You Should Be Reading: Fashion Blogging and Vlogging

fashion-bloggers

1. Titton, Monica. ‘Fashionable Personae: Self-Identity and Enactments of Fashion Narratives in Fashion Blogs.’ Fashion Theory 19(2), 201-220.

This article scrutinizes the practices and strategies mobilized by fashion bloggers in the construction of a subject position which is embedded in established fashion narratives and based on references to the self and self-representation. Fashion blogs are discussed as cultural artifacts which revolve around reflexive identity politics in contention with embodied techniques of self-fashioning and dress practices. Fashion bloggers produce fashion media partly based on the enactment of their own self-identity in relation to dress practices and on their incorporation of knowledge of fashion media and pop culture imagery. Because of this oscillation between individual dress practices and collective fashion narratives, fashion blogs raise issues about the way in which fashion media relate to self-identity. Based on empirical research with qualitative methods using a grounded theory approach, this article discusses a construct of subjectivity labeled as “fashionable persona.” The “fashionable persona” is understood as a situated, narrative, and performative character developed by bloggers specifically for their blogs that is anchored simultaneously in the blogger’s self-identity and in the enactment of collective cultural narratives. Three dimensions in the enactment and construction of “fashionable personae” are discussed: the discursive construction, the bodily enactment, and the self-actualization of fashion bloggers as economic subjects. – Full Article Abstract

2. Findlay, Rosie. ‘The Short, Passionate, and Close-Knit History of Personal Style Blogging.’ Fashion Theory 19(2), 157-178.

Most media histories of style blogging commence their narrative in 2009, at the moment when a select few fashion and personal style bloggers were invited to sit front row at a number of shows on the Spring/Summer Ready-to-Wear “Fashion Month” schedule. Yet that moment, symbolic of the “arrival” of fashion bloggers in the industry (albeit a partial and contested one), was precipitated by years of fashion blogging. This developmental period has not yet been mapped. This article, then, presents a historical narrative tracing the development of personal style blogging through the archive. It engages with the earliest independent fashion blogs (which predated distinct subgenres of fashion blogging) to map how they, along with early digital and print media, influenced and led to the emergence of personal style blogging as a distinct subgenre of the wider fashion blogosphere. I draw on oral history from bloggers as well as the archives of their (and other) blogs, as well as the digital archive of early fashion websites, online articles, and blogposts from current style blogs. I also draw on prior studies of personal style blogging by Rocamora and Luvaas, among others, as well as work by Lévi-Strauss and Butler, to contextualize this discussion. – Full Article Abstract

3. Christofer, Pihl. ‘Brands, Community and Style: Exploring Linking Value in Fashion Blogging.’ Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management 18(1), 3-19.

By using the concept of style, the purpose of this paper is to elaborate on the notion of brand community. More specifically, it seeks to explore how style can function as a linking value in forms of communities centred on brands that emerge within the empirical context of fashion and social media. A netnography of the content produced by 18 fashion bloggers in Sweden was conducted. Content analysis of this material was used to map how consumption objects, in terms of fashion brands, were integrated in activities taking place on blogs, and through these processes, acted as a linking value for community members. This paper demonstrates how fashion bloggers, together with their readers, constitute a form of community centred on style. It also shows how fashion bloggers, by combining and assembling fashion brands and products, articulate and express different style sets, and how they, together with their followers, engage in activities connected to these style ideals. As this study has been empirically limited to a Swedish setting, future research would benefit from findings of international expressions of communities of style. Based on this study, strategies for managing communities of style is suggested to represent a potential source of competitive advantage for fashion firms. In the context of the conceptual discussion about what brings members of communities together, this study provides evidence of how style can function as a linking value in the setting of consumer communities that emerge within the boundaries of fashion and social media. – Full Article Abstract

See also: i-D Magazine’s recent series How the Internet Changed Fashion featuring interviews with some of today’s most popular fashion vloggers, as well as longer think pieces exploring the influence of vlogging and social media on fashion.

Image Credit: GirlTalkHQ

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From the Archives: The Great British Sewing Bee

Due to a bout of spring flu, here is my post from this time last year discussing the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, which had then completed its second season.  The third season has just come to a close so it’s a nice time to reflect back!

‘I watched Bake Off and couldn’t believe how upset people got,’ Chinelo says. ‘Now I totally understand. At one point I couldn’t even thread a needle, my hands were shaking so much.’[1]

The statement above was made by Chinello, one of ten contestants taking part in a BBC television programme called The Great British Sewing Bee, currently on air here in the UK.  This second series succeeds the first in both size and grandeur.  While the first was set over four episodes and located in a Georgian building in the heart of Dalston, East London, this one contains eight episodes and places more contestants in a lofty but grander converted warehouse by the Thames, offering everyone panoramic views of the capital city at the front while at the back, there is an extensive, well stocked haberdashery at their disposal.

The Great British Sewing Bee invites the participants to take part in weekly sewing challenges, which finds them spending two days completing three tasks: make a basic pattern, customize a piece of ready made clothing and finally making their own pattern, which must fit to a live model.  Their efforts are judged not by an audience vote but by two authoritative figures, who in this case are a Woman’s Institute sewing teacher with more than forty years of experience teaching and a director of a successful tailoring company located in Savile Row, London.  A television host, whose fundamental role is to mediate between the novice participants and the expert judges on behalf of the viewer, also joins them.

Contestants on The Great British Sewing Bee, Series 2

Each week, the two judges decide which contestant must leave the competition, based upon their performance across the three set challenges.  The most concise and in-depth review of the programme can be found in The Daily Telegraph, where Kate Bussman highlights how the nature of television production creates much tension for the contestants as they are constantly required to stop their sewing for ongoing sound bites, camera shots and set pieces.

For me, the most interesting contestant in The Great British Sewing Bee is Chinello, a twenty-six year old dressmaker who does not use paper patterns, having learnt to cut forms directly onto the cloth.  Chinello’s approach to clothesmaking is riveting because she engages with fabric directly, choosing not to mediate the process with the use of representational tools such as paper patterns.  Her process involves thinking and working with design in a very three-dimensional way; Chinello is like a living, breathing 3D printer.

The setting for the series is an old Thameside warehouse, seen here in the background while Chinello, one of the contestants, is cutting out her pattern in the foreground.

Another fascinating part of the programme is the way in which the historical context and social commentary about dress is approached.  Every week there is a theme explored, which might be a particular era or the type of material being used in the sewing challenges, such as stretchy fabric or patterned textiles.  The television host then engages with a range of scholars and academics to discuss interesting aspects of that weekly theme.  This part is fascinating because they draw upon a range of scholarly disciplines, from anthropology to consumption studies to performance and fashion, in an effort to contextualise the weekly challenges set for the contestants.

Prof. Giorgio Riello, Textile Historian, who discusses the advent of chintz and printed cottons in the 18th century

The Great British Sewing Bee provides us with a contemporary snapshot of academic interest in fashion, dress and textile studies. Craik’s (2009:264) identification of five types of fashion writing – language of fashion, fashion reportage, promotional writing, critical writing and intellectual analysis – makes no mention of the representation of these studies within the media of television yet it seems that in this one programme, there is visual evidence of all types of fashion writing taking place.[2]

My interest in fashion and dress television programmes, particularly with a focus on historical context and cultural commentary, has its roots in a childhood spent avidly watching The Clothes Show each week.  The Clothes Show was this unique mix of contemporary affairs and intellectual discussion about fashion and dress but whose content has now been taken over by the internet or reality television programmes that concentrate on how to improve the individual identities of ordinary people through fashion and dress.  These would include Trinny and Susannah’s What Not to Wear, How to Look 10 Years Younger or Gok Wan’s How to Look Naked, to name but a few of a growing genre focused upon the daily anxiety of colloquial dress.

While the Great British Sewing Bee has a lineage that certainly relates it to reality television programmes (its sister production is The Great British Bake Off), it does go some way to filling the gap left by the likes of The Clothes Show with its efforts to discuss and inform the viewer about the wider scholarly interest in fashion and dress.  In future, it could be part of a small archive of British television programmes that focus on fashion and dress history, perhaps beginning with Doris Langley-Moore’s What We Wore in 1957.  I would be very grateful to hear of reading suggestions on the subject of historical dress and its representation through the medium of television.  With the increasing complexity of internet coverage, it seems there is still a place for television to capture our attention with contextual discussion of dress and fashion for longer than just a brief click.  Research into how this is done, with particular reference to the second half of the 20th century, is definitely worth further consideration.


[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10602931/Behind-the-scenes-of-Great-British-Sewing-Bee.html [Accessed 10 March 2014]

[2] Jennifer Craik (2009) Fashion: The Key Concepts Oxford, Berg

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You Should Be Watching: Fashion Documentaries on Netflix

While a subscription to Netflix can often be the most tempting way to procrastinate or lose an entire weekend to a newly-discovered television series, it also has a comprehensive list of documentaries available, many of which feature or relate to the world of fashion. The following documentaries are all available for streaming on the American Netflix website, and many are also available on the UK and Canadian versions of the service – just be sure not to login if you have an essay deadline looming or a mountain of assignments to mark!

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1. Bill Cunningham New York (2011)

‘Photographer Bill Cunningham tirelessly records what people are wearing in New York City — both out on the sidewalk and in the salons of the wealthy.’ For decades Bill Cunningham has chronicled the style of the city for the New York Times, and this charming documentary takes the viewer into the photographer’s professional and personal worlds, from the offices of the newspaper to his own apartment in Carnegie Hall. Cunningham’s ascetic lifestyle contrasts sharply with the street style peacocks and high society Manhattanites he often photographs, causing the viewer to both appreciate and question their own relationship with fashion.

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2. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)

‘This intimate and loving portrait of the legendary arbiter of fashion, art and culture illustrates the many stages of Vreeland’s remarkable life.’ A biographical documentary of Diana Vreeland, whose influence on fashion began with her iconic ‘Why Don’t You…’ column at Harper’s Bazaar, and continued through her years as editor-in-chief of Vogue and later consultant for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Featuring interviews with Vreeland’s contemporaries, including photographers, models and fellow editors, this stylish documentary is a must-see for all twentieth century fashion historians.

Advanced-Style

3. Advanced Style (2014)

‘This documentary profiles seven stylish New York City seniors who disprove the notion that advanced years and glamour are mutually exclusive.’ Originating from the blog and book created by Ari Seth Cohen, Advanced Style features several of the blog’s most photographed older ladies, interviewed by Cohen and sharing their views on everything from life, marriage and aging, to handbags and hair colour. A delightful documentary that challenges stereotypes on aging and older women, best viewed after reading our selection of articles on Fashion and Age.

Other fashion-related documentaries:

Chasing Beauty (2013)

Mademoiselle C (2013)

Paul Smith: Gentleman Designer (2012)

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013)

The Director (2013)

Unzipped (1995)

Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010)

 

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Punk Style at Cornell

punk style

I’d like to let Worn Through readers know TODAY I’ll be doing a talk regarding my research into punk and subcultural style at Cornell on Thursday March 12. The talk is entitled “Punk style: The potency of subcultural dress in design, consumption, and communication.”

Here is the abstract:

The study of subcultural dress features pertinent concepts including design, consumption, identity, and communication. The book Punk Style (2014) examines the dress of one of the most varied, sustaining and influential subcultures. Comprehensive research chronicled a historical overview of punk style, as well as evaluated motivations behind dress practices and the link between subcultural style and the fashion industry. Punk is often a trend innovator with its design ideas moving into the mainstream, as exemplified by the prevalence of body modification and deconstructed garments within the mass market. Subcultural styles and the mainstream routinely intersect as visuals such as punk dress continue to grow through the Internet and youth purchasing power. The workplace is one example of a contemporary context that can be reviewed regarding its relationship with subcultural dress. The iconography of punk often contrasts with typical work dress and research highlighted the shifting appearances of individuals between work and non-work identities. Frequently they are repurposing items of dress for identity expression and increasingly diverse workplaces. Punk is a highly visible example of how the negotiation of form, viewer, and context is in constant motion, and how subcultural dress delves into numerous aspects of fashion scholarship.

My talk is part of an ongoing lecture series. If you’re unaware, Cornell has a large department related to fashion and fiber studies.

If you are in the area of Ithaca, please come by!

DETAILS:
MARCH 12, 2015
12:20 – 1:10pm
G87 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Cornell University
Free and open to the public

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You Should Be Reading: Seventies Fashion

yslcomp

To demonstrate the radical disruption of fashion that emerged with the late 1960s, early 1970s counterculture, my fashion history professor presented side-by-side photos of Yves Saint Laurent, above. On the left, it’s 1957, and Saint Laurent has just succeeded Christian Dior as head designer after Dior’s untimely death; on the right, it’s 1971, and Saint Laurent is releasing his first men’s fragrance, Pour Homme. This is how one man changed in a little over a decade, from neatly combed hair to long, feathered hair, and from an impeccable suit to–nothing. This form of anti-fashion rejected cleanliness, neatness and order so vehemently that what remained were bedspreads and body paint. My favorite reference for this lawless era of twentieth century fashion is Life’s August 1969 Woodstock issue, which is available in full on Google Books. If you’re lusting over the flowing skirts, bell-bottoms, suede, fringe and blanket-wraps of this spring’s latest revival of the 1969 look, consider the articles linked below, which discuss past periods of 1970s revivalism, the “Schizophrenic Seventies,” and the origin of the “natural look.”  

1. Gregson, Nicky, Kate Brooks, and Louise Crewe. (2001). Bjorn Again? Rethinking 70s Revivalism through the Reappropriation of 70s Clothing. Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture, 5 (1), 3-27.

The article is concerned with the complexities of 70s retro fashion in Britain, specifically with understanding the ways in which 70s fashion has been reappropriated and worn anew in the late 90s and the early twenty-first century. It examines the discourses and dispositions that shape the consumption of these fashions and, more generally, with what these have to contribute to debates about 70s revivalism. The argument is based on the identification and analysis of the various discourses and dispositions people deploy around 70s retro fashion; how they wear this, how they talk about it, and the meanings they ascribe to the practices of their consumption. The article shows that this involves reappropriation rather than nostalgia, fun and laughter, and the mobilization of cultural capital through multifarious displays of knowingness. It is argued that there are two main modes of appropriate appreciation around original 70s clothing: “the carnivalesque” and “knowingness”. These are each discussed in depth, and the article concludes by discussing what this understanding of 70s retro fashion has to contribute to the general debate about 70s revivalism. – Full Article Abstract

2. Steele, V. (1997). Anti-Fashion: The 1970s. Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture, 1 (3), 279-295.

Following the 1960s fashion revolution, 1970s style was pulled in radically different directions because people disagreed about where fashion should go. Georgina Howell in In Vogue termed it “The Schizophrenic Seventies”. The article questions this term, and looks to demonstrate that there was some deeper cultural unity beneath the chaotic clash of styles. Steele contends that during the 1970s fashion was not in fashion, and as a result fashion journalists adopted a new language of freedom and choice. A narcissism and self-indulgence seemed to characterize contemporary society, and the cultural radicalism of the 1960s diffused throughout the wider society. – Full Article Abstract

3. Welters, L. (2008). The Natural Look: American Style in the 1970s. Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture12 (4), 489-510.

The natural look was a trend of the 1970s that emphasized a natural appearance in hair, clothing, makeup, and accessories. The natural look arose from antagonisms in several oppositional cultures at different times, each involving a rejection of mainstream fashion. The natural look is divided into six categories: Natural Body, Natural Hair and Cosmetics, Natural Materials, Handcrafted Clothing and Accessories, and “Nature” Sells Fashion. This article examines the sites of opposition that led to the natural look, the manifestation of “natural” in fashion, and its lasting effect on fashion and appearance into the twenty-first century. – Full Article Abstract

Image credits: Fashionrobe.com and Vogue.com.

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Punk Style at Cornell

punk style

I’d like to let Worn Through readers know I’ll be doing a talk regarding my research into punk and subcultural style at Cornell on Thursday March 12. The talk is entitled “Punk style: The potency of subcultural dress in design, consumption, and communication.”

Here is the abstract:

The study of subcultural dress features pertinent concepts including design, consumption, identity, and communication. The book Punk Style (2014) examines the dress of one of the most varied, sustaining and influential subcultures. Comprehensive research chronicled a historical overview of punk style, as well as evaluated motivations behind dress practices and the link between subcultural style and the fashion industry. Punk is often a trend innovator with its design ideas moving into the mainstream, as exemplified by the prevalence of body modification and deconstructed garments within the mass market. Subcultural styles and the mainstream routinely intersect as visuals such as punk dress continue to grow through the Internet and youth purchasing power. The workplace is one example of a contemporary context that can be reviewed regarding its relationship with subcultural dress. The iconography of punk often contrasts with typical work dress and research highlighted the shifting appearances of individuals between work and non-work identities. Frequently they are repurposing items of dress for identity expression and increasingly diverse workplaces. Punk is a highly visible example of how the negotiation of form, viewer, and context is in constant motion, and how subcultural dress delves into numerous aspects of fashion scholarship.

My talk is part of an ongoing lecture series. If you’re unaware, Cornell has a large department related to fashion and fiber studies.

If you are in the area of Ithaca, please come by!

DETAILS:
MARCH 12, 2015
12:20 – 1:10pm
G87 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Cornell University
Free and open to the public

Comments

Springtime in London: Women of the World, Fashion in Film, Alexander McQueen and Fashion Symposia

It’s exciting to finally see the dark evenings receding, spot little floral bursts of white, purple and yellow amongst the grassy urban verges and feel like my winter coat’s days are swiftly numbered!  To celebrate this arrival of spring, here are some interesting events related to fashion taking place in the capital this month.

The first is the Women of the World Festival at Southbank, in central London, which takes place this week 1st – 8th March.  In its fifth year, the WOW Festival celebrates women and girls through a range of talks, workshops and performances that draws upon the global and local.  Two interesting exhibitions about gender, identity and dress include the early 20th century self-portraits of artist Claude Cahun and Sara Shamsavari’s contemporary portraits of hijab styles as worn by young Muslim women in London, Paris and New York.  Both of these are free and run throughout the festival.  On Saturday 7th March, there is a specific talk on the power of fashion and a workshop on finding new ways to portray women in underwear to avoid objectification, both of which you can join by purchasing a day ticket for £20.

Lernert & Sander’s work featuring in Clothes on the Move: What’s Behind the Production of Fashion Films? 17 March

Later on this month is the Fashion in Film Festival, which launches on 17 March until 24 March across three London locations: Central Saint Martins, Somerset House and Hackney Picture house.  Also in its fifth year, this festival aims to explore the recent rise of the moving image in the fashion industry and get behind-the-scenes insights into the production of fashion films” through a series of talks and conversations curated by Hywel Davies and Marketa UhlirovaFeaturing speakers such as Caroline Evans, Nick Knight, Caryn Franklin, Pamela Church-Gibson, Oriole Cullen and Agnes Rocamora, the festival draws upon their views as historians, journalists, designers, image makers and theorists to debate the role of the moving image in fashion.  It will be an exciting programme of free events and I was particularly pleased to see the use of different London locations, making it possible to see much more!

Jacket, Alexander McQueen, It’s a Jungle out there, Autumn/Winter 1997-8. Image: firstVIEW

On Saturday 14 March, the V&A Museum will welcome visitors to the eagerly awaited exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which runs until 4 August.  I can still remember booking my ticket this time last year for what will definitely be one of the most talked about fashion related events this year.  It will be interesting to see what the V&A’s fashion curator Claire Wilcox has done with the exhibition given its new European location.

Fashioning Professionals Symposium, 27th March Gaby Schreiber Industrial/Interior Designer (1916-1991). Photographer: Bee & Watson, 1948. Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives.

Finally, Friday 27th March is a popular day for fashion symposia here in the city!  Competing for our attention is Fashioning Professionals at the Research Department in the V&A Museum and Fashion and the Senses at London College of Fashion.  As it was impossible for me to be at both, I decided to attend Fashioning Professionals as this is more closely related to my research interests.  I will report back in April, hopefully along with a review of McQueen.

Happy Spring!

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You Should Be Watching: Craft In America

Craft in America is a PBS docuseries presenting intimate portraits of artisans at work, cutting footage of process and tools used to create with artist interviews that reveal the inspiration and legacies behind a range of fashionable and decorative objects – textiles, clothing, shoes, furniture, sculptures, musical instruments and much more. Around two episodes per year have been produced since 2007; the thirteenth episode, “Service,” aired last November. The full series is available to stream for free at pbs.videos.org. Below are stills from three episodes that profile needleworkers, quilters, and weavers. Click the images to watch the full episodes.

In Episode VI: Messages

Bead Artist

Bead artist Jill J. Scott discusses her beaded sculptures, quilts and collars; metalsmith Thomas Mann explains his “techno-romantic jewelry objects.”

Many artists use their craft to share personal and political opinions. Craft has the ability to entice viewers to consider topics that they might find difficult. By expressing their ideas through their work, artists add meaning to the objects they create. – Synopsis from Network

Episode VIII: Threads

Threads ep

Explore the creativity of the human spirit through works that begin with the humble thread. Featured artists include fiber artist Terese Agnew, weaver Randall Darwall & designer Brian Murphy, artist Faith Ringgold, and fiber artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood. – Synopsis from Network

Episode XII: Industry

sewing

This episode includes Gee’s Bend, Alabama quilters Lucy Mingo & Mary Ann Pettway and quilt maker and teacher Joe Cunningham; textile designer Bethanne Knudson The Oriole Mill in North Carolina and her colleague Libby O’Bryan, founder of Western Carolina Sewing Company; and jewelry artist/ Etsy seller Shane Yamane. Libby O’Bryan will teach a textiles workshop on personal uniforms during this summer’s sessions at Haystack Mountain School of Craft.

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Guest Post: How to Write a Book in Twenty Years – Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell

Worn Through is pleased to have another guest post from fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell*

KCC Cover

SEE THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST FOR A BOOK GIVEAWAY!-UPDATE WE HAVE A WINNER, THANK YOU

FROM KIMBERLY: Twenty years ago, when I first started working on the project that would become my new book Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, I loved talking about it to anyone who would listen. Ten or twelve years later, my friends and family had learned not to mention the book; I was in the midst of a dispiriting crash course in the harsh realities of academic publishing, and my frustration was painfully obvious.

Now that Fashion Victims is out at last, my unpublished colleagues keep pulling me aside and asking in hushed tones how I did it. How did I choose a publisher? How did I score 90,000 words and 220 illustrations? How I you negotiate a contract? These are the same questions I had before starting the publishing process, and I can finally say with confidence that we’re all asking the wrong questions.

If you’re thinking of writing a book about fashion, you should be asking yourself the following: How many images do I need? Where am I going to find these images? Who’s going to pay for them? Answer those three questions, and the rest will quickly start to fall into place.
I probably don’t have to convince Worn Through readers that an appropriate number of high-quality images are essential to any discussion of fashion; that number will vary depending on the particular subject and methodology, but–whether it’s ten or 200–every image should serve the text rather than simply illustrate it. Lackluster or irrelevant images are a red flag, raising doubts about the quality of the writing. The same is true, however, about books that are mostly pictures. On the other hand, I’ve happily bought lousy books just for the pictures. Images are evidence. Neglect them and you do a disservice to your readers, and, more importantly, to yourself.

The number and type of images you want to use in your book will dictate so many other factors. There are only a handful of publishers who will even consider fashion books—or illustrated books of any kind—and many of those have strict minimum and maximum image counts. A few publishers told me they’d love to publish my book with ten, twenty, or even fifty images—fine for a cultural history or museum studies book, but not nearly enough for an art historian to do justice to the infinite variety of fashionable dress under Louis XVI. Others were more generous with images but wanted me to cut half the text (and all the footnotes). Yale University Press routinely publishes books with 200 images and footnotes galore, so that’s the one I targeted. Yale’s deservedly stellar reputation in the field, its well-established distribution networks, and the chance to work with legendary editor and designer Gillian Malpass were equally strong attractions.

Two hundred images may sound like a dream come true (and it is) but someone has to pay for all those images. That means paying for both the photo itself (or, more often, the digital file) and the reproduction rights, calculated on a sliding scale based on print run, image size and placement, distribution, and so on. With academic books, it’s usually the author who pays; the picture research, captions, photo credits, and paperwork fall on the author, too. Trade publishers often give authors a budget for images, but it doesn’t go far; it’s much more expensive to license images for commercial use, and the author is still responsible legally if not financially.

For Fashion Victims, I was able to cobble together grants, savings, and favors to cover my image costs, but the process of seeking out funding was time-consuming and soul-destroying. There are not many grants out there for publishing, although academics can sometimes get subventions from their universities. And a grant application can take up to a year from start to finish, with no guarantee that it will be successful.

Fortunately, many forward-thinking museums and archives have begun to make their image libraries available to anyone, at no cost, through “open content” programs. Other institutions offer free images for academic publishing. I was able to take advantage of this welcome trend, and it was certainly something I took into consideration when making the final decisions about my images and cover image. I also got very creative about sourcing mass-produced images. Why pay a picture agency for a fashion plate when I could get it from the British Museum for free? For contemporary subjects, authors can save money by taking their own photos; I was once advised by a journal editor that licensing a movie still would be cost-prohibitive, but my own photo of a billboard for the same movie could be published legally and at no charge.

However, I fear that the open content trend is only going create new problems, as the same images from the same collections will be published over and over again while other collections remain inaccessible and unknown. I am absolutely guilty of this; more than half of the 220 images in my book come from the same five institutions, largely because they were searchable online and free (or at least inexpensive) to license. Similarly, many publishers have agreements with certain museums or picture agencies that make their images more affordable than others.

But the money I saved on open content images allowed me to have other key objects photographed and published for the first time. So for every free, familiar image, there’s one that you’ve never seen before that cost me $500. Because I work on the eighteenth century, I generally don’t have to worry about copyright, which can drive the costs even higher. But if you’re using contemporary fashion photography or publishing with a trade press, you might need to sell a kidney. If I had to do it again (and I do—I’m already working on a sequel to Fashion Victims), I’d pay more attention to image costs during the research and writing stage, rather than face sticker shock and a lengthy fundraising drive at the end. Indeed, knowing how the whole publishing process is likely to unfold has made the early stages go much more smoothly.

If dealing with the images was the hard part, negotiating the contract was the easy part. A reputable academic publisher will offer you a fairly standard agreement with little wiggle room, especially for a first-time author. (My editor graciously fought for a few additional perks, like more color pictures and extra author copies—another reason why a good editor is as important as a good publisher.) If you’re publishing with a trade press, you should have an agent or lawyer negotiate for you. If you’re hoping to make money from publishing, your time would be better spent writing textbooks, or maybe romance novels.

But there are many other compelling reasons to publish your work, like getting tenure, giving back to your field, or increasing your chances of getting a job, raise, or promotion. If you’ve already done the research and writing (for a dissertation, conference paper, or exhibition, for example), why wouldn’t you want your efforts to have a permanent, public impact in print? Personally, I’m amazed at how much great research goes unpublished—not because publishers aren’t interested, but because the authors never submit it to publishers.

Ultimately, getting Fashion Victims published—finding a publisher, revising the text, raising grant money, locating and licensing illustrations, and slogging through the year-long editing process, from copy editing to proofreading to indexing—took roughly the same amount of time as writing it in the first place: nearly two decades in total. The book started as my MA thesis, then spilled over into my PhD dissertation, only to undergo a total rewrite before I even considered submitting for publication. Over the next few years, I continued honing the text as I figured out how I was going to pay for the image rights and reproductions. It evolved from a formal and somewhat fragmentary series of chapters—many of them originally developed as stand-alone conference papers or journal articles—into an organic narrative, ironically becoming much truer to the themes that got me interested in the subject in the first place.

During the same period, I worked in some museums, had a couple of kids, attended conferences, moved house a few times, and published a bunch of journal and magazine articles and essays in edited volumes and exhibition catalogues. Along the way, I discovered new objects, images, and sources; made valuable contacts; and learned the ropes of the publishing business; all of those things ultimately benefitted the book. At the time, I was intensely annoyed with myself because I hadn’t managed to publish it yet. But, looking back now, I can see how useful that season of discontent was. Fashion Victims is much richer for it, and so am I. And it was worth waiting to work with the publisher, editor, and images I wanted all along. The book I’ve had in my head for twenty years is now in print, and it’s even more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Check it out.

Related reading:

http://getalifephd.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-to-publish-academic-book-why.html

http://dahl.at/wordpress/2013/08/04/choosing-where-to-publish-academic-books/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/47381-it-s-not-all-academic.html

*Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is an art historian specializing in fashion and textiles. She has worked as a curator, consultant, and educator for museums and universities around the world. She is a frequent contributor to books, scholarly journals, and magazines, as well as an experienced lecturer. Her areas of expertise include European fashion and textiles and French and British painting and decorative arts of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries

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You Should Be Reading: Heritage Fashion Brands

schiaparelli-haute-couture-marco-zanini

The recent announcement by Viktor & Rolf of their decision to abandon their ready-to-wear collection and focus on couture (and highly profitable fragrances) got me thinking about the evolution and fate of various fashion houses and brands throughout history. What are the factors that lead to one designer’s name living on and their legacy being preserved, while others who may experience just as much notoriety or success at one point in time are later forgotten? The following three articles explore issues surrounding reviving heritage fashion houses at Pucci and Schiaparelli, and the difficulties facing a legendary designer’s successor at Oscar de la Renta. 

1. Friedman, Vanessa. ‘Keeping the Oscar de la Renta Name Alive.’ The New York Times. February 13, 2015.

‘The first day of Peter Copping’s new job at a new brand in a new country did not go exactly as planned. Instead of going to the offices of Oscar de la Renta on 42nd Street across from the leafy gardens of Bryant Park and taking his place in a glass-fronted office next to Mr. de la Renta, the designer who had recently named Mr. Copping his first-ever creative director and heir, Mr. Copping found himself at a pew in the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue, behind Donna Karan and somewhere in the vicinity of Michael Kors and Tory Burch, attending Mr. de la Renta’s memorial service. [...] Fashion is notoriously bad at succession planning: Its history is littered with stories of designers who sold their companies without naming their heirs and were unhappy with the results, from Hubert de Givenchy to Yves Saint Laurent, or whose brands fell apart after their death through lack of foresight (Halston, Bill Blass). At Oscar de la Renta, however, for arguably the first time, a designer had consciously tried to change the narrative.’ – Article Excerpt

2. Madsen, Anders Christian. ‘Rules of Revival: How to Resuscitate a Fashion Brand.’ i-D. 14 November 2014.

‘Fashion likes to talk about its musical chairs a lot. So much that it sometimes seems as if more high-value name brands are added to the pool just to increase the options and raise the bets. Last week, the following email rolled in: “Paris, November 7, 2014 – Schiaparelli is announcing today the end of its collaboration with Marco Zanini. The House of Schiaparelli is looking towards its future while transcending the aesthetic codes created by Elsa Schiaparelli. It follows a dynamic where a contemporary spirit meets its founder’s daring personality. Schiaparelli will announce its new creative director soon.” No teary goodbyes there, apparently. Zanini’s departure didn’t create massive waves of shock and despair in the industry, partly because it was somewhat expected but mainly because the re-launch of Schiaparelli somehow never generated the hype and excitement of its legacy. So what would have made things different for Schiaparelli 2.0?’ – Article Excerpt

3. Merlo, Elisabetta and Mario Perugini. ‘The Revival of Fashion Brands between Marketing and History: The Case of the Italian Fashion Company Pucci.’ Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 7(1): 91-112.

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on the contribution that history can give to marketing strategies aimed at revitalizing fashion brands. It focuses on the revival strategy implemented in recent years by the Pucci fashion company. The analysis is carried out in four parts. Marketing literature dealing with “brand revival” is reviewed in the first part. The second and the third part deal with the main characteristics featured, respectively, by the original and restored Palio and Vivara collections. In the fourth part, by applying the key concepts provided to us by the marketing literature, we pinpoint the chief values which Pucci’s retro-marketing strategy has emphasized upon and those that instead have been partially, if not completely, neglected. The research is based on a mix of sources including records kept by historical archives, fashion press, economic and financial databases and exhibition catalogues. The research shows that resorting to the past to revitalize a fashion brand can backfire if the retro-marketing strategy is not supported by an extensive knowledge of the firm’s history, and by a well documented analysis of the historical background in which the brand was originally introduced. – Paraphrased Article Abstract

Image Credit: www.thefashpack.net

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