Back to School: Top Five Research Resources

It’s September, which means back to school!  There hasn’t been a single year when I am not completely preoccupied by what to wear on the first day of class.  Crafting and presenting my socio-intellectual-professional identity becomes a full-time project from the end of August until the start of term.  Taking the time to equip myself sartorially was always a helpful way to manage the uncertainty and anxiety of unknown classes, unfamiliar teachers and unforeseen changes amongst friends last seen before the summer break. As an adult, working out what to wear at this time helps me to get in the mood for teaching, moving away from the breezy feel of holidays towards a more disciplined aura manifest in the lace up shoes, sombre tones and heavy fabrics of my September wardrobe.

Yet, preparing to return to our studies means brushing up on our books as well as our winter warms.  So, to get ready for this academic year, I wanted to highlight my top five online fashion/textile/clothing resources that any budding scholar or thinker could add to their academic outfit and we don’t already feature here on Worn Through.

First up is the Fashion Research Network, a collaborative project developed by PhD students from the Royal College of Art and the Courtauld Institute of Art and set up in 2013 “in response to their own experiences of navigating the networks already open to fashion researchers.”  Not only does the website promote early career researchers but it is one of the few websites that attempts to bring all the various strands of fashion research together into one space, where conferences and courses can be browsed simultaneously.

Second up is the University of Brighton’s listings of dress collections in museums put together by Prof Lou Taylor and Dr Charlotte Nicklas in July 2011.  This comprehensive list offers fashion researchers a wealth of information concerning dress/textile collections in the South, South East and South West of England.

In third place is the Vintage Fashion Guild ‘s Label Resource, which enables those with an interest in history and clothes to begin tracing the retail lineage of loved garments through their labels.  Although this resource is aimed at vintage buyers and sellers, the information provided is fascinating for anyone who has ever wanted to know more about the story of their worn clothes.

Taking fourth position is Behind the Seams, Vice Magazine’s collection of fashion and dress documentaries. Online access to interesting leftfield films about apparel, particularly from a global perspective, is not easy which is why this site is so valuable.  I only wish that films were added more frequently, thereby building upon this unique archive.

A still from Bulletproof Fashion, a Behind the Seams film about Bogata’s tailoring industry which specialises in protective clothing for bodyguards and UN officials

My last choice is Documenting Fashion, a dress history blog set up by Rebecca Arnold, Oak Foundation Lecturer in History of Dress and Textiles, and students studying textiles and dress at the Courtald Institute of Art in London in 2013.  This collective approach to writing about dress and fashion provides a good model of academic research whereby both student and teacher’s interests inform one another’s work within a public information forum.

If you know of any other online resources that you would like to share with our community, please do let us know via the comments below.  Alternatively, if you have an idea for something that does not currently exist, we would love to hear from you!

(Top image is a collage by Alexis Romano taken from the Documenting Fashion website)


You Should Be Watching: The Chinese Market for Luxury

The exponentially-growing Chinese market for Western luxury goods has changed the way that these items are sold, and fashion is no exception. This week’s YSBW presents news stories from the past year that discuss the shifts that many luxury fashion companies have made to attract Chinese customers as well as the challenges they have faced in their endeavors. This is a rich, ever-evolving topic, and a great place for more information is regular Business of Fashion column “The China Edit.”

I was unable to get this video to properly embed, but here is a great segment from CNN Money on the efforts of French and English luxury brands to woo Chinese customers.

Bonus article: One of the challenges French luxury companies are facing is the targeting of Chinese luxury tourists in Paris. It has gotten so bad that the Paris law enforcement called in Chinese police officers to help curb the thefts during the peak summer tourist season! More here and here.




You Should Be Watching: The Suit

In honor of the Spring 2015 Men’s Fashion shows, I chose to feature videos discussing what many consider the quintessential male garment: the suit. Specifically, these videos focus on the difference between the bespoke suit, a handmade garment (or mostly handmade) with each detail custom selected by its intended wearer, and the ready-to-wear suit. These films visit bespoke tailors of London’s famous Savile Row and touch upon the profession’s past, present and future, the bespoke customer, and the many options that are available to personalize these deceptively complex garments.

Menswear writer Eric Musgrave offers a history of the suit in the first video, followed by the BBC special “The Perfect Suit,” which visits custom Savile Row tailors as well as fast fashion vendors and discusses not only the aesthetics and craftsmanship of suits, but also their cultural significance. (This video may be found in four parts in YouTube.) The final video features bespoke tailoring firm Henry Poole and Co., in business since 1806, and discusses the company’s history and the unique demand for custom suiting.

Bonus Video: Master Tailor John Kent of bespoke firm Kent, Haste and Lachter shows the foundations and methods used to create custom suiting.

Eric Musgrave, Sharp Suits: 150 years of men’s tailoring from WSA Global Futures on Vimeo.




You Should be Watching: Charles James

By now I’m sure that everyone in the world has heard about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current costume exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion, regardless of whether or not one is familiar with the man or his work. The exhibit has resulted in a second life for Charles James as seen in an enormous amount of press, Zac Posen’s stunning couture Met Gala creations, and even the relaunch of the Charles James brand by Harvey Weinstein, Georgina Chapman and Edward Chapman of Marchesa. For those who are unable to view the show in person, I have compiled a selection of videos featuring exhibition highlights, as well as the architectural angle from which curators Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder approached James’ work.

I have also included a video that revisits the Chicago History Museum’s 2011 exhibit, Charles James: Genius Deconstructed, a groundbreaking show that focused on James’ unique methods of construction through its use of CT scans and touchable muslin models created by the museum.



You Should Be Watching: Fashion Revolution Day

fashion rev

As you may have heard, April 24 marked the one year anniversary of the disaster at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when a factory complex collapsed, killing over 1,000 garment workers and injuring over 2,500. In remembrance of this tragic event, fashion industry leaders as well as interested parties outside the fashion world have dubbed April 24th Fashion Revolution Day, a day for consumers to take a moment and ask themselves “who made my clothes?” This effort is a call-to-action, encouraging people to be more aware of the human impact that clothing manufacturing has on the world and promoting the support of companies that produce clothing in an ethical way.

In honor of the mission behind Fashion Revolution Day, I would like to present two videos that have been created to inform the world about the conditions of garment workers in Bangladesh, and discussing the state of the industry in this country one year after the Rana Plaza disaster.


The Shirt On Your Back is an interactive documentary produced by the Guardian that provides insight into the experience of garment workers who worked in the Rana Plaza factory complex, working conditions, and economic factors that pertain to the manufacture of clothing. The documentary mixes video footage, graphics, and text, and puts a face to garment workers through powerful interviews.


Tears in the Fabric is a recently-released, 30 minute documentary and web platform produced by the organizations Rainbow Collective and Openvizor to raise awareness about the people effected by the Rana Plaza disaster. The film focuses on Razia, and her life following the factory collapse. The project aims to educate consumers on “the human cost of high street fashion.”

Bonus Video: An interview with American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney on ethical clothing manufacturing practices and his call-to-action for responsible consumerism.

Bonus Article: “Rana Plaza Factory Collapse Survivors Struggle One Year On”; BBC News tells the stories of four garment workers who were rescued from the collapsed factory, and reports how they are doing one year later.


You Should Be Watching: YAMAMOTO

Yohji Yamamoto – Dress 1983
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Yohji Yamamoto stormed the Parisian fashion scene in the early 1980’s. With the help of other avant-garde Japanese designers, Yamamoto transformed the prevailing European fashion aesthetic. Brightly colored body conscious dresses no longer ruled the runway and were replaced with Yamamoto’s signature monochromatic body enveloping silhouettes. In the two videos below, the reticent designer discusses his fashion philosophy.

Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Image: Screen Shot

This artistic documentary from 1989 has been in my Netflix queue for several months now. Directed by Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club-1999), the film explores identity, fashion, and the digitally recorded image. Wenders creatively combines multiple videos on one screen, including interviews with Yohji Yamamoto, casual interactions with the designer, and footage of Yamamoto working in his studio.

Yamamoto thoughtfully discusses his theory on the use of monochromatic color schemes and his predilection for asymmetrical designs.  One of the most interesting portions of the documentary is when Yamamoto is shown cutting patterns directly on a model’s body.

In addition, Yamamoto’s visual resource library is explored. (I have to get my hands on a copy of August Sander’s, Man of the Twentieth Century).

Yohji Yamamoto: Poet in Black

This short 18 minute video was produced in conjunction with the V&A’s 2011 Yohji Yamamoto exhibition.

An excellent complement to Notebook on Cities and Clothes, Poet in Black, features an older more mature and solemn Yamamoto. The designer is seated alone in front of a bookcase, smoking, while he answers a set of simple question. Vibrant runway footage is layered over top of Yamamoto’s candid responses.

Yamamoto discusses his success, his difficulty with menswear, and the future of his designs.

Bonus Video:
In Conversation, About Yohji Yamamoto - Also produced by the V&A for the Yamamoto exhibition. The hour long video features Marc Ascoli, Nick Knight, and Peter Saville in a roundtable discussion about Yohji.

In Addition…Wish List:
This is My Dream: Yohji Yamamoto (2011) – A short 29 minute documentary focused on Yamamoto.

The Challenge of Rei Kawakubo – A 50 minute documentary on the notoriously silent (Yamamoto rival) and most cerebral of the Japanese fashion designers, Rei Kawakubo.

If anyone has access to This is My Dream or a version of The Challenge of Rei Kawakubo with English subtitles, please let us know.


You Should Be Watching: Queer Fashion

Image: The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT recently presented A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk. The pioneering exhibition explored the contributions and influence that the lesbian-gay-bisexual–transgender community has had on fashion history.

Accompanying the spectacular show was a great interactive website, a beautiful catalog, and a lively symposium. The website and the catalog are valuable resources and each is still available online.

The two day symposium featured presentations from scholars, fashion designers, artists and collectors. If you missed the symposium, a short video of each presentation has been linked to the Queer Fashion History website. The videos can be accessed under the Symposium tab.

The original thirty minute presentations have been expertly edited, distilling the talks into five minute clips. These concise summaries quickly provide the key points of each presentation.


Edited by Valerie Steele, the exhibition catalog is the perfect supplement to the videos, providing an in-depth examination of many of the topics presented.

In addition:
Check out the Video tab on the Queer Fashion History website for additional Queer History related videos. Don’t miss the interview with curators Fred Dennis and Valerie Steele at the bottom of the page.


You Should Be Watching: GAULTIER

Image: BrooklynMuseum.Org

The exhibition, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk has been making the rounds the past few years.

Stints in Montreal, Dallas, San Francisco, and Brooklyn have provided a large collection of video resources related to Gaultier and the exhibition in particular.

With the current Brooklyn Museum iteration in its final few weeks and the London premier fast approaching, a review of available video resources for the “enfant terrible” was in order.

Fashion World Museum Interviews

Both the Brooklyn Museum and The de Young Museum provided programming involving curator led interviews with Jean Paul, each an hour in length with an additional 15 minute question and answer session at the end.

The interviews are very similar in format and content, covering Gaultier’s childhood and family life, exploring his sources of inspiration, and delving into the influence movies have had on his designs.

Viewing both interviews becomes repetitive however it is enjoyable listening to Gaultier talk about his work in such an unpretentious and passionate manner.

The Brooklyn Museum interview moderated by Suzy Menkes is the more concise option of the two interviews, as Menkes is more skilled at keeping the often long-winded Gaultier on topic. In addition, Menkes brings up interesting topics like Gaultier’s costume design work for major movies and his partnership with Hermès.

Fashion Television: Jean Paul Gaultier

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts provides a variety of videos related to their JPG Fashion World exhibition from 2011. The majority of these videos are short behind-the-scenes clips however there is a great 25 minute Fashion Television special episode available through the exhibition video content page.

The glossy Gaultier episode follows the development of the Montreal exhibition while tracing the designer’s career and highlighting common themes from his collections. The video is packed with spectacular runway footage, often featuring models wearing ensembles on view in the exhibition.

We look forward to possible additions to the JPG video resources from the upcoming Barbican exhibition.

 Jean Paul Gaultier in the Movies

In addition to his ready-to-wear and haute couture collections, Gaultier often designs costumes for major motion pictures. Check out some of his dramatic designs in action (It’s movie watching disguised as research).

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989)
A visual feast,  featuring Helen Mirren dressed in an array of Gaultier gowns but the waitstaff uniforms are just as spectacular.

City of Lost Children (1995)
This fantasy adventure takes place “in a world haunted by Gaultier”, where the characters are swathed in his classic designs. Ribbed sweaters, horizontal stripes, and sailor pants!

The Fifth Element (1997)
The Gaultier designed movie which received the most commercial success. Here the future is dressed through the hazy lens of the mid-1990′s. These revealing Sci-Fi costumes have gone on to inspire countless college Halloween costumes.


You Should Be Watching: Early 1940′s

After last month’s You Should be Watching on Series, the engaging TED Talk below was brought to our attention.  Over the past few months, I have also been keeping track of a number of valuable video resources available online which explore the transition from 1930′s glamor to 1940′s wartime austerity. Make Do and Mend was the  impetus for this month’s focus on early 1940′s fashion.

Make Do and Mend – TEDxUSU
Image: National Library of Scotland (GII.2005.2.3)

In this 15 minute talk, recently given at Utah State University, Nancy Walker discusses how World War II influenced the fashion industry. Walker covers new wartime styles, the advancement of manufactured and synthetic textiles, and the promotion of mending and reusing clothes. In addition, Walker covers the establishment of government sanctioned fashion restrictions, imposed first in England and later in the United States.

Make Do and Mend is an information packed talk, concisely introducing 1940′s fashion issues, making this video a valuable classroom resource.

1940′s Era Fashion Movies and Newsreels

There are numerous short 1940′s era videos available on YouTube. Simply searching, “1940′s Fashion” will give you hundreds of hits, some more relevant and worthwhile than others. I’ve done the legwork for you and here a few of my favorites.

Fashion Horizons (1940)
Produced by TWA and Paramount Pictures, this 1940 film follows a group of Hollywood starlets on a holiday get away. The 20 minute video is filled with constant costume changes, featuring leisurewear, travel suits, and Santa Fe inspired fashions. Accessories and menswear are also shown. I am particularly fond of the Halliburton luggage plug. I guess product placement isn’t such a new concept.

Aristocrats of Fashion
This campy 10 minute movie is filled with early 1940′s sportswear and evening wear. Produced by the Bamberg Corporation, the movie is actually a long advertisement for the company’s vibrantly patterned and “easy to clean” rayon textiles.
(Spoiler Alert: Charlie and Carol get engaged.)

U.S. News Review
Much more poignant is this series of patriotic World War II newsreels. The 15 minute films provide updates on military endeavors abroad, focus on domestic issues like childcare, and feature industrial influenced wartime styles. In this particular video, Veronica Lake models a practical new hairstyle, appropriate for women working in factories.

Holiday Inn (1942)

Take a break from all of your research and writing this holiday season with a Christmas classic. Holiday Inn is filled with fabulous Edith Head designed 1940′s gowns!


You Should Be Watching: Series

Below is a group of video series featuring insightful talks, one-on-one discussions with fashion designers, and front row views of major runway shows. Easy to digest, yet stimulating and thought-provoking, these concise videos are perfect to watch while on the go or to utilize in a classroom setting.

TED Talks: Fashion & Beauty: Beneath the Skin Deep

Image from

Beneath the Skin Deep, available streaming on Netflix, brings together 11 TED Talks focused on either fashion or beauty.

The speakers and topics vary widely, ranging from Issac Mizrahi’s rantings on fashion to the science of growing alternative textiles and on to  design creativity spurred by the lack copyright protection in the fashion industry.

Obviously the fashion focused talks are more pertinent to the costume historian than the beauty centered talks. However at only fifteen minutes in length, the talks are not a major time investment and I found many of the beauty focused talks equally relevant and thought provoking.

The talks are also available free on and can be found by searching beauty and fashion, filtered for talks.

Recommendation: Johanna Blakely: Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture

Fashion DVD

Image from

As the title states, this is a series of just that, fashion DVDs. The twenty(+) DVDs are available on Netflix and are compilations of well known designer’s runway shows. The shows, dating from around 2004-2005, are grouped into thematic topics such as Paris: Daywear, Milan: Knitwear, or simply Menswear or Haute Couture.

Each DVD is approximately 70 minutes long, void of any commentary, and focused wholly on the runway show. Simple text at the bottom of the screen denotes the designer and music has been added to accentuate the video footage. (The videos are great to play in the background when reading or writing.)

The DVD’s remind me of television shows from the late 1990’s like Full Frontal Fashion or Fashion Trance. It is exciting and a great research and teaching tool to be able to see live fashion shows. However with the immediacy of today’s media, the videos have become quickly outdated. With resources such as and Youtube it is easy to conduct a simple internet search to source up-to-date runway videos.

Recommendation: Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2004-2005

Vogue Voices

Image from

Available at, Vogue Voices is a series of 9 one-on-one interviews with well known fashion designers. Approximately ten minutes in length, the videos are highly informative and easy to watch.

Vogue’s Digital Creative Director Sally Singer conducted the interviews however Singer’s voice was left out of the final edits. The result is a rare and intimate opportunity to hear designers such as Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, and The Rodarte sisters discuss their personal inspirations, design influences and the development of the fashion industry today.

Including images of particular garments, highlighted by designers during the interviews would have provided a better understanding of the topics being discussed.

Recommendation: Donatella Versace – Who doesn’t enjoy listening to Dontella Versace talk. Plus she is extremely personable and makes some interesting points about nurturing an established fashion house.