CFP: Wear Your Nation – Wear Your Utopia?! Clothing, Fashion and Beauty in Historical Perspective

The basic premise that “everybody needs to dress” enables historians to examine to which extent individuals and groups define themselves by means of clothing, fashion and beauty ideals, or whether (and how) they disassociate themselves from these ideals. In short, whether intended by the respective actors or not, (self-)identifications, categorizations, self-images and feelings of belonging can be clarified within this framework.

Did people over the course of history also try to express national, religious or political belonging through their clothes? In these respects, manifestations of power relations can come into focus, whether in terms of the relationship between (state) authorities and individuals or with regard to social stratification, interactions between the individual and the collective, generational differences or gender roles. A historical perspective and a focus on various geographical areas and communities enable us to emphasize the constructed and dynamic nature of concepts of fashion and beauty.

This three-day-workshop, with ample room for discussion, will explore how ideals of clothing, fashion and beauty as categories of analysis provide a new perspective upon historical processes of negotiation in the context of nation-building and during the implementation of social projects and utopias.

It aims for a broad geographical coverage with regard to the contributions. The chronological focus should be on the modern period. The focus lies on both the actors, who determined and shaped the processes of negotiation as to what was considered “fashionable”, and on the analysis of tension in the economic, medial, political and social realms that were the driving forces behind far more visible manifestations.

Clothing, fashion, and beauty should in principle be reflected and discussed as a historical category of analysis. Of interest are, among other things, methodological and theoretical approaches (for instance of visual culture studies, of material culture, performativity, body history, etc.), whose applicability should be examined by using historical case studies.

The workshop will be held in English.

The committee invites researchers to submit abstracts for short presentations (in English), which are connected to the aforementioned topics. The inclusion of historical sources is considered a requirement.

Deadline: A 250 words abstract must be submitted by August 1, 2014 via email to

Participants will be informed by August 15, 2014 about the results.

Costs for accommodation over the course of the workshop and travel expenses (to some extent) of invited speakers will be covered by the organizers.

Funded by the German Historical Institute (DHI) Warsaw and the Institute for the History of the German Jews (IGdJ), Hamburg

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