parke Firestone Collection and The Lydia Gordon Collection. Auction catalog for Dec. 19, 1991. New York: Sotheby’s.
Shire Books generously provided us with some titles to give to our readers during this month.
U.S. only please to save on my shipping. I’ll set up another that is international–thank you!
In this post we’re giving away:
Fashion in the 1940s by Jayne Shrimpton
The first reader to email me with the correct answer to the following trivia question about Worn Through question can have this book!
Here is the question. The answer can be found reading previous blog posts.
What fashion editor and eccentric was the grandchild of one of the earliest female ethnographic photographers?
Thanx for playing! Look for more giveaways soon.