Auguste Renoir, Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, 1878, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 07.122
Just recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s version of Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity opened. This exhibition was first on view at Musée d’Orsay and will travel from the Met to close at The Art Institute of Chicago. But for now, those in New York have through May 27, 2013 to see the show.
For anyone that’s formally studied dress history, fine art (and portraiture in particular), is a significant and necessary reference tool. While extant garments and other forms of material culture can allow for a deeper understanding of how things were produced– as well as teach about the structure, techniques, and materials used to create fashion objects–we must also rely on images and texts to inform us as to how garments were truly worn. Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity includes not only paintings and clothing, but also fashion plates and illustrations, photography, and accessories to truly establish a comprehensive picture of what clothing looked like during the late 19th century.
Although one can easily find a veritable representation of 19th century portraiture and impressionist painting at any of the institutions involved with this exhibition, the opportunity to see them all together in one place–and grouped together by type and time period in a gallery setting in this manner–is a rare opportunity, and one that I strongly encourage those who have the time and inclination to see, to ensure that they don’t miss out on this chance!
Left: Marguerite Charpentier, c. 1875. Private collection. Right: Anaïs Toudouze (French, 1822-1899). “Toilettes by Madame Fladry, hat by Madame Deloffre,” La Mode Ilustrée, November 10, 1878. Steel engraving with hand coloring. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Library of the Costume Institute. Both images published in Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity.
Also of note is a free program on offer at the Met on Sunday, April 28th, which includes a variety of speakers, among them Valerie Steele speaking on the corset, and art and fashion historian Aileen Ribeiro giving a talk titled, In the Street and at the Theater: Clothes for Modern Life in 1870s Paris. Please see the museum website for more information.
A painted shoe pinwheel atop a display at the Marikina Shoe Museum.
I never pack an overnight bag without putting the name of my destination + “fashion museum” into a search engine. When planning my recent holiday trip to the Philippines, I continued the ritual, but already holding the hope that the nation’s, possibly the world’s most famous fashion artefacts were on display on one of the archipelago’s seven thousand islands.
A pair of shoes owned by Imelda Marcos by famed Royal Shoemakers Rayne.
Yes, you guessed it – the shoe collection of former first lady Imelda Marcos. If, like me, you caught the news from the USA sometime in the mid-1980s, you would be nominally familiar with the political climate in the Philippines at the time, and how Imelda Marcos’ reported three thousand pairs of shoes came to symbolise the corruption and excess of the time and place. In order to focus on my visit the the Marikina Shoe Museum, and not on political history, the links included will allow for a quick refresher on Imelda Marcos’ biography and her husband’s rise and fall from power.
A peek at the museum’s website online before boarding the plane revealed that the district that is home to the museum is also known for the manufacture of shoes, and that the gallery exhibits not only the shoes of Imelda Marcos and other notable figures, but a display on the history of shoemaking in the region.
The shoe “walk of fame” outside the Marikina Shoe Museum.
My incredibly gracious hosts were amused and surprised that I had heard of the museum, and brought me there for what was also their first visit. Following the museum trip, they added on a surprise jaunt to visit the world’s largest pair of shoes, made and on in display in the Marikina Shoe Gallery – where locally made footwear is thankfully available for sale at very affordable prices! The brown leather men’s oxfords which are seventeen feet long and eight feet wide, took seventy seven days to make and received the Guinness Book of World Records title in 2002.
At the entrance to the Marikina Shoe Museum.
The museum occupies a stand-alone Spanish Colonial style house in the centre of a bustling commercial district in the capital city of Manila. Outside the building a “walk of fame” comprised of tiles with the names of dignitaries and celebrities forms a path around the entrance. We were welcomed by staff, who offered us smiles, literature on the displays and kind permission to take photographs.
Shoe curios on display in the Marikina Shoe Museum.
The impressive building, with high ceilings and exposed beams, is divided into two exhibition levels, the first which begins with a curious cabinet of shoe knick-knacks and novelties that were collected by a former mayor of Manila. It seemed like an odd place to start the exhibits, but there were so many alluring things inside the cabinet, that I didn’t wonder too long about the curatorial intent!
Shoes worn by Philippino politicians and dignitaries.
Following on, a large gallery lined with cabinets of shoes mounted on tilted shelves stands proudly displaying a pair of shoes worn by dozens of former Philippine presidents and government representatives. None of the shoes are particularly remarkable for their design or style, but the volume and historical value of the collection, as a portrait gallery of presidents, seemed worthy, even clever.
A highlight of the celebrity footwear display.
Slightly more aesthetically interesting were varied shoes worn by celebrities, performers, and other civilians of note in the adjacent cases. Each pair of shoes was labelled with the former owner/wearer’s name and their claim to fame, but no date or design information. Some shoe styles or brands are recognisable, but for the most part it is the collection as a whole rather than as parts that is most impressive.
View of cabinets of shoes belonging to Imelda Marcos.
Essentially, the preceding displays end up seeming like just a warm-up to the museum’s star collection. Around eight hundred of Imelda Marcos’ three thousand pairs of shoes fill the rest of the floor.
Imelda’s pumps arranged by colour and shape.
Arranged by style and colour, the shoes are uncanny. The effect is a bit like being in a very upscale vintage store at the center of a strange and slightly ominous fairy tale.
Imelda Marcos’ vital shoe stats.
A painted portrait of Imelda, and a poster with vital statistics such as her shoe size are the only things which interrupt a nearly 360 degree expanse of shoe cabinets.
Sandals owned and worn by Imelda Marcos.
There are sandals and pumps and boots and mules…
Imelda’s whimsical bedroom footwear!
and kitten heels and bedroom slippers.
Imelda’s gilt-y shoes!
Some are plain and some are beaded, gilt and sequinned. Some look dated and some have come back in style a few times since she wore them.
Could these shoes be telling a different story? Send your comments!
Unfortunately because the shoes aren’t dated the shoes are not given a voice as a design historical collection, but instead their display as a sort of wardrobe, with their visible evidence of wear preserves and presents them as both a collective symbol and a collection of moments of life lived.
Life-sized diorama of shoe-making in Marikina.
The upper floor comprises the historical display outlining the development and practice of shoe-making in Marikina beginning in the nineteenth century. An antique diorama of cobblers is another curiosity that tells little, but delights the eye! However, a series of didactic panels offer a detailed illustrated account of the shoe manufacturing industry and its continued economic importance to the region.
Nearly impossible to photograph in a tight space, but a legible view of the historical panels nonetheless!
Shoes from local producers still in business are displayed, along with shoe-related exhibition posters from other museums around the world.
The Marikina Shoe Museum is on the whole wonderful. It was founded by an individua and the collection was built through donations – starting with Imelda’s! However, the collection could definitely benefit from conservation, curatorial planning, research and inevitably funding. A recent BBC report on the museum was also a call for help to the international community – so if you are seeking a unique opportunity and love shoes, why not take a step toward getting in touch to lend a hand?
In case you wondered what Imelda Marcos wore besides shoes, this formal beaded gown is on display as well at the Marikina Shoe Museum.
The museum’s final display seemed to be a coded language to fashion curators saying – “If you love historic footwear, give us a call!” I’m just saying. (Never mind that Hands Off sign – it’s not for you!)
Imelda Marcos may be more famous than infamous in the popular consciousness, but no matter how she is viewed by history, her shoes and the Marikina Shoe Museum offer a valuable and fascinating insight into footwear as symbol of excess, product of industry and as a material portrait of individuals and of locales.
With warmest thanks to Patty and Ludwig for making my visit possible, memorable and wholly enjoyable!
Genna Reeves-DeArmond kindly wrote this guest post for Worn Through
When RMS Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage April 10, 1912, she was the ultimate passenger liner – unchallenged in size, luxury, and technology. Some believed she was unsinkable, but she would prove them wrong in just five short days. One hundred years after she set sail, the fascinating and harrowing story of the Titanic continues to enthrall. The subject of the Titanic offers enormous scope for exploration of the people and history of her time. Clothing is a captivating aspect of this remarkable story and has the unique ability to reveal other facets of cultural history. The maiden voyage of Titanic was situated in a decade – the 1910s – that was dominated by change and reform in all aspects of life. By examining what women wore, we gain a fuller and more rounded picture of what life was like, both on board and during the time period in general.
The story of Titanic provides a lens through which to learn about women’s history, as clothing was an important component of the larger social picture. There are numerous Titanic museums to visit and they serve a unique multi-purpose function of education, social interaction, and entertainment. Museums often make use of visitor engagement practices and dress can be classified as a visitor engagement technique. Another visitor engagement technique utilized by Titanic museums is the presentation of a boarding pass containing the biographical information of a real Titanic passenger to each museum visitor. Large-scale social movements (e.g., the women’s rights and suffrage movements) were taking place in the 1910s. The clothing produced and worn by women served as a visual indicator of daily life and social values in 1912.
One of the fashion designers responsible for ridding women’s wear of the corset and introducing slits in skirts – “Lucile”, Lady Duff Gordon – was aboard the Titanic. Lucile was a renowned couturier and Titanic first-class passenger. When I visited the Branson Titanic Museum Attraction in January 2012 there was a gallery that contained a reproduction Lucile Tea Gown. Until its commission and construction by Julie Keen, this tea gown had only existed as a sketch, and in a copy of the Sears catalog in which Lucile’s designs appeared in 1916, as well as her original portfolio. In the past, the Branson location has been fortunate to have the opportunity to display authentic Lucile gowns from the time period that were loaned by a private collector.
“Lucile” Lady Duff-Gordon reproduction dress display.
Dress was reproduced from an original designer’s sketch (shown in the lower left corner).
Photo Credit: Cedar Bay Entertainment.
Image from postcard purchased by author in gift shop.
A view of the “Lucile” Lady Duff-Gordon display, featuring a dress reproduced from one of the designer’s original sketches and biographical information about the designer.
Photo Credit: Cedar BayEntertainment.
From Titanic Branson. (2010, February 17). Jaynee’s blog – Tragic valentine. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.titanicbranson.com/titanic blog/?p=142.
My visit to the Branson Titanic Museum Attraction was part of my doctoral research at Oregon State University. I also visited Titanic museums in Las Vegas, Pigeon Forge, and Orlando, studying how they display dress artifacts of the time, and how visitors learn from and personally relate to such displays. I interviewed museum visitors ranging in age from 20 to 85 to further understand what dress displays add to the museum experience and what type of information is learned from such displays.
A view of the Titanic Museum Attraction exterior in Branson, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Cedar Bay Entertainment.
From Titanic Branson. (2012). Titanic Branson press – Exterior photos. Retrieved from http://www.titanicbranson.com/media/images/titanic-branson-exterior/titanic_exterior03sm.jpg
Marshall, who had visited the Branson location, engaged with the Lucile reproduction dress by using prior knowledge to make an educated guess about the social class to which the passenger who might wear the dress belonged; he guessed that it would have been a first class passenger prior to reading the accompanying text and his guess was correct. In this way, participants observed dress and determined certain characteristics about the wearer by reading visual cues.
Allan, who had visited the Branson location, engaged with the Lucile reproduction dress in a different way. During my post-visit interview with Allan, he stated that he remembered seeing the Lucile reproduction dress on display and that it was designed by one of the passengers. The dress was blue and silver, and there was information on a text panel that stated she was the first fashion designer to put slits in a dress and his immediate response was, “okay…so what?” The primary reason that Allan did not find interest in this display is because he is not interested in people that are seemingly ahead of their time (i.e, avante garde). Allan believes that the Lucile dress, like fashion of today, is not functional; and that one of the reasons that runway fashion is not purchased and worn by the masses is because it is, generally speaking, too uncomfortable for daily wear. Allan proceeded to compare runway fashion to a spacesuit, drawing attention to the meticulous functionality of every design detail. In this words, “when you see something [on a spacesuit] and you say to yourself, ‘well, why is that there?’ there is a specific answer for why it’s there.” Allan was more interested in the functionality of the dress items that he viewed in the museum, based upon his own interests. The museums do, on occasion, display functional dress pieces that would interest visitors like Allan. For example, the life vest worn by famed first class passenger Madeline Astor is displayed in the Memorial Gallery.
A life jacket artifact on display in the Memorial Gallery of the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Cedar Bay Entertainment. Adapted from Titanic Branson.
(2012). Titanic Branson press – Interior photos.
Retrieved August 3, 2012, from
Allan was also drawn to the dress depicted in photo displays. He remembered a photo of a woman boarding the ship, which was almost life size. The enlarged photo size allowed him to take notice of the woman’s boots. He noticed that they were not high-heeled but just very basic and functional boots. This led to a discussion about what makes a photo interesting: that they allow him to focus on interesting details of dress that may not be the focal point of the image. Allan was somewhat surprised that the women in the images showing the boarding process were not decked out in high fashion clothing, revealing to him rules for daily dress of the period that he had not previously understood. He also found that the photos allowed him to compare the styles and types of dress worn by women of various social classes to the type of cabin in which a passenger would have stayed and other objects that they would have used during the maiden voyage, enabling him to better understand class differences of the time.
The Father Browne Gallery at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Missouri.
Allan’s discussion of women’s boots is in response to the large photo panel in the forefront.
Photo Credit: Cedar Bay Entertainment. From Titanic Branson. (2012). Titanic Branson press – Interior photos.
The Branson location also has the privilege of displaying a rare dress artifact: the purse of Velin Ohman. Ohman, a 22-year-old third class passenger from Sweden was traveling to Chicago on the Titanic. The purple and black purse adorned with netted beading was with Ohman when she made it in to a collapsible lifeboat. The purse is a rare and unique piece in the artifact collection on display because it was difficult for pieces to survive both the sinking of the ship and/or laying on the ocean floor for many years. During my participant observation a participant known as Ella was especially drawn to the display of this purse in The Shipyard Gallery. Ella and her husband, a participant known as Bradley, were drawn to the ornate quality of the bag (i.e., the shine of the beads and the intricate netting). The purse also caught her eye because it was the only dress artifact presented in a gallery about the building and layout of the ship. In this way, the purse added an additional human dimension to information being presented about the number of lifeboats added to the ship during the final stages of the construction process.
Another precious accessory on display belonged to Helen Candee. The miniature pendant with a cameo of her mother was with her on the Titanic. In January of 1912 Helen Candee – an American author, journalist, interior decorator, feminist, and geographer -was on an extended stay in Europe to complete research for a book on tapestries. Candee is credited as one of the first professional interior designers and a strong advocate for the feminist movement: she authored the best-selling book, How Women May Earn a Living (1900). In April of 1912 she received word that her son had been seriously injured in a car crash. She booked her passage immediately on the next ship available – which happened to be Titanic. The night of the sinking Candee met a fellow friend, architect Edward Kent, on the grand staircase. She became emotional and asked if he would take her miniature pendant with a cameo of her mother that had been painted by the famous American artist, Ella Hergesheimer. Later, Candee was saved in lifeboat no. 6, but Edward Kent was not. When his body was found, he still had the pendant in his pocket. The Kent family returned the precious memento to Helen Candee.
Ella’s boarding pass contained the biography of Helen Candee and she exhibited a personal attachment to this passenger. Ella formed a personal connection with Helen during her museum visit. That is, she seemed to discover a new and alternative connection that she could make to history, beyond facts and figures, because she was clearly attracted more to the stories of the people and how dress artifacts fit into their lives. Objects like Candee’s pendant and the other items of dress on display make it easier for visitors to relate to the event and the passengers, showing them the personal experiences of actual people. Upon entering the Interactive Gallery, I was standing near Ella during my participant observation and heard her say, “Where am I?,” referring to the possible presentation of photos and artifacts related to the passenger on her boarding pass. I told her that there was a whole case of items for Helen Candee and directed her to it. She was obviously pleased and went directly to the display case to view the artifacts (which included the miniature pendant described above), remaining visibly excited about her find.
A participant known as Elizabeth described herself as a women’s history enthusiast. She described herself as being particularly interested in how women are portrayed in museums because so many museums are presented from the perspective of “great men, great deeds.” In this way, women’s history was not only present in the museum attraction content, but also in the personal interests and responses of participants. There were a variety of reflections in response to how dress displays aligned with personal background, interests, and emotional reactions. Elizabeth was visiting the Orlando Titanic Museum Attraction and stated that the first thing she noticed was the display of dress on a dress form in a full-scale first class stateroom replica.
The full-scale replica of a first class stateroom at Titanic: The Experience in Orlando, Florida.
Photograph by author.
Elizabeth said that she became more aware of the social rituals observed by women throughout history as a result of that first display, but particularly after viewing and reading about a woman’s mourning pin during her museum visit. Elizabeth remembered that the woman died in the 1950s, making the story even more poignant because women mourned in a different way at that time and it’s not a ritual that is carried out through dress over a long period of time in our culture anymore. The mourning pin described by Elizabeth belonged to Marjorie Anne Newell, 23-year-old wife of first class passenger and banker Arthur Newell. She did not travel on the Titanic. However, her daughters and husband did. When the Carpathia docked following efforts to rescue Titanic passengers, it is said that she screamed and nearly fainted when she saw her husband not with her girls. She slept with his watch under her pillow every night, never allowed Titanic to be mentioned in her presence, and never took off his Edwardian mourning pin until the day she died in 1957 at the age of 103.
Simone, who visited the Orlando location, said that the dress displays helped her to get an idea of how a passenger’s personal finances (i.e., social class) dictated the amount of clothing they brought with them. She noticed that the wealthy passengers brought more accessories that were intended to create an entire ensemble, while the poorer passengers typically brought only what was necessary to be “properly dressed”. Simone particularly enjoyed the replica rooms because she could appreciate all of the individual elements that worked together to make it a successful replica, including the placement of dress and a wardrobe trunk in the first class stateroom. Another visitor, Caroline, stated that the trunk in the first class stateroom was her favorite dress display. She explained that she enjoyed seeing the contents of the trunk because it helped her to further understand the passengers’ daily lives through the process of packing and storing clothing.
A trunk recovered from the ocean soon after Titanic’s sinking that held women’s clothing and is believed to have belonged to a third class passenger. The lid of the trunk has a complex set of strings woven underneath to hold women’s hat feathers.
Photo Credit: Cedar Bay Entertainment. Adapted from Marr, R. (2007). Titanic: World’s largest museum attraction (A collector’s guide) (pp. 40-41). Branson,
MO: Missouri Life Publications.
The wardrobe trunk that is displayed in the full-scale replica of a first class stateroom at Titanic: The Experience in Orlando, Florida.
Photograph by author.
In general, Simone felt that the display of dress and costume should be more interactive. She acknowledged that the display of dress on a mannequin is cost-efficient; even that would be better than nothing. The addition of dress in the tea/dining room would be nice. Simone also suggested a display of how clothing was stored and transported during the voyage. This would help to showcase the many layers of clothing that were worn and the multiple outfit changes that took place during each day. First class passengers aboard Titanic were known for their embellished and opulent dress. Titanic’s first class ladies placed great importance on looking their best. Women of higher social classes changed outfits around three to four times a day to reflect changes in performed tasks and social activity throughout the day. Evening dress was differentiated from afternoon (or “casual”) dress. In this way, social life was directly connected to women’s dress during 1912. Along the same lines, Simone suggested a peek-a-boo booth where visitors can watch a woman dressing from her undergarments to her full outer garments to get a sense of the dressing process. It is especially important to her to have a human presence in the full scale replica rooms via dress displays.
Participants learned from and found personal meaning in dress displays by comparing them to contemporary dress, behaviors, and other aspects of society. Serena, who visited the Branson location, added an interesting observation about her museum experience with regard to viewing dress displays as parts of a whole. She wanted to see more extant representations of men’s dress. For her, the visual language of dress is better understood when given the opportunity to observe and compare men’s and women’s dress together. The Las Vegas location was the only location to display men’s dress – a pair of chevron-patterned men’s pants dated to the early 1900s – that was not a movie costume associated with the 1997 film Titanic.
This study revealed several recommendations for practice in museum attractions when it comes to dress and costume displays, based on the feedback of participants.Increased quantities of dress displays in the museum setting, the consistent inclusion of an explanatory text panel with such displays, the identification of a dress object as extant, replica, or reproduction, and the display of dress objects on mannequins all allow visitors to envision how the dress objects should look when worn. It is not always possible to display dress objects on mannequins due to their fragility. Therefore, the request for dress objects to be displayed on mannequins suggests that reproduction pieces, such as the Lucile gown described above, provide equivalent entertainment and educational value for visitors. Through the presentation of artifacts in the museum setting and research participant insights, it is clear that the attraction to the ill-fated ship goes beyond the sinking; it is the stories of the passengers and their personal affects that bring the Titanic to life. The Titanic is representative of a historical moment and clothing is a tangible marker of that moment. The clothes and accessories that the female passengers wore add a rich layer to the historical knowledge and provide cultural context for the lives of women who lived in this time period and sailed on this magnificent ship.
Guest Contributor Genna Reeves-DeArmond, an independent historic and cultural dress scholar, earned her PhD from Oregon State University’s School of Design and Human Environment. Her research interests include the role of dress/costume displays in historic learning within museum and heritage environments, visual rhetoric of historic dress displays, historic/cross-cultural dress instructional techniques, and cross-cultural apparel design. Find Genna’s dissertation here and professional portfolio here
Tsuke yaeba, or snaggleteeth, are coveted enough in Japan that a girl group was formed around the aesthetic trend in April 2012, scouted in a dentistry office that specializes in creating the “fangs” or protruding canines. Some dental offices are even offering tween and preteen girls discounts on the procedures, which can cost more than $400.
Nana, Mio, and Rika of the “snaggletooth” girl group TYB48, 2012. One of their first singles was, “Mind if I Bite?”
Snaggleteeth are usually defined as crooked teeth, and in the case of yaeba refer alternatively to prominent canines or “fangs.” Kirsten Dunst has been extensively investigated by tabloids for her supposed snaggleteeth, although her dental anomalies are much less obvious than those of the TYB48 girls, for example.
The dental procedure undergone by so many Japanese women is not as dramatic as many media make it sound; it’s often just a cap that gives the appearance of crowded baby teeth, a common cause of snaggleteeth.
In Japan, women who have (or buy) yaeba are considered slightly homelier than women with straight teeth, which is a good thing: it makes them more approachable–and subsequently much less homely. Often seen as a flaw in the West, prominent canine teeth have become an attractive trait to some Japanese men. Yaeba are now often associated with cuteness, or kawaii, a well-documented visual trend and sexual preference in Japan and around the world. As with the girls of TYB48, tsuke yaeba are often accompanied by cute, childlike clothing, such as a schoolgirl uniforms.
Photo from Elite Nights’ Tumbler (http://elite-knights.tumblr.com/), with the caption, “Doing yaeba right.” Photo: uncredited.
Many commentators harp on the relativity of beauty, the sacrifice (monetary and aesthetic) of these young women in their search for mates, and the sexualization of young girls. In a resounding and unsurprising lack of cultural relativism or understanding, websites like the UK Daily Mail Online offered headlines such as, “Japanese cosmetic trend for ‘sexy’ child-like look fuels demand for CROOKED teeth.” Perhaps this is a response to the wealth of comments substituting one insensitivity for another and comparing Japanese yaeba converts with the British, often lambasted for their apparent dental imperfections.
Is the trend for tsuke yaeba troubling for its connections with sexualizing a child-like appearance? Or is it just another easy target? Is it a step forward (or at least away) from our global obsession with a perceived perfection? What other procedures do you know of that remove, alter, or denigrate a socially attractive feature of the body in order to make a person more approachable (see: Tyra Banks advising widening a gap tooth)?
If it were a different part of the body, or more surgically invasive, would you feel differently? Where is the line of so-called “sacrifice” drawn? Does this belong on the spectrum of body modification, or can this be compared to our American/Western interest in plastic surgery? What is the difference?
Let us know what you think below!
Yes, I know that fashion week is in full swing around the world, and the lusty eyes of fashion history aficionados are fixed on news of Punk at the Costume Institute, but I’ve been physically and mentally far from it all.
I’ve been wearing flip flops for more consecutive days than in my entire life up to now, and both unable and somewhat unwilling to connect to Style.com. However, I have had the opportunity to visit what is arguably the most infamous group of fashion artefacts of the contemporary age – the shoes of Imelda Marcos, former Philippine first lady.
Nest week I’ll be sharing photographs and notes from my visit to the Shoe Museum in Manila, which since 1998 has been home to 800 pairs of Imelda’s shoes, along with other celebrity shoes and a display charting the history of the shoe-making industry in the city’s Marikina district. The neighbourhood is also home the the Guinness World Record holding largest pair of shoes in the world!
This week, have a look at this fairly recent BBC clip which gives an overview of the history behind the collection, and reports on its precarious position. Seems like a call for help from someone out there with a love of shoes and a knowledge of conservation!
Inevitable photo opportunity with the World’s Largest Shoes, in Marikina, Manila, Philippines.
You have probably heard by now that French women are finally legally allowed to wear pants. Anyone who has been to Paris (or seen Funny Face, pictures of sixties pinups, The Sartorialist, etc) can tell you that trousers on French women are an inspiring and common sight. However, the 214-year-old law was still on the books until a few days ago, theoretically requiring women to ask local police for permission to wear trousers.
New York Times Paris correspondent Elaine Sciolino told NPR that the law, which was amended in 1892 and 1909 to allow for women riding horses or bicycles to wear pants, was finally eliminated by the new Socialist government led by François Hollande.
Significantly, Sciolino notes that wearing pants can improve French women’s chances of avoiding sexual assault, as they are apparently susceptible to more unwanted advances than, say, we American females. It also takes gender equality one step further, if only symbolically, and hopefully will ease the minds of women’s rights groups that have been lobbying to change the law for decades.
Is this news? The tone of many news organizations has been a sort of smirking incredulity that it “took so long” and reassurances that female tourists no longer have to “fear arrest.” The idea of women’s pants as a marker of gender equality (although a flawed association) is apparently so widespread as to make a ban on them comical. But even in 1972 women were being turned away from certain establishments for wearing trousers.
Is the symbolic lifting of this ban meaningful to you? Would you feel differently if a woman had been arrested for wearing pants recently? How are European attitudes toward gendered dressing different from those in America?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave comments below!
Since 2013 began, my time has been so consumed with working on exhibitions and other projects, that I have not had the time to visit any shows on my own! A few that I’d hoped to see have now closed before I’ve had the chance to check them out, which includes the Bjarne Melgaard show, A ‘New Novel’, which included clothing by Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler. Yet, rather than focusing on lost opportunities, I thought that I would take this chance to share a couple not-to-be-missed-events that are happening in New York City this spring.
The first is an exhibition that is currently on view at The Queen Sophia Spanish Institute, Fortuny y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy.
After working with antique textiles for several years, I will never forget the moment when I first made the distinction between a knock-off Fortuny textile and the genuine article. Although with some time and contemplation I found that it was possible to articulate the subtle differences between the two textiles, it was an early moment of connoisseurship that was exciting to me for both the practical, knowledge-based implications, as well as for the sheer enjoyment of handling and admiring a beautiful Fortuny object.
Installation shot via the Fortuny website
The exhibition at The Queen Sophia Spanish Institute explores the heritage and familial lineage of the Fortuny brand, and includes garments, as well as paintings, printed and woven textiles, and lighting all created under the Fortuny umbrella. Here is a brief description from the institutional website:
A seminal exhibition analyzing the work of celebrated Spanish artist and designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871–1949) in the context of the family of artists from which he descended. Conceived by and curated with Oscar de la Renta, chairman of the Institute’s board of directors, this will be the first exhibition to examine the impact of both the matrilineal and paternal artistic legacies on Fortuny’s groundbreaking work in numerous fields, from textile and clothing design to visual arts, and elaborating on the origins and influences that shaped his extraordinary career.
The show is on view through March 30, 2013. Please see the website for more information.
Image via Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution
Another event, which I am very much looking forward to is the screening of the film Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution, that is happening on Tuesday March 5, at The Fashion Institute of Technology. This documentary was playing at the IFC center for a short time during the Fall, and I’m so happy to have a second chance to see it after missing out the first time around. As with all FIT events, they are free and open to the general public, but they do require advance registration, as well as have a tendency to ‘sell out’. Here is info from the FIT website:
Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution (documentary) ~ Deborah Riley-Draper (director)
Tuesday, March 5, 5:30 pm (doors open at 5pm)
FIT Haft Auditorium
Atlanta-based director Deborah Riley-Draper will present her critically acclaimed documentary Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution that recounts the legendary fashion show of 1973 at Chateau de Versailles that catapulted African American models and American sportswear designers onto the European stage. A panel discussion with the director and special guests will follow.
The showing of Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution is in tribute to Women’s History Month and a salute to the 40th anniversary of Le Grand Divertissement a Versailles. Sponsored by the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs at Fashion Institute of Technology in collaboration with the School of Liberal Arts, Presidential Scholars, the Museum at FIT, Office of Student Life, Office of Enrollment Management and Student Success, and Leonard Davis.
Please click here to register or learn more about the event, and here for more information about the film.
Enjoy this Alex Gordon Lecture in the History of Art: “Renoir and the Democracy of Fashion,” delivered by the formidable Aileen Ribeiro (author of Ingres in Fashion, Fashion and Fiction, Dress and Morality, and Facing Beauty) at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, March 28, 2012″
Renoir and the Democracy of Fashion from The Frick Collection on FORA.tv
As Michael pointed out in his post Rate Race: To intern or not to intern, that is REALLY the question, finding the time to juggle internship experiences and study can be difficult. Key to this issue, is finding an internship that works for you, and not just for the institution or company your interning in. Having been on both sides of the table, working as both a volunteer/intern and in volunteer recruitment, I am only too aware of how difficult it is to find a balance between what works for the institution and what works for the student. In this post, I will talk about my experiences from both sides, and try to give some tips and pointers about how to make these experiences worthwhile for you and your research.
Myself mounting garments for the Revolutionary Fashion exhibition at Fairfax House in York, Summer 2011. Photo: Serena Dyer.
Ironically for someone who has never spent a year out of the education system, going straight from BA to MA to PhD, I have always wanted to work and find jobs. Yet finding the balance between academic research and practical experience is difficult. There are times of the year when we need to focus on exams, dissertations and coursework, and others when we have a bit of time to explore other avenues and opportunities. Unfortunately, these times often do not coincide with when internships and volunteering are available. While I was working as a volunteer recruitment officer for the National Trust here in the UK, I was inundated with applications from students who would be unavailable over significant periods of our open season.
These problems aren’t just time-related, but experience related too. When I started volunteering, it was to work front of house in museums. In retrospect, this has been useful to my understanding of how museums run, but when looking for experience now, these kinds of opportunity would no longer be relevant. Working front of house does not utilise the specialist knowledge of grad/postgrad students, and neither does it provide an opportunity to develop professionally or academically. Yet, for many of my peers, there are few other options. If it is museum-based experience you are looking for, then curatorial or education experience is hard to come by, whilst reception and front of house is relatively abundant.
Underlying these issues are problems in the structure of the museum voluntary sector, which it is out of the hands of most students to change (unless, of course, you decide to go into volunteer management!). However there are ways to make the system work for you. From my experience, I would give the following advice:
1) Start volunteering early: Getting some experience, even if it is front of house in a museum or working in clothing store, is really important. However, do it early, ideally during your first years of undergrad/college. You don’t want to be at this first stage when you’ve just finished a grad programme. This will also help you decide whether grad school or the working world would be the right next step for you. This may even lead to some paid work, which will help you fund your way through grad school (I funded most of my MA by working front of house in a museum and in retail).
2) Don’t accept opportunities that don’t work for you: When offered a job, internship, or voluntary position, it can be very easy to simply accept it without thinking about how it will work for you. The last thing that employers want is for staff to have to back out months or weeks into a position because they don’t have time or it isn’t what they thought it would be. Of course, circumstances can change, but be careful about making commitments if you can’t see them through. Think about what you want out of it, if you have the time to spare, and most importantly, ask all your questions before you accept the post.
3) Look for opportunities that will broaden your horizons: Unless you’re certain where you want your career to take you, try not to keep doing the same thing. Having wide-ranging experience will be valued by most employers. University teaching and research experience can be valuable in museums, curatorial and exhibitions experience can be valuable in the fashion world, and front line fashion experience can be valuable in academia.
4) Don’t keep doing the same thing: If you are certain what career path you want to take, don’t keep volunteering or interning doing the same element of it. If you have cataloguing experience, then think about looking for exhibitions, mounting, outreach or research experience. A long string of only one type of experience will narrow the jobs you can apply for, and in most cases it is a mixture of all these skills that are required.
5) Look for experiences that fit with your academic research: If you’re struggling to fit your research in with your work in industry, then think about looking for or creating opportunities that fit with what you’re researching. For example, I have just accepted a new position at the V&A in Prints and Drawings, where I will be working with the fashion plates and fashion satires from the 1770s to 1920s. This will directly correspond to the PhD chapter that I will be working on this year, meaning that both my research and my professional experience will work together.
6) Don’t just wait for opportunities to come to you: I got some of my best jobs through networking and asking around. For example, when I organised my conference, Desiring Fashion, I was offered two jobs and a publication off the back of it. Similarly, when I was offered work as the Exhibitions Assistant at Fairfax House in York on the Revolutionary Fashion exhibit, it was because I had been recommended through my supervisor. I have also gained lots of lecturing experience by working freelance with Dressing History. This is the best way to get the jobs that will fit with your research and your time.
So, in summary, DO intern/volunteer (as our previous rat race posts say), but DON’Tdo things that don’t work for you and your research, or the company/institution. Ideally, find opportunities that directly help your research, be that with relevant garments, objects, designers or museums. If this isn’t possible, then try to make it as close as possible through networking or through simply creating your own experiences. As your career progresses you will continue to volunteer in some for or other, through societies, through university committees, at conferences. Volunteering isn’t about working for free, it’s about developing personally and professionally. So why not start now!
This is a post I wrote when I was living in and reporting on fashion and clothing in Sweden (posted July 12, 2012). I’d love to hear from people around the world whose countries have radio programs devoted to fashion. Or is Sweden the only one? Leave comments and questions below!
Radio in Sweden is truly a Thing. Programs are listed in the newspaper alongside the TV offerings and movie suggestions. Hosts (programledare) are well-known personages, and even appear in high-brow television game shows like On the Tracks (På Spåret) with actors and activists.
To be a guest host on the radio program Sommar i P1 is a privilege and an honor; famous people from all sectors of Swedish culture and society (this year includes a soccer star, a fashion/vintage blogger, a baker, and the IT and Communications Minister of Afghanistan, among others) talk about their lives and experiences for an hour and a half, with a soundtrack of their choosing. It marks the start of summer, and is playing in cars on the way to summer houses and as background to Midsommar supper preparations.
Guest presenters for this year’s season of “Sommar i P1″, gathered for the press conference. Photo: uncredited, SverigesRadio.
P1 is a basic station, essentially the equivalent of NPR, but I often find it has more engaging and a wider range of content. One of my favorites is Stil i P1 (Style on P1). Each episode is based around a style icon, a color, a material, and so on, hosted by fashion journalistSusanne Ljung and featuring contributions from journalists and researchers. They interviewfashion designers, scientists, bartenders, and doctoral candidates from the Fashion Studies program at Stockholm University to flesh out the red threads of each episode, some obvious, some tenuous. You might recognize the format: “Each week, we pick a theme, and put together a number of stories on that theme.”
“Joan of Arc at the coronation of King Charles VII” as painted by Ingrès in 1854. No one truly knows what she looked like. Louvre Museum, Paris.
For example, in the hour on Joan of Arc (“The world’s most trendsetting saint”), the conversations revolve not only around Joan herself as she has been translated into fashion (McQueen) and art (Rubens), but also instances of “short hair and men’s clothes” on women throughout fashion history, the power and danger of dressing against the norm, historical re-creations of clothing from the Middle Ages in Sweden, jewelry as armor, and super hero costumes.
The jewelry of Hanna Hedman. She was interviewed about her jewelry being a kind of armor for “Stil i P1″ on Swedish Radio, March 2012. Photo: uncredited, copyright Hanna Hedman.
What I find so fascinating about this show is that with the exception of a few pictures provided on the program’s website, there is so little provided (or suggested, required) visual material, no Stil Flickr, Pinterest or Tumblr. To engage with this program, the listener doesn’t even follow a text; one must listen. As with any radio program, Ljung and her contributors must create and recite accurate and/or evocative descriptions of appearances, outfits, and colors to make Stil work, although here, the imperative is somewhat greater due to the focus on fashion and clothing.
I’ve often thought of writing to Terry Gross and Jim Fleming, suggesting some sort of fashion history (or fashion criticism, or fashion exhibition) programming. But so many of my favorite American radio shows rarely interview visual artists and others whose work cannot be excerpted with sound clips. Are fashion and clothing difficult to talk about?
I keep a little running tab of textual descriptions of dress and clothing I come across in my consumption of culture, but I have yet to make any big conclusions, and I will leave a discussion of semiotics to the professionals (see: Further Reading). But the practice of suspending the immediately visual and tactile and giving room to alternate experiences of fashion (verbal, aural) can be a positive force in personal scholarship and the field at large, and radio reportage a challenging thoroughfare.
Do you think radio is an appropriate and/or effective medium for discussions of fashion? Are there fashion-focused radio programs that you listen to in your country or area? What is the difference between reading textual descriptions and listening to them? Which non-visual interactions with fashion do you find valuable? Please leave your comments and suggestions below!
Further Reading on fashion/semiotics:
Roland Barthes, The Fashion System
Umberto Eco, The Open Work; A Theory of Semiotics; and On Beauty
Patrizia Calefato, The Clothed Body, as well as ”Seeing + hearing = dressing” and “Fashion and Worldliness” in Fashion Theory