New Interns Needed 2015-16

We will be seeking two new interns for the 2015-16 academic year.

There is no pay, however, we can help you get college credit if needed and of course it’s great networking and experience. We need help with CFPs, some column research, a bit of behind the scenes blog details, and running our book giveaways (among other projects as they emerge).

Interns in the past have done an array of research and writing projects.

The work can be done spread out over time or in chunks as your time allows. It’s all remote. Preferable candidates are current college or graduate students or recent graduates in apparel studies with a focus on academia or museums or closely related.

Email Monica with your CV and a brief cover letter. Ideal due date July 15 however open until filled.


Interview with Monica by The Seams


I’ve been getting to know the crew over at The Seams, which is a new podcast developed by NPR contributor Jacki Lyden.

As you may remember, we encouraged Worn Through readers to donate to their Kickstarter since the topic of their shows, storytelling about apparel, are certainly something we’d love to hear about more regularly.

Recently I did a phone interview with Jacki that was initially supposed to air on the show. It was decided that instead I’d speak about a different subject for a future airing, but the interview dives into the history of our field, some academic and social aspects of what we study, and a tad into subcultural waters.

Although it’s not going to air on the Seams/NPR, Jacki and I thought Worn Through readers would be the perfect audience and have brought it you here! Listen for me to appear in future episodes.

You can find the Seams podcast at iTunes

and on this website


Costume Society Election

If you’re in the Costume Society of America you’ll see that the regional elections for the new boards are taking place. They close tomorrow July 1. Please do participate in your regional and national elections of the societies you are a part of to help move them in the directions you’d like to see.

**UPDATE: I was elected to the board. Thank you.**

I have been nominated for the CSA Midwest Regional Board for the first time. If you are in my region, consider voting for me as I’d very much like this enriching opportunity to help with CSA activities and share ideas.

Only CSA Midwest (USA) members can vote, but look for your local link if you’re not in this region. Links are via email to members.

Thank you for taking the time!!


You Should Be Reading: Designer Memoirs

Some of the most vivid primary sources for historic fashion research are autobiographies and memoirs of great designers. Several of the books listed below were required reading for a fashion history course in my M.A. program. They can be entertaining and intimate, and help historians make a stronger connection with these figures whom we associate primarily with their work and their legacies, but not their voices. Poiret amuses with self-congratualtion and Dior leaves you desperate for content beyond the last page (Christian Dior died suddenly the year before it was published). Three of the four titles were out of print until recently, when the V&A began to reprint them. Early editions can be found used online, or in libraries.

1. King of Fashion: The Autobiography of Paul Poiret, 1931

Paul Poiret’s autobiography tells the extraordinary story of the meteoric rise of a draper’s son to the ‘King of Fashion’. From his humble Parisian childhood to his debut as a couturier, to his experiences during the First World War, Poiret reveals all in this captivating tale. His artistic flair, coupled with his remarkable and highly original cutting skills, enabled him to translate the spirit of Art Deco into revolutionary garments and his memoirs bring this astonishing period to life.  – From the Publisher

2. Dior by Dior, 1958

Christian Dior rocketed to fame with his first collection in 1947 when the ‘New Look’ took the world by storm. This charming and modest autobiography gives a fascinating and detailed insight into the workings of a great fashion house, while revealing the private man behind the high-profile establishment. It is also a unique portrait of the classic Paris haute couture of the 1950s and offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes. Dior details his childhood in Granville, the family and friends closest to him, his most difficult years and sudden success, as well as his sources of inspiration and creative processes.  – From the Publisher

3. Shocking Life: The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli, 1954

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was one of the leading fashion designers of the 1920s and 1930s with a flair for the unusual. The first to use shoulder pads, animal prints and the inventor of shocking pink, Schiaparelli collaborated with artists including Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti and Salvador Dalí, to create extraordinary garments such as the infamous Dalí Lobster Dress and the bizarre Skeleton Dress. Schiaparelli had an affluent clientele, from Katherine Hepburn to Marlene Dietrich, who embraced her outrageous but elegant designs. She designed aviator Amy Johnson’s wardrobe for her solo flight to Cape Town in 1936, the culottes for tennis champion Lily d’Alvarez that outraged the lawn tennis establishment, and her clothes appeared in more than 30 films including Every Day’s a Holiday and Moulin Rouge. Schiaparelli’s fascinating autobiography charts her rise from resident of a rat-infested apartment to designer to the stars. – From the Publisher

4. The Allure of Chanel, 1976

Though not strictly an autobiography, this book is based on a series of conversations between Mademoiselle Chanel and the author, Paul Morand. Morand’s last book, one of the most appealing of his oeuvre, brings together around the figure of Chanel, portraits of Misia Sert, Erik Satie, Serge Lifar, Georges Auric, Raymond Radiguet, Jean Cocteau, Picasso and Churchill, among others. Written in the great storyteller’s marvelous prose, this book artfully sketches the character of the elusive, mysterious and charming creature who inspired Malraux to say: “Chanel, De Gaulle and Picasso are the greatest figures of our times.” Hailed on its publication in 1976 as ” a great celebration of a book, a finely cut, sparkling gem”, The Allure of Chanel attracted the attention of Karl Lagerfeld, who embellished it with seventy-three drawings. – From the Publisher

Image credit:

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Father’s Day and Ties


Last weekend I was quoted in the Washington Post on why ties are a persistent gift for Father’s Day.

Quite a bit of my research has been on workplace dress, and you can check it out in the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal (Punk workplace dress) and Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management (young men’s workplace dress).

Overall, some of the findings have discussed that workplace dress is highly symbolic and somewhat related to productivity, or at least to perceptions of such. Father’s Day presents may then be a tangible item to acknowledge or promote effectiveness in the workplace, which is strongly linked to a man’s overall perceptions of personal success. The catch in all of it is whether everything is legit productivity, or just perceptions, or a cycle of the two perpetuating one another, and that is a big grey area. Nonetheless, while not much of this is mentioned in the article, I’m very pleased to have a line or two.

Image pulled from here Thank you.


New interns 2015-16

We will be seeking two new interns for the 2015-16 academic year.

There is no pay, however, we can help you get college credit if needed and of course it’s great networking and experience. We need help with CFPs, some column research, a bit of behind the scenes blog details, and running our book giveaways (among other projects as they emerge).

Interns in the past have done an array of research and writing projects.

The work can be done spread out over time or in chunks as your time allows. It’s all remote. Preferable candidates are current college or graduate students or recent graduates in apparel studies with a focus on academia or museums or closely related.

Email Monica with your CV and a brief cover letter. Due date July 15.


You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Minimalism

tumblr_mg21hivNQO1qkx8yto1_500_clothes rack

As I mentioned last week in my post about the documentary film ‘The True Cost,’ I have decided to experiment with the concept of a minimalist or capsule wardrobe in my own life. As someone who admittedly owns far more pieces of clothing than I could ever need, I will be taking on the Project 333 Challenge – limiting my wardrobe to only 33 items for the next three months. Although my motivations for experimenting with a minimalist wardrobe are ethically- and environmentally-motivated, there are many other reasons why an increasing number of people are choosing to limit their sartorial choices – less stress, financial savings or a shorter morning routine being just a few. Below are the two articles that inspired my personal motivation, followed by two texts on minimalism and fashion, from Chanel to Yamamoto.

1. Kahl, Matilda. ‘Why I Wear The Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day.’ Harper’s Bazaar. April 3, 2015.

Matilda Kahl, an art director in New York City, chose to create a personal work uniform mainly to reduce the daily stress associated with selecting an appropriate and professional outfit. While she initially encountered a lot of resistance and questioning from her co-workers, Kahl believes that her uniform has placed her back in control of her appearance.  ‘The thought of reclaiming the driver’s seat can feel overwhelming, but even small changes can make a huge difference. The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, “what the hell am I going to wear today?” And in fact, these black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I’m in control.’ 

2. Becker, Joshua. ‘8 Reasons Successful People Are Chooosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day.’ Becoming Minimalist. May 13, 2015.

Fast fashion deserves criticism. And our culture’s obsession with ever-changing fashion trends is an artificial pursuit manufactured by those who benefit from it. The capsule wardrobe movement is far from mainstream. But, elevated in the social consciousness by some high-profile personalities, more and more people are applying minimalist principles to their fashion […] If you have ever wondered why some successful people choose to wear the same outfit everyday, or better yet, if you are considering adopting a more streamlined wardrobe yourself, here are 8 convincing reasons. – Article excerpt

3. Dimant, Elyssa. Minimalism and Fashion: Reduction in the Postmodern Era. New York: Harpers Design, 2010.

From fashion authority Elyssa Dimant—author of the award-winning Fashioning Fabrics and co-curator of the acclaimed “WILD: Fashion Untamed” exhibition at the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art—Minimalism and Fashion is a groundbreaking, provocative  exploration of the influence of minimalist art and minimalist design on the fashion industry from the 1960s to the present. A foreword by celebrated designer Francisco Costa, the women’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection, illuminates how minimalism continues to inform fashion as modern design carries us into the future of couture. – Summary from the publisher

4. Walker, Harriet. Less is More. New York: Merrell, 2011.

When it comes to dress, less can most definitely be more. In this striking new book, journalist Harriet Walker surveys one of the most wide-reaching movements in fashion. Minimalism has its roots in the early twentieth century, when women’s clothes became pared down and practical after centuries of complex construction. Walker reviews the work of designers who, over the decades, have adopted minimalist principles in their work, from Chanel, who liberated women from Edwardian formal dress, to Donna Karan and Jil Sander, whose work-wear offered women a feminine but credible alternative to power dressing; and from the avant-garde style of Japanese masters Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto to contemporary interpretations by Gareth Pugh, Roland Mouret, COS and Zara. With 250 colour illustrations, including specially commissioned photographs, Less is More is the engaging story of an abiding aesthetic that has subtly shaped modern fashion. – Summary from the publisher

Image credit: Elle S’Appelle

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Museum Life: CSA Symposium Snapshot

With the Costume Society of America’s annual symposium in the neighborhood this year, I headed down to San Antonio for three whirlwind days of presentations, demonstrations, and exhibitions. In addition to meeting new people and learning about research on a variety of subjects, I encountered several objects that may be of interest to readers. Below is a selection:

A portable LED-lit microscope that hooks up to a computer and has the capability to capture still photos or video. This particular model, by Celestron, was used during Claire Shaeffer‘s workshop on couture sewing techniques. It can be found online for the reasonable price range of $50-100. Its application on a Christian Lacroix jacket revealed that a seemingly complex twill weave structure is in fact a plain weave, and the black silk fiber is instead a very dark purple.

Couture is all about hidden, meticulous detail, sometimes hiding in plain sight.  A very close examination of this 1960s Chanel jacket from Shaeffer’s collection (above) revealed that the knit fabric was cut apart and sewn back together again, almost imperceptibly, to achieve the desired effect of this striking black and white plaid pattern. The plaid pattern in its original, pre-altered state (with skinnier black stripes, diagonally oriented) can be seen on the underside of the collar.

3-D printing and modeling had a significant presence this year, with one panel presentation on its application in theater costume (Joe Kucharski of Baylor University), one poster on textile technology experiments (from Helen S. Koo of University of California, Davis and Seoha Min of University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and another on digitally recreating missing pieces in historic costume collections with 3-D modeling software (Cara Tortorice, Worn Through alum Kelly Cobb, and Dilia Lopez-Gydosh of University of Delaware).

Below is a detail of a 3-D printed Elizabethan neck ruff created by Joe Kucharski of Baylor University for a production of Twelfth Night. The incredible detail and simulated delicacy was achieved through a digital scan of Renaissance lace. It will be interesting to see how 3-D scanning, manipulating, and printing will be applied to exhibition display and design, or physically recreating missing ensemble pieces in a museum collection.


The McNay Museum held over two exhibitions for CSA members of Ballets Russes costumes, sketches, and illustrations and related printed material from the period of 1909-early 1930s (All the Rage in Paris; (Design, Fashion, Theater). The Ballets Russes exhibition was augmented by items owned and worn by wealthy San Antonio women inspired by the colors, patterns, and rich embellishment of the Ballets Russes costumes and set designs. These lovely fashion garments were provided by the nearby Witte Museum. Below is a juxtaposition of a costume from Sadko (1911) with a 1920s evening coat (both in different galleries, my pairing).



All photos provided by the author.


You Should Be Watching: The True Cost

Released worldwide on May 29, The True Cost is a documentary film that explores the current state of the global fashion industry and its impact on workers, consumers and the environment. Focusing on the development of the fast fashion business model, the documentary features interviews with many industry experts and sustainable fashion activists, including Stella McCartney, Livia FirthLucy Siegle and Safia Minney.

In the clip below, director Andrew Morgan explains how he became involved in the project and his personal reasons for making the film. Approaching the subject as an outsider with no prior experience in the fashion industry, Morgan says he was inspired to create the film after he heard about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh – and started to ask what seemed like straightforward questions about where the clothing he wears came from.

Morgan and his team travel to Dhaka, where they meet Shima, a garment factory worker who recounts her struggles to earn a living wage for herself and her family. Shima tells the filmmaker about her attempt to start a union among her fellow workers, which was physically and brutally stifled by factory management. This is just one story featured – which could have probably been a documentary on its own, in addition to other farming and garment workers from Cambodia, India, Haiti and the United States.

The True Cost is a very effective compilation of the major social and environmental issues facing the fashion industry, striking a balance between far-reaching and hard-hitting statistics (the average American throws away 82 pounds of clothing per year, the fashion industry is only second to oil as the most polluting industry in the world) and individual stories of garment workers, activists and designers who are committed to making change happen. Safia Minney’s fair trade clothing company People Tree and Livia Firth’s consultancy Eco-Age are just two examples of small but hopeful progress being made in the industry.

By the end of the film, it was hard not to feel something as a montage of fast fashion retail and YouTube shopping ‘haul’ videos are juxtaposed with garment workers in deplorable conditions. Even though I was fully aware of the impact of fast fashion on the human and natural economies, The True Cost is the catalyst that has finally made me rethink my shopping habits and begin moving towards a minimalist wardrobe – a topic which I will discuss in next week’s You Should Be Reading column.

Click here to find out about the remaining screenings planned, and here to watch the documentary now via various digital options.


On Teaching: Summer Engagement Strategies

Summer is fast approaching and it is time to start thinking about vacation, family time, and for many college administrators, student retention. During this time of year, students also begin to think about time with friends and family. Too often the summer turns quickly into fall and, before you know it, several students have decided not to come back to college. How can we counteract this? What can we do to encourage students to continue pursuing their fashion degree?


Photo courtesy of Yellow Brick Road

I began observing post-summer retention several years back when I began noticing a handful of students saying the same thing before the summer break: they were going to take time off to spend more time with friends and family. Of course they all said they would be back after a little time off! Sadly, almost all of them did not return. Many students I followed, I’ve come to find out, never went back to any college to finish any type of degree. I wanted to know if this happened to more colleges and what others were doing to mitigate these circumstances.

An average of 60% of the students who leave college do not return to the same institution (Bushong, 2009). Research shows student retention varies from college to college, and that students leave for various reasons. One commonality appears to be the loss of students after their first year. Much of the research surrounds incoming freshman and how to ensure academic success during and after their first year. A negative experience could be more impactful to freshmen than to their more academically advanced peers and lead to a freshman’s withdrawal from school (Roberts & Styron, 2009).


Photo courtesy of Teen Life

All students face transitional adjustments when pursuing a college education (Budny & Paul, 2003). To aid in this adjustment and to attempt to create positive experiences for students, I have begun creating an engagement strategy to help mitigate these circumstances.

  1. During the break, provide service-learning opportunities. For those students wanting to do something meaningful during their break, I have set up opportunities to work with a group of peers to help local businesses. For example, students will have the opportunity to intern or volunteer with charities such as Dress for Success and the local senior center. The administrators for these groups and I worked to prepare a two-to-three week project where students work with an underserved or needy market to research and analyze a pressing issue, and then prepare and implement a solution. While they may not be taking college courses or even step onto a campus, the students will remain connected with the college through these sponsored events.
  2. Encourage summer school with additional, free workshops. For those students who would have withdrawn from school after taking the summer off, providing an incentive to return for summer school is another initiative I am introducing. Starting the first week of school and spanning the remainder of the summer quarter, students will have the opportunity to meet outside professionals and learn additional skills through workshops in between class times. Topics for the workshops are developed by surveying students, particularly those at risk, and include topics such as couture techniques, fashion journalism, and fashion photography.
  3. Host a college job fair. One common reason students leave school that  I have observed is because of financial difficulty. Students often need college jobs to help them meet their bills and provide a more comfortable life. To assist students in securing these college jobs, a job fair held during the beginning of the summer quarter will encourage students to return to campus and create support outside the classroom for the students.
  4. Provide internship opportunities to all students. In addition to the college job fair, internship sites will also be on campus during the beginning of the summer quarter. Top fashion colleges offer internship opportunities to students at all levels of the program. In addition, providing internships to students early in their program will allow students to build an impressive level of experience in the industry while still in college (Roth, 2014).

These four engagement strategies are developed to provide student engagement and build value with the college. While these are developed based on research conducted around first year students, I believe they will also engage the entire of the student population. To measure the results, the retention data from the Spring, Summer and Fall quarters the previous three years will be compared to the retention results of this year. If there is an increase, the initiatives will be improved and implemented again next year.


Photo courtesy of Kingston University

Not all students will return to college or continue to pursue their degree in fashion. However, by attempting to understand the reasons they decide not return that are within our control, hopefully we can influence more students to continue their education. Providing engaging and positive experiences over the break may be just the thing to improve post-summer retention. 

What do you do to encourage student progression?  What other options do you think this initiative could benefit from?


Budny, D. D., & Paul, C. A. (2003).Working with students and parents to improve. Journal of STEM Education, 413(4), 1-9, Retrieved from

Bushong, S. (2009). Freshman retention continues to decline, report says. Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved from Continue/42287/.

Roth, L. (2014). The Top 50 Fashion Schools in the World: 2014 edition., Retrieved on May 25, 2015.

Robert, J. & Styron, R. (2009). Student Satisfaction and Persistence: Factors vital to student retention. Research in Higher Education Journal, Retrieved from