This teacher talked about ethics – Part II

This May, I wrote about a discussion that emerged in class about unethical brand behaviour. (If you want to see part I of the article click here.)

The majority of the class seemed to demonstrate that it is indeed from a different generation with a different set of values than mine, stating that discrimination, racism, exclusion are things that brands can do and that this does not even matter. Brands are entitled to exclude whoever they like.

Well here is the update on this class. The students were asked to work in groups and invent a new ad campaign for the said brand which aims to improve its ethics. So, although the students argued that none of these issues matter to them, during project time, they had to deal with them in depth.

The results were the exact opposite of what they had loudly stated in class!

During their research phase they looked at various activists and ambassadors of being ‘real’ or being ‘different’.

An insiring personality for the students: Shaun Ross.

An inspiring personality for the students: Shaun Ross.

The six groups then each took a different approach: Some created a campaign to raise awareness of plus size customers, others used a hashtag social media campaign to include all races, sizes and ethnicities. And one group had the most daring approach: It wanted to use famous personalities with disabilities who would wear the clothes and turn the brand’s ethos upside-down.

Students took inspiratoin from a spoof ad by "The Militant Baker" during their research

Students took inspiratoin from a spoof ad by “The Militant Baker” during their research

 

It was amazing to watch the groups present their concepts. This amazement was not only because they did a good and well-researched presentation, but because I was amazed at their thoughts. After dealing with the topic in depth they actually changed their opinions. All of the sudden they saw a new perspective.
So perhaps the Generation Y is different, because it has the ability of changing, improving and grasping concepts which don’t come to them naturally at first.

Chantelle Winnie: Another inspiration for the students.

Chantelle Winnie: Another inspiration for the students.

Have you ever experienced a 180° change of opinion whilst teaching?

 

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Review: Cornelia Parker’s Magna Carta (An Embroidery)

I don’t usually do reviews back to back but it was impossible to ignore Cornelia Parker’s Magna Carta (An Embroidery) at the British Library, given that she is a brilliant artist and that this latest artwork involves textiles in a staggering way.  Arguably, this is not specifically about apparel but it is about thread and cloth, materials at the heart of most dress and adornment.

Walking through the British Library in central London, it would be easy to miss Cornelia Parker’s artwork. With its staggered public areas and labyrinth reading rooms, a visitor to the British Library must navigate him/herself through a three dimensional Escher painting. As a result, Parker’s contribution to the British Library’s 800th birthday of the Magna Carta is not instantly accessible. However, finding it is like discovering treasure; overwhelmingly beautiful, dazzlingly ingenious and unbeknown to most others.

A view of the entire 13 metres encased in glass, from the bottom of the Wikipedia entry

I am a huge fan of textiles as an art medium so it was no surprise to find myself drooling over Parker’s huge piece of embroidered panama cotton, almost 13 metres in length and 1.5 metres in width, which is an enlarged facsimile of the Wikipedia entry on the Magna Carta, as it appeared last year on its 799th birthday.  Made up of 87 panels stitched together, the artwork is encased in glass that covers the entire length and includes mirrors below so it is possible to see the back of the textile and the stitches.

A close up of the embroidered text

The embroidery has been done by over 2oo people, whom can be roughly organised into three groups of embroiderersThe first are a small group of inmates involved with the social enterprise Fine Cell Work, which trains them in paid creative needlework, and whom produced most of the text in the artwork.  In addition, Parker invited a range of people connected to the law and civil liberties to contribute certain words. This second group, around 160 people, consists of lawyers, judges, civil rights campaigners, artists and writers for whom embroidery is probably not something they do everyday.

Anthea stitching a small section of the Magna Carta (An Embroidery)

The third and final group was responsible for all the illustrative elements, which include logos, emblems and images that make up the virtual Wikipedia entry.  These were done by embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework, the embroidery company Hand & Lock and members of the Embroiderers’ Guild.  According to the short video that accompanies the artwork in the exhibition, one of the images took the lady 450 hours to complete.  The quality of these reproductions is breathtaking and it is difficult not to be in awe of all their hands, as well as those of Fine Cell Work that went into creating the bulk of this fascinating artwork.

Another close up of the embroidered image representing the ‘Monarchy’ section

Parker’s idea to reproduce a Wikipedia page with a range of contributors is simultaneously clever and simple.  It takes an everyday virtual object that relies on a community of contributors and recreates it as a three dimensional haptic object, using a similiar mode of production.  As Jonathan Jones, art critic for The Guardian, points out, Wikipedia is arguably a virtual, ever changing product of our time yet in Parker’s work, a small part of it has been made to stand outside of its own timescale, immortalised in the process.

A detail from Elizabeth Wardle’s Bayeau Tapestry replica

In the accompanying text to the exhibit, Parker draws attention to the communal activity of embroidery, particularly in the case of the Bayeux Tapestry, which this artwork definitely draws parallels with.  However, I was also quite struck by how similiar Parker’s idea is to the Victorian reproduction of the Bayeux Tapestry on display in Reading.  In 1886, instigated by a successful industrialist’s wife, a group of women embroidered an ‘English’ version of the historical document in just over a yearYet, while their replica was of a medieval artefact, Parker’s replica is of a contemporary artefact whose very nature is both transient and ephemeral.

Jarvis Cocker and Cornelia Parker looking for his contribution of ‘common people’

Viewing the artwork, one activity I found interesting was identifying different contributions.  It is not possible to do this from the exhibit alone.  It has to be done through detective work, cross referencing various sources including text as well as moving and still images.  I only just managed to find Jarvis Cocker’s embroidered ‘common people’ by matching an image of him looking at the installed artwork with Parker with the actual exhibition space.  Reading the reviews, I discovered that drops of blood could help discern a particular contributor and also reminded me that embroidery is not without its risks. This is nicely mirrored in the fact that several contributors to the artwork have risked much to draw our attention to global infringements of civil liberties.

Detail of the Wikipedia logo, which is beautifully rendered in needlework

A recent article in the Journal of Modern Craft raised the question of whether Parker’s artwork could have been printed and still achieved the same outcome. The author suggested that the handstitching drew upon historical connections between needlework and political suffrage.  This is clearly present in the artwork but I also think if it had been printed, the speed of the reproduction would have reduced the overall visual and conceptual impact.  To print out a Wikipedia entry would be too easy and too similiar to the original.  By having it entirely recreated with thread and fabric, the labour of reproduction becomes a vital element that reminds us about the current emphasis on speed of information, production and consumption, arguably at the expense of debate, discussion and democracy.

Cornelia Parker’s Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is on display at the British Library until Friday 24th July and is free to the public.

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Parisian Insights: Yves Saint Laurent 1971 – The Scandal Collection

It’s always intriguing to observe past scandals when our contemporary eyes have become accustomed to much more outrageous! The Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent has decided to look back into its archives to propose an exhibition dedicated to the French designer’s Spring/Summer 1971 “Libération” or “Forties” Haute Couture collection. At the time, the show had instantly caused much discussion and shock as the six models had nonchalantly and insolently presented the 84 outfits inspired by the war years and in particular, the style of women living in an occupied Paris.  ‘It is with the arms of elegance and fashion, perfect manners, a cold kindness that the French woman has resisted’, had written Curzio Malaparte, in 1947, yet to 1970s commentators, the allusion was this time described under the terms ‘hideous’ or ‘tragic reference to the nazi years’.

Jacket and Trousers. Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent

Jacket and Trousers. Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent

Thus short fluid dresses, Platform shoes, square shoulders, turbans, tight waists and exaggerated make-up were some of the explicit citations Yves Saint Laurent had decided to highlight, influenced by his muse, Paloma Picasso who had promptly adopted a retro look inspired by the glamorous film stars she admired in 1940s productions and that suited better her voluptuous figure rather than the pop androgynous fashions of her time. Indeed, Yves Saint Laurent had not really invented anything, he had simply observed the outfits of his entourage – many Parisian teenagers would then rummage thrift stores to mingle 1920s, 1930s and 1940s pieces of clothing as they tended to evoke the glories of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich as they rediscovered classic films. The French designer had also met Andy Warhol and his Factory within which individuals like Candy Darling had also adopted a nostalgic allure without ever provoking any scandal.

View of the Exhibition

View of the Exhibition

So why did Yves Saint Laurent’s provoke so much controversy? Let’s look back at the period. Cristobal Balenciaga had closed his house in 1968 at a time when France was facing drastic social changes and Gabrielle Chanel had died three weeks before Yves Saint Laurent’s show. The young designer’s presentation resonated with the end of a certain aristocracy of couture and it seemed as though, by creating that infamous collection, he was letting go of the heavy burden his mentors had left him and had refused to be considered haute couture’s prodigious child. Rejecting classicism and conventions, Yves Saint Laurent also refused the futuristic aesthetic proposed by such designers as Pierre Cardin or André Courrèges. To him, innovation laid in the past and the revival of a dramatic glamorous and sexualized allure. Thus, although the reference to World War II and occupied France was brutal and considered disrespectful to many clients and journalists that had experienced the moment, it appears that the scandal had more to do with Yves Saint Laurent’s new take on haute couture rather than the sole historical evocation. Actually, the inspirations for the show were much more diverse. One can only recognize a hint to Elsa Schiaparelli in the embroidered lips and cigarettes on a velvet coat while evening dresses ressemble Greek classic tunics. Of course, the narrative is more sensual thanks to the audacious transparency, the slits and the erotic prints.

Detain of an evening coat. Photography: Courtesy of Sophie Carré for the Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent

Detain of an evening coat. Photography: Courtesy of Sophie Carré for the Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent

Surely commentators focused on the 1940s references to emphasize their scorn but didn’t the scandal have more to do with his aim to consider a younger generation – a project initiated with the opening of the ready-to-wear Saint Laurent Rive Gauche shop, in 1966 – the mocking of the bourgeoisie and the introduction of an overtly sexy and eccentric silhouette? And most of all, how Yves Saint Laurent audaciously invited, in a highly provocative way for the time, street fashion on couture catwalks? He had declared to the French Elle: ‘What I want? Shock people, force them to think. Haute couture is now only about nostalgia and taboos. Like an old lady. What counts is that young girls that have never known this style, would want to wear it. The others, will obviously want to imitate them afterwards.’ With the help of the (only) 28 models exposed and wall blow ups of all the show’s drawn silhouettes, we can observe how boldly, Yves Saint Laurent had indeed completely repudiated the boundaries that had until then been clearly established between ready-to-wear and haute couture. We read the condemning articles and observe the cutting-edge films proposed by a younger generation that had understood and accepted the designer’s aesthetic. We also identify Francine Crescent’s radical  judgement and how as the editor of Vogue Paris, she was a rare journalist to admire the new style and feature it in the pages of the magazine, through the lens of a certain Helmut Newton: who better would have captured the sulfurous silhouettes and their sensual wearers? 1971 became a shifting year: the collection, a manifesto and the designer, the mediator of a new liberated generation – the same year, Yves Saint Laurent posed nude for Jeanloup Sieff to promote his new perfume. He introduced an aesthetic that now dominates the industry, that of the retro, but also established fashion into the world of marketing and spectacle. And thus contributed to the creation of the sophisticated scandal, the one feared and desired at once, the one that brings the attention on the brand…

 Here Hedi Slimane clearly evokes the archives (a 1971 dress) of the house he now designs for. Remember how scandalous his first collections for Yves Saint Laurent were considered? Nothing new!

Here Hedi Slimane clearly evokes the archives (a 1971 dress) of the house he now designs for. Remember how scandalous his first collections for Yves Saint Laurent were considered? Nothing new!

How ironic to see Yves Saint Laurent become a public enemy just as his mentor, Christian Dior had with his New Look when that now classic style is exactly what the young designer rejected. What are Yves Saint Laurent’s sensual evening dresses compared to Alexander McQueen’s bumsters, Hussein Chalayan provocative burqas or Vivienne Westwood’s revival of the oppressive corset? The French couturier simply initiated what would now become classic: the spectacular show: from Thierry Mugler’s blockbusters to John Galliano’s dramatic yet provocative narratives. How poorly scandalous may Yves Saint Laurent’s arrogant models appear compared to Rick Owens’ naked masculine models or Jean-Paul Gaultier’s antipodean mannequins.

With a very small display, much is said although I must admit I would have loved to be given a greater angle with a better comprehension of the context: a comparison of Yves Saint Laurent’s collection to that of fellow designers of 1971 and also, why not an opening on the greater theme that is the fashion scandal. Nonetheless a bright and pedagogic exhibition worth seeing!

The display is on until 19th July at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent

Further Resources:

There’s an ideal responding exhibition at the FIT: Yves Saint Laurent + Halston – Fashioning the 70s

And the book: McClendon, Emma and Mears, Patricia. Yves Saint Laurent + Halston Fashioning the 70s. New York: Yale University Press, 2015.

You can have a look at the show here

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Interview with Monica by The Seams

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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

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Fashion and Cars – exploring common grounds in class

Have you ever proposed to your students to explore an uncommon topic? Or combine two topics that seem to have nothing in common at all? What did the students think about the approach?

I am asking you this because in June, I brought up a slightly unusual topic in class: Fashion and cars. At first, it seemed that the two subjects are hardly connected to each other so we set out to explore them. The results were quite fascinating and I would like to share a brief summary of them with you today, because whether you look at design, marketing strategy or the environmental impact, cars and fashion actually do have many parallels.

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Image source here.

First of all there is a phenomenon called “car culture” which – to sum it up in a sentence – is the cultural impact cars had on society once they became mass marketed. This influence permeated the way we shop (i.e. big malls), where we work (i.e. commuting to and from suburbs) and how a car became a status and power symbol, at first mostly for men. This car culture triggered a myriad of advertising showing sexy and fashionable women and created fashion outfits to be used when driving such as the original Car Shoe and its many clones.

Car shoe for Lamborghini's 50th anniversary

Car shoe for Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary

Image source here.

When the Mini became Britain’s flagship car, it simultaneously became synonymous with cultural movements powered by Twiggy, the Beatles and the swinging sixties.

The first Mini rolled off the production line in the late fifites but became as synonymous with the "Swinging Sixties as the other, head-turning mini."

The first Mini rolled off the production line in the late fifites but became as synonymous with the “Swinging Sixties as the other, head-turning mini.”

Image source here.

 

Secondly, todays marketing strategy for cars includes being fashionable. Car-makers want to be associated with glamour which is why they sponsor many fashion weeks (Mercedes hosts several around the world) and even delve into bridal wear (BMW sponsors the BMW India bridal fashion week).

3 Image source here.

 

Futhermore, there have been dozens of collaborations of designers and car manufacturers, where an unusual and fashionable exterior and/or interior has been created. One reason that car makers want to infiltrate the fashion market is perhaps the fact that car sales are declining in the saturated markets of the USA and Europe, whilst equally growing in China, India and other Asian countries. Incidentally, for many (high-) fashion brands these are equally important emerging markets.

Chanel Fiole Concept Car 2014

Chanel Fiole Concept Car 2014

Image source here.

A third area where cars meet fashion is on the subject of sustainability. Years and years have passed where the global topic of sustainability and environmental impacts of industrialized nations have been discussed. People around the world increasingly care more about where their products came from and whether they harm the environment. The new trend in cars is to create hybrids or electric cars which consume less energy which feature new and light composite materials. Smart technology is integrated to help the driver have a more personalised experience and navigate more easily to service points (i.e. to charge the battery). Does this sound familiar? I believe it does, because fashion technology thinks along very similar lines nowadays. And the foundation for both – cars and clothes – is the textile industry, which creates smart textiles to be used for the automotive and apparel sectors.

Want-a-Green-Machine-Ten-2014-Hybrid-Cars-with-Pros-and-Cons-MainPhoto Image source here.

My students found it a bit difficult at first to delve into a topic so far away from fashion, but once the research was complete and they presented it in class, they were excited about their findings.

Should you be interested in exploring this topic some more, I can highly recommend a new marketing-savvy book entitled “Auto Brand: Building Successful Car Brands for the Future” by Dr. Anders Parment. There is a chapter on car culture, fashion, and lots of research about the strategies of car brands. A second interesting book is called “Autopia: Cars and Culture” by Peter Wollen and Joe Kerr and takes a more artistic approach of the subject.

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Father’s Day and Ties

how-to-tie-a-tie-the-windsor-knot-1083096-TwoByOne

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.

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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.

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Review: Riviera Style Resort & Swimwear Since 1900, FTM, London

A recent visit to the Regency seaside resort St Leonards on Sea along with a renewed interest in swimming, courtesy of my local lido, meant I just had to start the summer with a visit to the exhibition Riviera Style: Resort & Swimwear Since 1900 at the Fashion and Textile Museum (FTM) in London this week. 

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Pyjama suits popular in the 1930s, part of the Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920 – 1939 section

Billed as a celebration of clothing worn in and by the sea, the exhibition displays a huge range of garments lent by Leicestershire County Council, which is also the county where many of the swimwear manufacturers were based.  As a result, most of the items on display reflect UK and USA manufacturers and tastes. The guest curator is Dr Christine Boydell, a design historian from Leicester’s De Montfort University, who has an interest in twentieth century fashion and was previously involved in the FTM’s 2010 exhibition on Horrockses Fashions as well as the author of Horrockses Fashions'; Off-the-Peg style in the ‘40s and ‘50.

The exhibition is an effort to tell several stories and I think some are told more successfully than others.  The first charts the role of design and production in the developing styles of swimwear during the last century.  The second is the relationship between shifting notions of the fashionable human form and design, while the third is the increasing emphasis on holiday locations, whether they be at home or abroad, for the display of swimwear styles.  While the first and second story are more obvious throughout the exhibition, the third story is less consistently told, and the visitor has to work harder to find the narrative amongst the displays.

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Early twentieth century swimwear, 1895 – 1919, opening the exhibition

The exhibition is arranged by the way in which swimwear has attempted to address the human form with the application of textile design and technology during the twentieth century.  This is reflected in a chronological order of display, organised by five sections: Bathing Beauties 1895-1919, Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920 – 1939, Mould and Control 1940 – 1959, Body Beautiful 1960 – 1989 and Second Skin 1990 onwards.  In case you are not familiar with the layout of the FTM, it is essentially one large ground level room that can be divided up into smaller sections, overlooked by a horseshoe shaped mezzanine that provides relatively narrow corridors of exhibition space.  For this exhibition, the first two sections occupy the ground level, where the designers have recreated a fictional lido setting, literally placing the early twentieth century swimwear into a recreational context. The last three sections are to be found upstairs, with increasingly less emphasis on a literal context and more emphasis on the quantity of items on display.

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Lido recreated on ground floor for the first two sections of the exhibition

The initial impact of the exhibition is strong as the visitor finds themselves walking past bathers and swimmers enjoying the benefits of a fictional lido. Here, the visitor learns about early twentieth century swimwear, with its shifting emphasis on modesty against the backdrop of increasing demand for seaside holidays.  The visitor sees garments in-situ, whether they are swimsuits for swimming or pyjama suits for lounging by the pool, sipping on an apres-swim cocktail.  The entire lido scene is supported by some beautiful blown up promotional images from the 1930s of resorts in the UK, as well as a range of fantastic prints from British Vogue showing models wearing swimwear in a range of holiday locations.  Literal recreations of places where swimwear might be worn and seen continue upstairs with the third section, which focuses on the relationship between underwear and swimwear.  Here, the curators have displayed the mannequins as if they were taking part in a beauty contest held in a seaside town, each one sporting a rosette with their respective number and placed upon prize giving blocks.

Bathing Beauty Queen context, 1945 - 1989, Morecambe, Lancashire ,UK

Bathing Beauty Queen context, 1945 – 1989, Morecambe, Lancashire ,UK

The immersive approach to the exhibition’s theme is followed through with associated summer songs played through speakers and heard across the entire space, as well as plenty of smaller displays focusing on accessories and some specific events related to the display of swimwear, in particular the Bathing Beauty Queen context held in Morecambe, Lancashire between 1945 – 1989.

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Body Beautiful 1960 – 1989 section; note popularity of the two piece suit

What I find the FTM does well when it comes to their exhibitions is the sheer number of garments on display, often reflecting a diversity that is just not possible to see in more permanent displays of dress favoured by bigger museums like the V&A.  Walking through an FTM exhibition reminds me just how important it is to see real examples of clothing, and not to just rely on two dimensional representation for further understanding.  This is perhaps even more critical when it comes to swimwear, where the form can often be misunderstood until it is seen on an actual body.  This exhibition does not disappoint the visitor who wants to see a hundred years of swimwear design with real examples.  It is also fantastic to see so many examples of clothing worn by, and not just in, the water, ranging from day dresses to sarongs, playsuits to burkinis. 

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Pyjama suit, 1920s, rayon, designer/maker unknown

I thought the recreated lido and beauty contest displays worked very well because they best represented the development of resort life, which is really only dealt with in the written summaries for each section.  I think having most of the explanation presented in this way meant there was sometimes a tendency to display objects without any labels.  Corresponding images could either be too small or in awkward places, making them difficult to read for further historical context. Also, upstairs, there are almost too many examples shown and the displays teeter on the brink of becoming glorified shop windows.

Examples of swimwear from 1990 onwards

I particularly enjoyed the British Vogue prints because it is here in fashion magazines that we often imagine ourselves into clothes and situations.  They give us opportunities to fantasise about what a particular swimsuit might look like in our imagined holiday or for us to pragmatically assess whether it will suit our particular body shape.  Although swimwear is clearly a staple of designer collections, is associated with specific manufacturers and, arguably, integral to the planning of our holidays, for many of us, it is something we spend very little time actually wearing.  However, we do seem to spend a lot of time imagining ourselves in swimwear and possibly buying it, often with little success (well, in my experience, this is certainly the case!) It would have been nice to have seen the exhibition embrace this more, perhaps with the addition of soundbites from people talking about their own experience of swimwear, whether it be buying or wearing it.  I was curious to know whether people would try to make their own ‘telescopic’ swimwear in the 1940s, given that they were expensive to buy at the time.

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1920s swimming cap made from rubber and reminded me of The Philadelphia Story

I also think more representation of swimwear in popular visual culture might have been included, beyond magazines and postcards. In particular I was thinking about the brilliant scene from The Philidelphia Story (1940) where Katherine Hepburn’s character gets changed into her swimming outfit or the scene from Shag (1989), where Bridget Fonda’s character takes part in a seaside beauty contest.

Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story

I think the choice to present the exhibition chronologically, which the FTM tends to do, is problematic because it fails to make thematic connections that might otherwise engage a wider audience with their displays.  I rarely see diversity amongst the visitors at the FTM, which is a shame, given that the garments on display are often of fantastic quality and make critical contributions to our understanding of the past and present.

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Fashionable wear by the water 1920 – 1939; note the outfit in the foreground very similiar to Chanel’s designs which can just be seen in the book in the bottom left hand corner

To conclude, this is an enjoyable exhibition in parts but you do need to read the written summaries while looking at the objects in order to see the various stories being told, particularly the social historical narrative of holidays and resorts.  Perhaps go with friends so you can contribute your own social history to this exhibition – send FTM a postcard of your swimwear in situ!

 

All images are authors own except for opening image.

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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?

yellowbrickrd

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).

teenlife

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.

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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?

References:

Budny, D. D., & Paul, C. A. (2003).Working with students and parents to improve. Journal of STEM Education, 413(4), 1-9, Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=0bf0c440-9eb8-468d-aa4a-f1574e545740%40sessionmgr111&hid=114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=pbh&AN=96336714.

Bushong, S. (2009). Freshman retention continues to decline, report says. Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved from http://chronicle.com.libpdb.d.umn.edu:2048/article/Freshman-Retention- Continue/42287/.

Roth, L. (2014). The Top 50 Fashion Schools in the World: 2014 edition. http://fashionista.com/2014/12/top-fashion-schools-2014, 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 http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/09321.pdf.

 

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A Postcard from Abroad: Summertime in the UK

Hello!  It’s nice to be back, and be able to bring you a summery round up of fashion related events and exhibitions in the UK over the next few months.  My last Worn Through contribution was in early spring and I must say a massive thank you to our Managing Editor Brenna Barks for covering in my absence with some great videos; that last one certainly sets the seasonal tone!

To start, I would like to mention the Textile Society has a great overview of events, exhibitions and activities over the summer that cover both fashion and textiles interests.  I strongly recommend having a closer look because whereas I tend to focus more on London and fashion related events, they provide excellent UK coverage of textile related events.  With that in mind, there are a few things taking place in the capital that I want to highlight now!

 

The first one is the Institute of Historical Research’s (IHR) 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, 2-3 July, which focuses on the subject of fashion In collaboration with the V&A Museum, the IHR hopes to showcase the importance of fashion and how it brings together museums, graduate teaching programmes, learned societies and the fashion profession around a common set of interests and concerns.  This two day conference includes over 30 panel sessions, which encompass the history of fashion, tastes, design innovation, globalisation, museum display, consumption and retailing.  There will also be a special exhibition in the IHR,  in partnership with the Senate House Library, that looks like a rare opportunity to see fashion images from their catalogues.  Tickets are now available and a provisional programme can be viewed here.

Fine Cell Work, 2010, littleblackbookofart.com

The second display to catch my eye is the artist Cornelia Parker’s contemporary Magna Carta, on public view at the British Library until 24 JulyTo mark its 800th anniversary, the British Library commissioned Parker to create a new artwork and her response was to fabricate the entire Wikipedia entry on the Great Charter with only embroidered stitches.  While the work was produced in association with the Embroiderer’s Guild, the Royal School of Needlework and Hand & Lock, many hands contributed to the piece, including Fine Cell Work, who support prisoners by training them in needleworkHave a look at the video about the making of the piece – it’s fascinating. I am really looking forward to seeing this in person and great to see such a esteemed British artist drawing upon textiles as her medium of choice here.

The third event I want to mention is actually two, insomuch they are both shows based in universities.  At Goldsmiths University, the BA Fine Art/History of Art students have drawn upon the Goldsmiths Textiles Collection to create Reconstructing Textiles.  This exhibition, only open until 23 June, is an attempt to draw connections between contemporary practices and archival material. For me, any opportunity to see the Goldsmiths Textiles Collection is a golden one and it is great to see students engaging with previous students work in the archive.

Image taken from Fabric of the City website. Unknown source.

At The Cass, part of London Metropolitan University, staff and students have invited textile and fashion designers to celebrate the local history of Spitalfield’s 17th century silk weavers for an exhibition entitled Fabric of the City.  This is part of The Cass’ contribution to the festival ‘Huguenot Summer 2015’, organised by the Huguenots of Spitalfields in partnership with the City of London.  The Cass is where I teach so it is great to share what they are up to, especially as, due to health reasons, I have not been there these last couple of months.  The exhibition runs 10-25 July.

Morecambe and Wise presenting Miss Great Britain 1965. Photograph: Fashion and Textile Museum

Moving on, summer is that time when we panic about swimwear in the UK, especially because the opportunity to wear it, given our climate, is so very small.  However, this does not stop us fantasising about the ideal bikini or one-piece nor us purchasing something new each year in the hope that this time, it really will be perfect!  Seeking some kind of perspective then, it may be helpful to catch RIVIERA STYLE Resort & Swimwear since 1900at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London this summer.  On until 30 August, this exhibition, in association with Leicestershire County Council Museums, focuses not just on swimwear style but also technological developments in fabric and the role of retailing in making those design innovations popular.  I hope to review this later on in the month but be great to hear from anyone who has already visited in the comments below.

Camper advertising, SS 1977 and SS 1992 Source: Design Museum

While on the topic of summer sartorial concerns, shoes are also perhaps a major obsession as we dare to bare our pale pieds.  Last year, I was obsessed with clogs.  I thought they were the perfect summer shoe because, unlike most sandals, they kept my toes out of sight.  However, after realising I cannot walk in clogs – too many years wearing flats – I am now still on the lookout for my ideal summer shoe.  Along with my ideal swimming garment, come to think of it.  Perhaps then it comes as no surprise to see two major London design museums dedicating their summer exhibition space to what we put on our feet.  In east London, the Design Museum focuses on the Spanish footwear brand Camper in Life on Foot while in west London, the V&A Museum looks at the extremities footwear has gone to in Shoes: Pleasure and Painife on Foot, open now until 1 November, is the use of archival material from Camper to tell the design story of their products from the drawing board to the concept store.  Meanwhile, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, open 13 June until 31 January 2016, draws upon the V&A’s historic collection to present over 200 pairs of shoes in considering how technology often provides opportunities for extreme wearability

Detail from United States market advertisement, 1947. Courtesy of Jamie Mulherron.

Lastly, I noticed an exhibition about Pringle of Scotland knitwear at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh entitled Fully Fashioned and open until 16 August.  Marking the company’s 200th anniversary, the exhibition charts the history of what is now an international fashion brand with the use of archival material and knitwear garments. I would love to hear from anyone who has visited it or whether it might be travelling to other museums later in the year.

Happy holidays!

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