On Teaching Fashion: Should Teachers Design During Class?

Teaching a course that involves sewing, draping, and/or patternmaking requires that I show hands-on techniques when I am in the classroom. Using handouts, referencing diagrams in our books, and having pre-sewn examples are helpful but I believe that students need to see how to create a pant sloper, or how to sew a French seam from beginning to end with a live demonstration. I had considered making short videos of each technique, assigning them as homework, and when class was in session they could start working on the technique since they have already watched the video. I asked my current apparel design class how they felt about this and heard a unanimous response with preference for live demos instead of the other methods, with comments such as “I am visual person and I need to see you sewing before I can do it” , or “it is crucial for me because I won’t understand it by just reading the book or watching a video since I’ll forget it by the time I’m in class”, and “sometimes when you are sewing you start talking about other ways you can do or if you mess up you show how to fix it”.

Paintbrushes by Stella Haus

Paintbrushes by Stella Haus

Sewing hong kong seams in front of students is often when I would “mess up” but it gives me an opportunity to talk about why the error occurred and what I could do to fix it. Since most of the apparel design students are learning, they all experience similar mistakes and appreciated knowing that it can be repaired. I had recently read an article titled Should Teachers Make Art During Class? and I started thinking that I would fall into the “No! Students First!” category listed in the article which states: “Opponents to making art during class time question how those who do it find the time. These teachers claim to be constantly on the move, addressing student concerns. Any attempt to work in class would be continually disrupted by student questions. They simply couldn’t focus on both their students’ needs and the concentration needed to complete their own art.” 

It takes every minute of my time in class to help students through patternmaking, draping, and sewing courses. I would like to think that my students are independent but in our program we constantly push our students to do more than the required minimum so even after they master a technique, we have them learn an additional skill or challenge them to increase the difficulty level of what they are working on. It is a constant conversation that happens in our design lab from the moment they walk in the classroom until they leave. There is no time for me to design during class when I have a room full of students that need guidance on a current project. FurthermoreI have closed my bridal design business since I began teaching full time although I would not want to bring a client’s dress in our sewing lab for fear of something happening to it. Sharing my beading techniques or embroidery from past gowns, however, has been helpful at times and students said that they enjoyed seeing what I design. But I am not convinced that seeing your teachers working in class or designing is more important than guiding and helping your students with their projects. Even when I teach the jeans project in my sewing course, I don’t make a pair of jeans for myself, instead I make jeans into a teaching tool. I change fabric for different pattern pieces so they stand out and use different color threads to show different seams. Students are curious about my design aesthetic and they usually ask me questions about what designers I like and what kind of gowns I have made in the past and I am happy to share. This has backfired a couple times though, when students have decided to make something because they thought I would like the style and they might receive a higher grade. I learned about this when an individual confronted me about a grade and mentioned it was “my style, so I thought you would like it more”. How disappointing I though, that a student would assume I would not stick to my rubric and instead grade garments based on my personal taste.

Although I don’t have much free time outside of work, I do like charity sewing and entering design competitions. Sharing photographs from the fashion shows is easier to share with my class anyhow and will give them an idea of what I am currently working on without wasting time. Today I am actually participating in the Megan Summerville’s Black & Tan Design Challenge , where Mrs. Summerville gives away yards of fabric to each designer and then each designer uses that material to create an original design. This year she assigned a technique from The Art of Manupulating Fabric by Colette Wolff to each designer to incorporate into their design . If you are familiar with that book you can appreciate all the hard work that has gone into each garment. I plan on adding this to my personal design portfolio and maybe share the technique I used with my students in the future.

Do you keep up your personal design portfolio or have time to design in the classroom? How do you manage your time to accommodate students while working on something else? Please comment below. I look forward to your response.


Punk Style at Cornell

punk style

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

Here is the abstract:

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

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

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

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


Fashion-Focused Digital Resources: ArchiveGrid

Following up on Jaclyn’s recent post highlighting the European Archives Hub, ArchiveGrid is a searchable database of archival collections in the U.S. It is maintained by OCLC, the research organization that provides the global library catalog Worldcat. As described by OCLC:

ArchiveGrid includes over four million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.16.24 PM

Researchers can browse a map by zip code to find research institutions nearby, or search by general keyword or within a number of fields including personal names, topics, and events. Advanced searching requires a little finesse using boolean logic and index names. For example, if you want to find collections that have been labeled with the topic, “department store,” you would enter “topic:department store” (no space between the colon and the term or phrase) into the keyword field. The site provides instructions on “How to Search“; click the link “Metadata types” to reveal other indices. Once you open a record with an applicable topic, you can click a controlled heading on the right-hand side of the screen to learn more. As you browse, save collections that interest you to your “shopping cart.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.25.16 PM

The “summary view” for institutions, as shown above, gives a succinctly presented overview of any one library or archive’s collections. Some repositories have linked their finding aids to ArchiveGrid, and keep their “Contact Information” link updated. When libraries have not specified any contact information, the “Contact” button simply launches a Google search of the institution name. If there’s one tip I could provide researchers seeking access to archives, it’s to definitely call first! You don’t want to spend money and time on traveling to an archive that you won’t be allowed to see the inside of.

I’d also love to see ArchiveGrid add information about collection-specific research grants for institutions that offer them. ArchiveGrid is currently in beta and likely doesn’t have extensive financial resources behind it, yet it’s an unmatched resource and a great starting point for primary research in the States.


Domestic Affairs: March Exhibition and Event Line Up


There are a number of exhibitions opening and closing this month in North America!

At the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style has been up since February 9 and will be open until May 3, 2015.

The Chicago History Museum has launched a travelling exhibition, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of the Ebony Fashion Fair, which will have several stops. This month it is at the Milwaukee Art Museum until May 3, before moving on to the Minnesota History Center on May 22. Click on the exhibition link above to see all the places this fascinating exhibition will be.

In New York, at The Jewish Museum, Helena Rubenstein: Beauty is Power is closing on March 22. And at The Museum at FIT, three exhibitions are up until April. Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s closes April 18, while Lauren Bacall: The Look is closing April 8, and Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits is closing April 25.

In Toronto, the Bata Shoe Museum‘s Fashion Victims: The Pleasure and Perils of Dress in the 19th Centuryis still up and very popular, I hear. If you can’t make it immediately, don’t fret, the exhibition will be up until June 30, 2016.

In California, High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection is opening this Saturday, March 14, at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. While at the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles, the 23rd Annual Art of Motion Picture Designexhibition is up until April 25, and Opulent Art: 18th-Century Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collectionis on display until July 4.

Last but not least, Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945 has arrived at the Portland Art Museum and will be open until May 3. The Western Region of the Costume Society of America will be having an event on April 25. For more information about the event and to register, please check out the event page.

Opening image: Oscar de la Renta’s dress for Beyoncé from the SCAD Art Museum web page for the exhibition.


Museum Life: Replicas, fakes, and knockoffs in the museum



Reproductions in museum collections are gaining more attention these days. This is one of my research interests, so I was excited to hear last fall that an exhibition devoted to copies and counterfeits, Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits, would be organized by The Museum at FIT.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel to see this exhibition, but I was able to have a telephone conversation with curator Ariele Elia, who generously shared her time to answer some of my questions about the exhibition’s preparation and execution. 

This post will not cover every fascinating facet of this exhibition, so I would encourage readers to visit the exhibition website for a fuller picture of the overall themes and specific objects of study.   

Jill M: The exhibition description states that the organization and research for the show was motivated by current discussions surrounding fashion counterfeiting and copying.  How do you view the existence of these items within a museum collection, or what do you feel is the importance of collecting copies or “knockoffs”? How many copies, authorized and unauthorized, does FIT have in its collection, and will it continue to collect reproductions, copies, and counterfeits, both historical and current?  

Ariele Elia: Copies and counterfeits are very important in telling the story of the fashion industry and how it functions.  Most of the fashion-interested public cannot afford couture or designer garments, and with copies one can still be in the latest fashion for a fraction of the cost.  While the existence of copies and counterfeits has gained major media attention since the “logo mania” of the 1980s and the subsequent rise of fast fashion, copying has been a primary concern for designers since the 19th century–most notably Paquin, Poiret, and Vionnet in the early 20th century–and the establishment of the system of couture.

If a garment is an important piece–something that is pushing fashion forward or capturing a moment in fashion history, such as parodies of designer or corporate logos by Brian Lichtenberg or Jeremy Scott, or a Zara knockoff of a Celine coat–then FIT will collect that knockoff, copy, or parody.  These “captured moments” can then have a long life in the museum.


Licensed or unlicensed copies are not actively collected at FIT, and in the past the museum did get rid of counterfeits, as they were considered “inauthentic” and did not fit with the institutional mission of collecting garments of the highest quality.  I became interested in licensed copies still present in the collection and wondered how extensive are the holdings.  I began to observe that there are many different levels of authenticity present in these garments.  Sometimes the word “copy” was embroidered into the label, as part of its manufacture, and other times it would be written on the label, likely by past FIT staff. When a label says “copy”, what exactly does that mean? This question led to the genesis of the exhibition.

JM: Once these garments are removed from the marketplace and are collected and on display in a museum, unable to be purchased and taken home, does this lessen their allure?  Or does it heighten their appeal?

AE: The inclusion of copies in a museum collection elevates the counterfeit—they are handled with gloves and treated in the same manner as the original.  But the real benefit lies in creating an interesting conversation with the display of copies and counterfeits.  The exhibition isolates the object, and people can discuss and consider copies within an environment that is entirely different from experiencing them in the marketplace or on the street. 

JM: I am very interested in what you have noted as “the gray areas in authenticity.”  Pinning down what makes a garment authentic is sometimes elusive, and is often attributed to ultimate authorship, superior materials and craftsmanship, or corporate authority, for example–especially when the copy is duplicitous in nature.  What is your favorite example of a “gray area” garment in the exhibition?

AE: “Gray area” garments confuse authenticity.  The”diffusion” line, or the less expensive designer line, provides an interesting example.  They can take the place of the counterfeiter and reach a new demographic.  Some may believe that, for example, a Calvin Klein Jeans shirt is not a “real” Calvin Klein shirt.  The exhibition examines three pairings of diffusion lines: Moschino and Cheap and Chic; Donna Karan and DKNY; and Missoni and Missoni for Target.  We looked at material and construction and how closely they follow the original.  With some of these diffusion pieces, one could assume without looking at the label that the garment is a direct knockoff of the higher-line designer piece. 

JM: Being able to view originals and reproductions side-by-side is a unique and exciting opportunity, and encourages close, careful scrutiny of clothing–something that visitors may or may not do on a daily basis. Were there any particular challenges in presenting close-up and interior details to the audience that translate the differences or similarities from one garment to another in the exhibition space?  How were up-close views and comparisons prepared and achieved for the visitor?

AE: Capturing details in a way that would be engaging, intuitive, and visual without being overwhelming was a huge, huge challenge. I wanted to show all the different levels of a counterfeit, but didn’t want to install a long, continuous row of cases in the galleries.  Working with a team of conservators, exhibit preparators, photographers, and technology development staff, we decided on a “cabinet of curiosities”-type of display for accessories that would include both still and interactive photos of the original and counterfeit side-by-side, with my notes on similarities and differences digitally transcribed onto the images.  A secured iPad on a stand in front of the cases contains very high-resolution photos on which the visitor can zoom in and explore.  A video showing multiple interior details was created for the “poster ladies”–the original and copy Chanel suits–that completely explains the exhibition.  There were so many interior details of other garments and accessories that I wanted to capture and show, but there was not enough time and resources.  Images of all labels are displayed, and are important visuals for reminding the general public and students alike not to take a label at face value, and to encourage good research skills.

JM: Reproductions or reinterpretations are a familiar component of the process of costume design for film, theater, or dance–and fashion design as well–where designers can revisit and reinterpret earlier work, both their own and the work of others.  For example, at the Harry Ransom Center where I work, we have a reproduction costume that was transferred from the FIT collection: a recreation of a film costume by Barbara Matera, originally designed by Gordon Conway for the 1929 British science fiction film, High Treason. Is there anything that the copies in the exhibition can tell us about particularly creative perspectives or solutions to recreating a garment, or are the differences mainly practical, cost-saving measures or reflective of a marked difference in construction skill or materials?  

AE: Copies can be made for a variety of reasons and can have different benefits.  There is the Claire McCardell “monastic dress”–a very popular simple shift that was replicated through licensed copies–which was also reproduced for a McCardell exhibition at FIT in the 1990s, and is the example in the FIT collection. Copies of Charles James’s garments can also be good for study, when the originals are too fragile or complex to handle.

A good example of the quality of couture copies can be found in the work of Stella Haninia. Haninia worked in the custom couture salon at I. Magnin department store, and had come there from Bergdorf Goodman.  The few sources I was able to locate on Haninia noted that she was known for great copies and loved to sew everything by hand.  I was a bit skeptical about the extensive hand-sewing–could this be true?  Examination of a copy of a Dior gray bodice and skirt with belt revealed that the pieces contained only a few machine stitches and had incredible layers of pleating in the skirt.  I was amazed and shocked–the copy completely defied and exceeded my expectations.  

Another favorite piece is a jacket by Dapper Dan.  His reinterpretations of luxury logos just keep telling me things–there are so many levels of authenticity to a Dapper Dan garment.  His insistence on and pursuance of high-quality materials led him to work with a Japanese textile company to make sure the colors on the leather wouldn’t bleed.  The jacket in the exhibition demonstrates what Dapper Dan described as taking “street looks and bring[ing] them up to the highest level of luxury.” The shawl-collared double-breasted jacket, fashioned from leather printed with the MCM logo, creates a completely new product.  Very few of Dapper Dan’s early pieces are still in existence, and FIT is the only known museum to have one in its collection.

Many thanks to Ariele Elia for her time and insights.  Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits is showing at The Museum at FIT through April 25.

Top image credit: (left) Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, day suit, wool bouclé, 1966, France, gift of Eleanor K. Graham, 73.82.1; (right): Licensed copy of a Chanel, day suit, wool bouclé, c. 1967, USA, Gift of Ruth L. Peskin, 78.179.4, The Museum at FIT.
Second image credit: Unlicensed copy of Madeleine Vionnet’s “Little Horses” dress, rayon crepe, black and gold seed beads, c. 1925, USA, gift of Mrs. J. Mirsky, 76.125.1, The Museum at FIT.


CFP: Exploring Nostalgia

July 3-5, 2015

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

We have all probably had conversations with aged relatives and friends resulting in the oft repeated words “I remember when….”, spoken either as an illumination of the progress of the present in comparison to seeming simplicity of the past or a wistful longing for the past to be alive again in the midst of the present. Often focused on differences between generations and triggered by specific events and objects, there is an overpowering sense that things are not what they used to be. This can be a positive experience, for example, being impressed at technological progress, or conversely confusingly negative, for example, the sense of frustration with the same technology and a hankering for times when things were perceived to be much simpler and easier.

Nostalgia is an extremely powerful feeling; it can in equal measure lift us up, make us feel safe, create fond memories and/or it can bring us down, make us feel intensely isolated, lonely, left behind and depressed. There is nostalgia for things that are no longer with us and people who are no longer with us (individually and collectively). There is the sense that things that are out of place — and not only out of place but also out of time. It can be both missing things and the missing of things. Yet it can also be a real and quite intense force which forms the present and informs the future.

At the launch of this biennial project our interest is to begin to map the boundaries of nostalgia, explore the parameters within which it takes place and tentatively assess the consequences for ways of thinking, living and feeling in the 21st century. Nostalgia is being approached as a multi-layered phenomenon which consequently requires multiple insights and perspectives from academic disciplines, professional practice, NGO and voluntary activities, artists, song writers, performers and any one who engages with forms and varieties of nostalgia.

An indicative list of potential areas for exploration could include:

Exploring Nostalgia:
What is it? What triggers it? What motivates it? Nostalgia, perception and reality; nostalgia and meaning; nostalgia and emotion.

Nostalgia and Physical and Mental Health:
nostalgia, illness and disease; nostalgia and the impact of dementia, Alzheimers and neurological problems; nostalgia and the role of memory; nostalgia and the impact of age; nostalgia and trauma; nostalgia as therapy; nostalgia and health practices; nostalgia and reminiscence; reminiscence centres; managed nostalgia and therapy.

Nostalgia and Contemporary Culture:
Aesthetics of nostalgia: creating the look and feel of the past in visual culture.

Nostalgia as Business:
The Retro clothing movement, “vintage” stores, the “classic” sales movement; the antique trade, shabby chic and classic merchandise; classic cars; Nostalgia and business; advertising; selling; design; Nostalgia and reverence for the past

Nostalgia and Media:
genres of film, media, literature, visuals arts, music that are rooted in nostalgia, or which critique, supplement or illuminate the phenomenon, music studies — new artists with old sounds, vinyl records, placing old artists on new media: film — use of taboo words in classic film vs today, making modern films “true” to an old era: bloggers who reminisce of the past.

Negative Nostalgia:
Nostalgia and politics: conservatism and the call to return to ‘the way things used to be’; nostalgia as a cloak for racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia; nostalgia and revisionism; rewriting history; nostalgia and false memory.

Preserving Nostalgia:
nostalgia, memory and childhood; growing up and growing old; personal narratives, family histories and transmitting memories nostalgia and public memory; commemoration; memorials (physical and digital); spaces and places of remembrance; architecture and nostalgia.

The meeting will form an opening opportunity to develop a variety of further events, meetings, courses, activities, collaborative ventures, publications and other forms of activity which will enable us to explore nostalgia in all its various shapes and forms better.

The Steering Group welcomes the submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.

What to Send:
Proposals will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday March 13, 2015. If a proposal is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper of no more than 3000 words should be submitted by Friday May 22, 2015. Proposals should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; proposals may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.

E-mails should be entitled: NOSTALGIA1 Proposal Submission.

All abstracts will be at least double blind peer reviewed. Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:
Rob Fisher: nos1@inter-disciplinary.net

Cristina Santos: csantos@inter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the Making Sense of: programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook.  Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.


You Should Be Reading: Seventies Fashion


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credits: Fashionrobe.com and Vogue.com.

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Punk Style at Cornell

punk style

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

Here is the abstract:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring!


Parisian Insights: Archimode at the Villa Noailles

I think I may have already said this here, but what first brought me to fashion was art and more precisely decorative arts and architecture. I was indeed specialized in History of Architecture and Decoratives Arts while I was studying at l’Ecole du Louvre and it is total art movements such as the Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, Wiener Werkstatte…that led me to fashion. Since, I have always tended to consider the relationships art and fashion have developed, should it be through inspiration, commercial and economic links, sponsorship…So when I read about the Villa Noailles’ exhibition, Archimode, I truly wanted to write about it here although I did not (and won’t) get the chance to visit it as the Villa Noailles is situated in the south of France, at Hyères, where unfortunately, I haven’t planned any future trip. Many of you may know the Villa Noailles as a major actor of Hyères Fashion and Photography Festival that attracts a trendy and influential crowd every year.

Chanel Mobile Art, Zaha Hadid

Chanel Mobile Art, Zaha Hadid

Archimode tends to explore the analogies between architecture and fashion by concentrating on six essential examples such as Chanel’s Mobile Art conceived by Zaha Hadid, the Prada Transformer concept imagined by Rem Koolhaas, the LVMH New York tower built by Christian de Portzamparc, the Isabel Marant and Kris Van Assche shops designed by Cigue and finally, the installations by les Diplomates for Damir Doma’s. With the help of numerous photographies, videos, drawings, material…the display provides many tools that enable visitors to comprehend how architects and interior designers build the identity and “soul” of a brand while they highlight strong conceptual elements that install those architectural projects not only as commercial venues but also as creative approaches, just as reflective as the garments sold and presented within. Interactions between architecture and fashion go way beyond the sole building, it is the design and scenography that help complete the fashion designer’s inventive process. Some architectural projects are more minimalistic than others and tend to help bring the attention on the fashion pieces only while others bring a whole new highlight, launching brands within a new dimension just as Chanel that from traditional and historical fashion house has become a futuristic concept with the help of Zaha Hadid’s UFO-like itinerant exhibition space. And yet, Karl Lagerfeld simply maintained the house’s relationship with avant-garde when Gabrielle Chanel herself had collaborated with Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso.

Prada Transformer, OMA-Rem Koolhaas

Prada Transformer, OMA-Rem Koolhaas

Prada’s Transformer, installed in Seoul and dismantled in 2009, featured four different sides that could be positioned in various ways depending on the use of the space: an exhibition, a film festival, a fashion show…: one unique building for different purposes and thus different identities. Muccia Prada is renowned for her interest in contemporary art, in all kind of visual and artistic disciplines and she has collaborated many times with the architect Rem Koolhaas. With Transfomer, she wished to unite and yet distinctly separate arts – proving once again that Prada’s intention is not to be considered as a fashion brand only but also as a veritable actor of the contemporary artistic world, a partner that organizes cross-disciplinary shows and calls upon architecture to enhance its conceptual identity.

Isabel Marant Store. Cigue Design

Isabel Marant Store. Cigue Design

Cigue is an interesting architectural agency that privileges minimalist and sculptural interiors that always respond to the aesthetic of the fashion designers it works with. While Kris Van Assche’s Parisian boutique privileges geometric and sharp contrasts, Isabel Marant’s stores feature warm woods and sleek crafted-like shapes that evoke Asian characters and French designers such as Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand. Finally the French collective, Les Diplomates, has engaged a fruitful association with the fashion designer Damir Doma – imagining dark and mysterious installations for his fashion shows or installations within concept stores such as London’s Dover Street Market. In this case, more than an architectural encounter, comes alive a common and hybrid reflection on creation, an ideal chaotic setting that closely discusses with the occult garments of the designer.

Les Diplomates. Stair Installation for Damir Doma, Dover Street Market

Les Diplomates. Stair Installation for Damir Doma, Dover Street Market

Thus fashion designers, architects and also artists in general walk hand in hand in their creative processes. When they collaborate it is to better fuel their imagination, stimulate their inspiration…Architects and fashion designers find similarities in their discipline: they all build and have to think of the place of the human body and its environment within their designs- Hussein Chalayan likes to repeat how much ‘fashion is the architecture of the body’. And of course, when fashion designers collaborate with architects, they also find a way of being considered for something else than just ‘frivolous’ things such as fashion. With architecture, fashion enters the secluded world of art. 

I would be incapable of telling you if the Villa Noailles that is itself such a brilliant example of an ‘archimode’ concept – that avant garde design of Mallet-Stevens that now houses fashion events – exhibition is successful in its discourse but I can tell you how much I appreciate its theme.

Further Resources:

Castets, Simon. Louis Vuitton: Art, Mode et Architecture. Paris: Editions de la Marinière, 2009.

Hodge, Brooke. Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006.

Quinn, Bradley. The Fashion of Architecture. New York: Berg, 2003.