You Should Be Reading: Fashion and the City

This week, “You Should Be Reading” focuses on the relationship between fashion and the city. The four recently published articles below address the ways in which location plays a role in determining what is fashionable, as well as the importance, value, and meaning of fashion. Often this relationship reveals much about the identity of not only the individual but also the collective city. What can we learn about our own identity and relationship to dress by situating the concept of fashion in a particular place and space?

1. Bernstein, S. T., & Kaiser, S. B. (2013). Fashion out of place: Experiencing fashion in a small American townCritical Studies in Fashion and Beauty, 4(1-2), 43-70.

Individuals who do not neatly fit into the normative parameters of a given place generate new ways of expressing subjectivity and bridging self–other boundaries as well as ‘in-place’ and ‘out-of-place’ ways of knowing. In this article, based on interviews with 21 individuals who have been in and out of place in a small town in Oregon (Grants Pass), we explore each of the three concepts – fashion, ‘out’ and place – to identify the ways in which individuals experience various routes and locations through time and space. — Full Article Abstract

2. Evans, A-M. (2013). Fashionable females: Women, clothes, and culture in New YorkComparative American Studies, 11(4), 361-373. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2010 ‘American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity’ exhibition explored the evolution of female fashion from 1890‐1940, a period when the role of women in society developed rapidly. This article examines two of the cultural roles that fashion helped to define: the heiress figure of the 1890s, and the 1920s flapper. Both types of fashion identity had a distinctive look, such as the corseted waist and moulded silhouette of the 1890s dresses, and the shorter skirts and dropped waist of the later flapper fashions. Focusing on these two models of womanhood, the article explores the idea of fashion more generally in two novels that discuss these figures: the heiress in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905) and the flapper in Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925). —  Full Article Abstract

3. Farinosi, M., & Fortunati, L. (2013). A new fashion: Dressing up the citiesTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 11(3), 282-299. 

The aim of this article is to explore the urban knitting movement, a worldwide phenomenon that tries to combine a domestic activity, street or folk art, the reshaping of do-it-yourself culture, and peaceful forms of urban guerrilla protest. The activists employ colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth to enhance, beautify, personalize, and gentrify abandoned public places. Furthermore, they use the Internet to share knowledge on techniques and experiences, to organize collective actions, and to record and document their artistic installations. This article is focused on an urban knitting project realized in L’Aquila (Italy) three years after the 2009 earthquake. It was called “Mettiamoci una pezza” (“Let’s Patch It”). The main aim of this project was to “dress up” the main square of the city, covering the gray metal barricades that still block off citizens from some areas of downtown and adding a sprinkle of color and warmth to the devastated city. We studied this movement in an ethnographic way, by applying a qualitative content analysis of the online materials and nonparticipatory observation of this event in L’Aquila in order to investigate what the collective action did both practically and symbolically. Our research shows how the movement was able to promote a very complex and meaningful political initiative. — Full Article Abstract

4. Jayne, M., & Ferenčuhová, S. (2013). Comfort, identity and fashion in the post-socialist city: Materialities, assemblages and contextJournal of Consumer Culture, first published on October 9, 2013 doi:10.1177/1469540513498613.

This paper works at the intersection of three bodies of writing: theories relating to fashion, identity and the city; debate relating to urban materialities, assemblages and context; and cultural interventions advancing the study of post-socialism. Drawing on empirical research undertaken in Bratislava, Slovakia, we unpack a blurring of public and private space expressed through clothing. In contrast to elsewhere in the city, in Petržalka, a high-rise housing estate from the socialist period, widely depicted as anonymous and hostile since 1989, residents are renowned for wearing ‘comfortable’ clothes in order to ‘feel at home’ in public space. We describe the relationship between fashion, identity and comfort as an everyday ‘political’ response to state socialism and later the emergence of consumer capitalism. We argue, however, that by considering materialities, assemblages and context that studies of fashion and consumer culture can offer more complex political, economic, social, cultural and spatial analysis. To that end, we show how personal and collective consumption bound up with comfort and city life can be understood with reference to changing temporal and spatial imaginaries and experiences of claiming a material ‘right to the city’. — Full Article Abstract

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