You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Costume

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This week’s column focuses on the word “costume” as a way of dressing for a specific event or role as well as the ensemble itself. What are the differences between costume and dress? What decisions do we make when consciously choosing a costume for an event? How can costume work to conceal or reveal aspects of our identities? These are a few of the questions tackled by the authors of this week’s recently published articles. We hope you enjoy!

1. Cole, S. (2014). Costume or dress? The use of clothing in the gay pornography of Jim French’s Colt StudioFashion Theory, 18(2), 123-148.

It would seem that one of the intentions of the viewer of gay pornography would be to see the sexual engagement of the participants (and perhaps the “money shot”) with a focus upon the gymnastics and writhing of bodies that constitute the practice and representation of sexual activity within the film. However, before nudity or nakedness is presented the “characters” are dressed. Using the films and photography of Colt Studio and its founder Jim French from the period 1967‐81 as a focus this article explores the ways in which the “characters” are constructed through their clothing and costuming. It will address the ways in which these “icons” of masculinity that had developed in the pre-liberation physique magazines and stag films reflected the prototypes, archetypes, and stereotypes of post-liberation gay identity and dressed appearance in the fifteen years following the Stonewall riots and gay liberation. Colt Studio was famed for its particular presentation of hypermasculine images and a “stable” of masculine actors that included Clone superstar Al Parker. This article will offer an analysis of the use of particular items of clothing and the iconic styles of leatherman, motorcycle cop, and gay clone in Colt’s output of this period. — Full Article Abstract 

2. Copeland, R., & Hodges, N. (2014). Exploring masquerade dress at Trinidad Carnival: Bikinis, beads, and feathers and the emergence of the popular pretty masClothing & Textiles Research Journal, 32(3), 186-201.

Over the past several decades, there has been a considerable shift in the form of masquerade costumes worn during Trinidad Carnival. With the growing popularity of Carnival, there are increasing concerns about whether the modern style of costume will lead to the disappearance of Carnival s traditional meanings. This study employs an ethnographic methodology to understand dress at Carnival in the context of a 21st century global society. Data collection took place in Trinidad during the Carnival season and employed the methods of participant observation, depth interviews, and photographic documentation. Data were analyzed for emergent themes, and an interpretation of the significance of changes in masquerade costume for understanding Carnival was developed. Further research on the role of the dressed body at Trinidad Carnival is needed to fully examine the power of dress to define Carnival and shed more light on its importance. — Full Article Abstract 

3. Moden, M. (2014). Layers of the ethereal: A cultural investigation of beauty, girlhood, and ballet in Japanese Shōjo Manga culture. Fashion Theory, 18(3), 251-296.  

The popularity of classical ballet as a cultural form grows apace in a global context. Even in a country like Japan, which has not been previously identified as a “ballet capital,” it is receiving wide public attention. As a conventionally female-dominated arena, ballet and the ideas that circulate around it reveal the complex interrelationship between femininity, beauty, and selfhood. A prime example is the understudied genre of “ballet manga” in Japanese Shōjo Manga culture. With the first examples published in the mid-1950s, the history of ballet-themed manga reveals that, particularly in the years following the Second World War, ballet was the epitome of a dream world, connoting luxury, beauty, and glamour. “Ballet manga” used this particular art form, its costumes, and romanticized, almost fairy tale-like settings of Old World Europe as a mix of femininity, rigor, and elegance remade for Japanese audiences. Since the 1970s, some authors have attempted to combine this imagery of ballet with the idea of feminine independence and agency, thus negotiating the paradox of reality and fantasy in lived experience. Ballet, therefore, is not presented simply on the stage but in Japan is frequently interpreted/experienced through Shōjo Manga. This distinctive situation deserves closer scholarly investigation. — Full Article Abstract


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