You Should Be Reading: Fashion and the Future

fashion books from stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

This week’s You Should Be Reading column takes a look at the future of fashion through the lens of technology: what sorts of new advances in fashion design and consumption will be possible over the next decade or more? This is an interesting question when we consider the exponentially fast pace of tech developments in today’s world. And while many of these developments started with different applications in mind, the fashion world has used its inherent ingenuity to tweak such developments for its own purposes. We are the lucky consumers who benefit from such research. What does the future hold? These four recently published articles give you some idea. Enjoy!

1. Blázquez, M. (2014). Fashion shopping in multichannel retail: The role of technology in enhancing the customer experienceInternational Journal of Electronic Commerce, 18(4), 97-116. 

The difficulty of translating the in-store experience to the online environment is one of the main reasons why the fashion industry has been slower than other sectors to adopt e-commerce. Recently, however, new information technologies (ITs) have enabled consumers to evaluate fashion online, creating an interactive and exciting shopping experience. As a result, clothing has become the fastest-growing online category of goods bought in the United Kingdom. This trend could have serious consequences for brick-and-mortar stores. The aim of this quantitative research is to gain a better understanding of multichannel fashion-shopping experiences, focusing on the role of IT and the crossover effects between channels. In particular, the author explores the influence of the level of online experience on the perceptions and motivations of fashion consumers when they buy across multiple channels. The theoretical framework of hedonic and utilitarian shopping values is applied to measure consumers’ shopping experiences and shopping motivations to buy in different channels. The results from a quantitative survey of 439 consumers in the United Kingdom suggest the need to redefine the in-store shopping experience, promoting the use of technology as a way to create an engaging and integrated experience among channels. Retailers must think in all channels holistically, boosting interactive and new technologies for the Internet and taking advantage of all touchpoints with the consumer, including mobile devices and social networks. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Gilgen, D., & Frankjaer, T. R. (2014). From wearables to soft-wear: Developing soft user interfaces by seamlessly integrating interactive technology into fashionable apparelDesign, User Experience, and Usability. User Experience Design Practice, 8520, 253-260.

The development of electronic features for use in apparel has advanced rapidly in recent years, and applications in athletic wear have been particularly successful. However, ‘Smart Fashion’ has not yet been integrated into everyday garments. In this paper the authors propose a new approach to the design of interfaces in Smart Fashion, which they refer to as the Soft User Interface (SUI). The ways in which e-textiles physically convey information differs greatly from traditional ways in that information is communicated via graphical user interfaces on computers, smartphones or on WearComp devices. As a result of their research, the authors advocate the use of iconic and indexical signs for Smart Fashion as these are widely accessible and understood. As an extension to this new interface paradigm, they expect that the harvesting of biometric data, including bodily gestures, will significantly extend the possibilities of SUIs. – Paraphrased Article Abstract

3. Nosu, K., & Ikeda, M. (2014). A preliminary analysis of item-selection behavior of Japanese female university students examining a 2D virtual fashion web site.  IEEJ Transactions on Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 9(5), 569-571.

E‐commerce is spreading into various fields in our daily lives as a result of the growth of interactive Internet communication technologies. Two‐dimensional computer graphics (2D CG) image presentations, which are simple and inexpensive, can be displayed directly on apparel e‐commerce sites. This study uses sequential pattern mining to analyze the item‐selection behavior of Japanese female university students examining a 2D virtual fashion Web site. It is found that most users did not initially examine their favorite category items; instead, they examined the commonly viewed items first, and then examined various other fashion items before making their final selection. – Full Article Abstract 

4. Sohn, M., & Bye, E. (2014). Exploratory study on developing a body measurement method using motion captureClothing & Textiles Research Journal, 32(3), 170-185.

This was an exploratory study on measuring body surface measurement change in motion using a motion capture system. The purpose was to test the reliability of a motion capture system as a new body measurement method, and to investigate body surface measurement changes in motion. Using an optical motion capture system, this study focused on the measurement changes on the back of the body while the subject performed an arm rotation test. The results of this study suggested that the motion capture system can be used as a body measurement method, especially for measuring the body in continuous movement. The results of the body surface measurement change in the arm rotation motion test showed that upper body measurements increased or decreased corresponding to the shoulder joint and scapula movement. The shoulder width (-38.45%), back width (16.08%), and back arc at the armpit (27.69%) exhibited the most change. – Full Article Abstract 

 

Image Credit: stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

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Reader Survey 2014

chk

We would like to encourage our readers to participate in a brief survey about Worn Through. Quite a few years ago we did a similar survey and it helped shape the direction we took the blog.

Here is the link to do the survey

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s brief and would only take a couple of minutes. To keep things quick for you we did not include a lot of open commenting, however, we invite you to add any further comments to this post itself, and after the survey is over we’ll pick one person who commented at random and I will send you a copy of my book Punk Style (it does not have to be a glowing review of the blog to get the book!).

I’ll post this a few times and we’ll wrap it up the first week of September.

Again here is the survey link.

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Seeking 2 New Interns

Worn Through is looking for 1 – 2 new interns to start as early as September or October and preferably work with us for the entire 2014-15 school year.

We are particularly looking for people who are comfortable with Twitter, academic journal articles, and those who want to help with finding and posting CFPs, interesting videos, doing research with contributors, and other tidbits our readers would enjoy.

We need someone who checks email daily and can be fairly quick in response time, although this is the type of position where you can do many of your tasks in chunks (such as pre-posting weeks’ worth of CFPs). Therefore we can work with your workplace or school schedule as long as you are a good email communicator. The ideal candidates are involved in the research/academic/history & culture side of apparel studies and want to continue in those fields. Although someone in marketing/trend research or similar may be great too.

Worn Through is a volunteer network of individuals who work as thriving museums, schools and doing independent research projects of all sorts, so this is a strong networking and professional experience opportunity for a student or new graduate. Many of our interns move onto nice jobs and/or become contributors here at Worn Through. Internships are unpaid, however we have worked it out with schools in the past to do any paperwork needed to get credit if that is an option for you. Also note we have 30-40,000 hits per month and almost 1000 Facebook fans so your efforts will be visible to the public and your hard work recognized. Also upon a strong job we are happy to write letters of recommendation.

Please email Dr. Monica Sklar with your CV and brief cover letter by September 15. Goal start date is October 1 or 15 latest. 

Comments

Reader Survey 2014

chk

We would like to encourage our readers to participate in a brief survey about Worn Through. Quite a few years ago we did a similar survey and it helped shape the direction we took the blog.

Here is the link to do the survey

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s brief and would only take a couple of minutes. To keep things quick for you we did not include a lot of open commenting, however, we invite you to add any further comments to this post itself, and after the survey is over we’ll pick one person who commented at random and I will send you a copy of my book Punk Style (it does not have to be a glowing review of the blog to get the book!).

I’ll post this a few times and we’ll wrap it up the first week of September.

Again here is the survey link.

Comments

Reader Survey 2014

chk

We would like to encourage our readers to participate in a brief survey about Worn Through. Quite a few years ago we did a similar survey and it helped shape the direction we took the blog.

Here is the link to do the survey

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s brief and would only take a couple of minutes. To keep things quick for you we did not include a lot of open commenting, however, we invite you to add any further comments to this post itself, and after the survey is over we’ll pick one person who commented at random and I will send you a copy of my book Punk Style (it does not have to be a glowing review of the blog to get the book!).

I’ll post this a few times and we’ll wrap it up the first week of September.

Again here is the survey link.

Comments

You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Textiles

fashion books from stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

This week’s Reading column looks at the material aspects of fashion: the production and consumption of textiles themselves. Textiles are of course used not only for the production of clothing but also for decoration and and functionality in our home environments. These four recently published articles, though, focus mainly on how producers and consumers relate to textiles as they are used for fashion and accessories. From an exploration of the Dorze weavers in Ethiopia and textile production in 14th century Greenland to contemporary uses for recycled textiles and the meaning of materiality in clothing, these articles examine how we make and use textiles for our clothing. We hope you enjoy!

1.  Ekström, K. M., & Salomonson, N. (2014). Reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles–A network approach. Journal of Macromarketing, 34(3), 383-399. 

The accelerated pace of consumption in the Western world has led to an increase in clothing and textiles disposed of in the garbage rather than being reused or recycled. The purpose of this article is to increase understanding of how clothing and textile consumption can become more sustainable by demonstrating how members of a network view and deal with this problem. The study is based on meetings over one and a half years and on a survey. Different views on the problem as well as various solutions on how to increase reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles are presented, including means and challenges. A macromarketing perspective, involving different actors in society, is necessary in order to make consumption more sustainable and for finding long-term solutions. The authors argue that understanding symbolic consumption and the fashion system can contribute to the macromarketing study of societal development from a sustainable perspective. – Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Klepp, I. G., & Bjerck, M. (2014). A methodological approach to the materiality of clothing: Wardrobe studiesInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(4), 373-386. 

The material is not just ‘a carrier’ of different types of symbols, but an active element in the practices. Bringing this to the fore requires new research methods. This article discusses a methodological approach, we call it a wardrobe study, which allows for the analysis of the way in which clothes relate to each other on the whole or within parts of the wardrobe. More specifically, we discuss how this method can contribute to increasing the materiality of clothes studies. The theoretical point of departure for this approach is a practice theory in which the material enters as an integral part. First, the article briefly discusses developments within the study of dress and fashion. Second, the methods combined and developed in wardrobe studies are discussed. The emphasis here is primarily not only on the weaknesses of the individual methods in practice-oriented dress studies, but also on how they jointly can contribute to the wardrobe study. — Full Article Abstract

3.  Mathiszig, L. (2014). Dialog: The Dorze weavers of EthiopiaTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 12(2), 180-187. 

Ethiopia is a country with an ancient history and a rich tradition of crafts, still to be discovered by mainstream tourism. While traveling here, the author was impressed by the beautiful artisan work and the truly original craftsmanship she found, untouched by mass markets and fashion trends. These ranged from the unique leather clad baskets of the north and beautiful silver jewelry of Tigray to the highly skilled basketwork of the women of Harar and the extraordinary skills of the South Omo Valley tribespeople. However, it is the weaving tradition, which particularly interested her. Whether in the capital, Addis Ababa, or walking in the remote Simien mountains, simple textiles made with the most basic equipment are worn and used everywhere; unlike in many other parts of Africa, traditional handwoven fabrics have remained a part of everyday life. It is the Dorze people who are renowned throughout Ethiopia for their weaving tradition and skills, and the author went back to find out more about them, their history and craft, traveling to their homeland in the southern highlands of Ethiopia. – Paraphrased Article Abstract 

4. Smith, M. H. (2014). Dress, cloth, and the farmer’s wife: Textiles from Ø 172 Tatsipataa, Greenland, with comparative data from IcelandJournal of the North Atlantic, 6(6), 64-81.

Midden excavations at Ø172 (Tatsipataa), on the eastern shore of the Igaliku fjord in southwestern Greenland, produced a significant textile collection consisting of 98 fragments. This collection is important as it stems from a well-contextualized and well-stratified sequence, allowing significant insights into the evolution and nature of cloth production in Greenland. Analysis of this collection showed that while the earliest fragments mirror Icelandic counterparts of comparable ages, the Ø172 collection changes considerably by the 14th century. From this point onward, Greenlandic women wove a weft-dominant cloth unique to Greenland. This cloth type has previously been noted in other, later, Greenlandic collections, but the Tatsipataa collection provides new evidence for the date of its first production. The sudden appearance of this distinctive weft-dominant Greenlandic homespun in the mid-14th century suggests that its production was a domestic adaptation to the initial climatic fluctuations of the Little Ice Age. Overall, the Tatsipataa collection suggests that Greenlandic textile production did not follow the evolutionary trajectory of Icelandic textiles, which became a form of currency from the early to the later Middle Ages. Instead, Greenlandic textiles appear to have been consistently produced for household consumption, without the intense standardization for trade observed in medieval Icelandic collections. – Full Article Abstract 

 

Image Credit: stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

Comments

Reader Survey 2014

chk

We would like to encourage our readers to participate in a brief survey about Worn Through. Quite a few years ago we did a similar survey and it helped shape the direction we took the blog.

Here is the link to do the survey

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s brief and would only take a couple of minutes. To keep things quick for you we did not include a lot of open commenting, however, we invite you to add any further comments to this post itself, and after the survey is over we’ll pick one person who commented at random and I will send you a copy of my book Punk Style (it does not have to be a glowing review of the blog to get the book!).

I’ll post this a few times and we’ll wrap it up the first week of September.

Again here is the survey link.

Comments

You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Costume

fashion books from stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

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

 

Image Credit: stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

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Book Review: I Love Those Earrings

cover i love those earrings

A pop history of collectables so often blends nostalgia and personal experience with historic research. The author falls in love with Legos, buttons, LPs, etc in his or her youth, saves up for the first or the elusive, and the rest is publishable material. I Love Those Earrings, by Jane Merrill and Chris Filstrup, is a love story to the earring. The typical pop history approach reminded me a bit of On the Button by Nina Edwards, a book I recently reviewed for DressBut where that book is as scattered as an overturned notions jar, I Love Those Earrings is structured in its historical content and perfectly balanced in its evident admiration for the subject matter. With some dramatic exceptions, I wear the same pearl studs every day. But while reading this book I started to reconsider the costume earrings I’ve carried with me through many moves, reserving for special occasions. Maybe they would work for every day, playing queen or noblewoman on the streets of Stockholm?

From "I Love Those Earrings" by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

From “I Love Those Earrings” by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

As the authors, skillful and familiar storytellers, introduce us to Earring History, we learn that fashionable styles reflect available materials, advancing technology, sumptuary laws. We meet the women who made the jewels famous (and vice versa), find inferences in social mores and are reminded of the earrings worn in Pretty Woman–would you be able to conjure up the shape and size of the earrings, or just the snapping of the jewelry box on her fingers?

Paraphrasing ancient history, myths as painted by Titian, royal marriages, French revolution, and Josephine Baker’s influence, this book flows. It has a charming way of relating these stories of lust and war to their subject: “The initial object of [Henry VIII's] ambition was Eleanora of Austria (1498-1558) who would have brought to England an extravagant collection of earrings.” (27) I enjoyed the juxtaposition that unintentionally created: Henry weighing Eleanora’s earring collection against the Spanish alliance he would gain from marriage with Catherine of Aragon–whom he eventually chose as his first wife for that reason.

From "I Love Those Earrings" by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

From “I Love Those Earrings” by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

The book is organized chronologically, which is logical and easy to follow. As is common for pop histories spanning huge amounts of time, the “early” chapters cover centuries and even millennia, whereas the later might discuss a two or three decades. The chapters are pleasantly organized in different manners, keeping the reader engaged: the sixteenth-century examines European depictions of famous women, the seventeenth-century chapter starts with a tour of Dutch portraits in American museums. The “Belle Époque” leads with a personal history of grandmothers and ends with “In the Colors of Feminism.” When we arrive in the twenty-first century, individual earring artists, almost all American, are given the stage. The book concludes with personal histories from women who love earrings, a short visual glossary of earring fastenings, and a bibliography.

Sushi earrings by Stephanie Kilgast. Pictured in "I Love Those Earrings" by Jane Merrill and Christ Filstrup, 2014.

Sushi earrings by Stephanie Kilgast. Pictured in “I Love Those Earrings” by Jane Merrill and Christ Filstrup, 2014.

The photographs and reproduced paintings included are museum quality, generally well edited. One drawback–perhaps a function of the image budget?–is that many paintings referenced meaningfully in the text are not included visually. But I especially appreciated the authors’ study of contemporary portraits, which gave the work a more academic feel–more than “just” a collector’s delight. As Merrill writes in her introduction,

Swirling quite carefree in culture and fun, I became drawn to earrings like a crow to a piece of silver foil. I consciously wanted to develop my sense of beauty as I had for carpets–and my pursuit became the earrings I saw in paintings, museums, fairs, expositions, and shops. …Playing detective, I would detect a whisper of pearl of pendant in a portrait, which might well not show up in a reproduction. (6-7)

Portraits are prized in this book, and the authors write short analyses of the importance and roles of these paintings in the history of earrings to augment the existence of the extant jewelry. Advancements or fashions in portrait painting as well as the skill of celebrated artists are noted for how they helped make certain types of earrings popular, proved the eminence of the portrayed figure, or highlighted the inherent beauty of stones and precious materials.

From "I Love Those Earrings" by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

From “I Love Those Earrings” by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

Here and there are teasers of other primary source materials, such as an eighteenth-century drawing, a design for Aigrettes housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, seen above. I wish there had been more of these less obvious sources for variety’s sake. Interestingly, as the decades pass in this volume, a greater portion of the jewelry photographed was courtesy jewelry dealers and private collections than museum collections. In the “Victorian Era” chapter, Merrill passes into a collectors’ state:

This brings me to my single, favorite pair of Victorian earrings, where whimsy is executed with perfect craftsmanship, resulting in utterly wearable fantasy. You see this pair of goldfish bowls that were a tour de force in rock crystal. If you’ve carried a goldfish in a bowl or plastic sack back from a country fair or amusement park, you know that the bowl sloshes and almost tips out the fish. The same giddy tension was embodied in these earrings. (101)

Her heartfelt description of “A Mother’s Jewelry Box” will be familiar to many young women (and men). This book is, after all, about (and arguably for) women. Men (or, “studs who wear them”) and jewelry fill one chapter, which also begins with a personal history: Merrill confronts her co-author–her ex-husband–with his adornment choices over the years.

From "I Love Those Earrings" by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

From “I Love Those Earrings” by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

From there we jump into ancient history and speed through the millennia to the seventeenth century. It is also an example of the abrupt endings found here and there in this book: that’s certainly not the end of male earring-wearing, and there is no concluding paragraph. The final line of the chapter concludes an anecdote about the Abbé de Choisy: “Even as he took on the celibate life of a clergyman, he continued to crossdress.”

While entertainingly written, there are some odd punctuation and interesting word-order choices; this may not bother other readers. The style is informal; historian Ion Grumeza personalizes his essay on ancient jewelry with the qualifying phrase, “Romania, where I grew up.” (20) And yes, you will find a few instances of the word “bling.” Sometimes the informality breaks the storytelling spell; the description of sixteenth-century collars as “his, the circus dog style; hers, the standing kind” (26) feels unnecessarily distancing. There are certainly examples of earrings here that could be conveyed as equally ridiculous.

From "I Love Those Earrings" by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

From “I Love Those Earrings” by Jane Merrill and Chris Fulstrup, 2014.

While the visuals are strong (if relatively small), this book is meant to be read. Its value lies in the energetic storytelling, never focusing too long on one subject, time period, or style, but keeping today’s reader afloat on a river of anecdotes and examples. This is not a book from which to pull hard quotations for a term paper, but rather an admiring, playful tribute. There are no citations, and although the bibliography is good, sources quoted in the text are mysteriously not included there. There are not many books that focus on earrings and this is the most comprehensive in years. Books on “dress accessories” rarely include jewelry; books on jewelry are often focused on one designer or try to tackle All of the Jewelry That Ever Was.

The fashion historian might benefit from passages about trends in shape and material, such as how the girandoles of the eighteenth century were largely replaced by pendeloques by the turn of the nineteenth century, or why paste jewels were practical. But this is a book for the aspiring informed collector, and would be a helpful precedent for other writers working on similarly focused subjects. Like any excellent pop history, I Love Those Earrings places its object of affection meaningfully in the course of our accepted history, making that history all the more enjoyable and accessible.

 

Lead Image: Cover of I Love Those Earrings by Jane Merrill with Chris Filstrup. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2014.

 

Find more book reviews on Worn Through here!

Further Reading:

Evans, Joan. A History of Jewelry 1100-1870. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1989.

Mascetti, Daniela and Amanda Triossi. Earrings: From Antiquity to the Present. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.

Phillips, Clare. Jewelry: From Antiquity to the Present. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Steinbach, Ronald. The Fashionable Ear: A History of Ear-Piercing Trends for Men and Women. Burlington, VT: Vantage Press, 1995.

Tait, Hugh, ed. 7000 Years of Jewelry. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2009.

 

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You Should Be Reading: Fashion and the Female Ideal

fashion books from stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

We all know that the ideal female body–its shape, form, styling, even its very presence–has varied dramatically throughout human history. Readers of this blog are aware of the discussions surrounding the unattainably thin female body that has been in vogue for the past two decades, but what of the ways that fashion trends play into that ideal? How is that ideal body clothed? How do those clothes reinforce (or rebel) against the ideal? How have historical clothing trends addressed changing ideals? And (as some of you may be wondering), “Why does it matter?” Here are three articles, published recently, that tackle these questions. We hope you enjoy the selection!

1. Church Gibson, P. (2014). Pornostyle: Sexualized dress and the fracturing of feminismFashion Theory, 18(2), 189-206.

This article is premised on the suggestion that there are now two separate Western systems of fashion; here the word “system” is not intended to evoke the model suggested by Roland Barthes, but rather to refer, quite simply, to a pragmatic “system” of design, manufacture, distribution, and dissemination, similar to the cultural studies’ “circuit of culture” model of analysis. A new, unacknowledged “system” of design and promotion has emerged in the last decade, which has its own fashion leaders in young female celebrities, its own magazines to chronicle their activities and showcase their style, its own Internet presence, and its own retailing patterns. These young women often resemble in their self-presentation the “glamour models” or pin-up girls of popular men’s magazines, whose “look” is a muted version of the styling associated by many with that of hard-core pornography. The “body ideal” of this alternative system is very different to that of high-fashion; once again, it resembles the look of the women pictured in magazines for men. Although one or two writers on fashion have noted this new trend, it is feminist scholars who have shown most interest; they see the new system as part of the “pornification” of contemporary visual culture. A number of these same scholars are avowed anti-pornography campaigners and the author argues that this could further damage the fragile feminist project, already riven by differences. – Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Kayoung, K., & Sagas, M. (2014). Athletic or sexy? A comparison of female athletes and fashion models in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issuesGender Issues, 31(2), 123-141. 

Using a modified version of Goffman’s (Gender advertisements. Harper Colophon, New York, 1976) gender display as a conceptual framework, this study examined the gendered body images of female athletes and female fashion models. The authors investigated sexualized female body images by comparing athletes with fashion models in Sports Illustrated (SI) swimsuit issues. Specifically, they used images of female athletes and female fashion models from SI swimsuit issues (n = 1,099) over the past 15 years (1997–2011). The variables analyzed included four photographic image categories: photo shot location, facial expression, body display, and hand display. The findings revealed few differences in sexual portrayals between female athletes and female fashion models. – Paraphrased Article Abstract

3. Scarborough, A. D., Hunt-Hurst, P. (2014). The making of an erogenous zone: The role of exoticism, dance, and the movies in midriff exposure, 1900-1946Dress, 40(1), 47-65.

This study examined the evolution of midriff exposure in fashionable apparel between 1900 and 1946. There were two objectives: 1) to understand the cultural factors that influenced its adoption, and 2) discover its stages in becoming an erogenous zone. In this exploratory study, a content analysis was conducted on the fashion magazines Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar; these primary sources, plus analysis of selections from three newspapers, proved to be useful for the exploration of how the exposed midriff evolved from exotic dance wear to fashionable apparel. Cultural events assisted in the progression of fashionable exposure from underwear, swimwear, casual wear to evening wear in clothing that bared the midriff. Standards of morality were instrumental in the process of evolution. Production Codes established for motion pictures reflected and reinforced the morality standards of US society. Parts of the body deemed inappropriate for show in the movies were likewise considered inappropriate for fashionable dress. The 1940s was the turning point as popular culture and World War II helped to stimulate interest and more fashion pages featured women in midriff exposing ensembles. – Full Article Abstract 

 

Image Credit: stellafluorescent.blogspot.com

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