Looking for Educators to Write Column

Worn Through is looking for educators teaching fashion at the university level to discuss their experiences for our “On Teaching Fashion” column.

It’s monthly or bi-weekly on Fridays alternating with another contributor. Posts can be pre-programmed and do not need to be written on Fridays. Preferably someone who is full time or teaches multiple courses regularly in order to have a great deal to discuss. The column is geared toward other educators to promote discussion of tips, anecdotes, and progressions in the field.

Email me if interested. Ideal start date Jan 1.

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Domestic Affairs: Holiday Line Up

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Among the many things that I am preparing for with the approach of the holiday season is how I’m going to work various fashion exhibitions into my schedule.

Obviously, those exhibitions outside of California are impossible for me, but hopefully they will be possible for many of you.

Most exciting for next week is Fern Mallis’s conversation with Valentino at 92Y in New York City. Tickets are currently sold out, but there is a wait list available for Mallis’s November 18 program with the legendary designer. This is in addition to the Death Becomes Her having opened in the last couple weeks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Jill discussed her visit to the exhibition in her post, yesterday), and Killer Heels still open at the Brooklyn Museum.At the Museum at FIT, while Exposed: A History of Lingerie is closing, their special exhibition, Dance & Fashion will remain open until January 3.

As I was informed by Jon in a comment on my last exhibition round up, there is another exciting exhibition on the east coast examining Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Cartier collection at the Hillwood Estate. Cartier: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Dazzling Gems has been open since June, but will not close until December 31.

In the Midwest, Chicago Styled: Fashioning the Magnificent Mileopens November 15 at the Chicago History Museum. It looks to be a truly fascinating exploration of the local fashion industry and the people who both worked in and utilized it, based upon the amazing blogposts that have led up to the exhibition’s opening.

In Des Moines, Halston & Warhol: Silver & Suede will be open at the Des Moines Art Center until January 18.

Here in California, Hollywood Costumeopened a month ago and will be up until March just across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Also in Los Angeles, the Fowler Museum at UCLA has three textile exhibitions on display: Bearing Witness: Embroidery as History in Post-Apartheid South Africaup through December 7; Textiles of Timor: Island in the Woven Sea up through January 4; and Yards of Style: African-Print Cloths of Ghanaopen through December 14.

In San Francisco, not directly related to fashion — but indirectly since his V magazine photo shootAi Weiwei’s @Largeis currently on display on Alcatraz Island; at the de Young Museum, Keith Haring: The Political Line while not actually involving clothing or textiles offers visitors a chance to see some of the original drawings used by Vivienne Westwood in her 1983 collaboration with the artist. At the Legion of Honor, Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country Houseis open until January 18. I will be writing my review of it in early December.

Opening January 31 at the de Young is Embodiment: Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpturewhich will be a wonderful opportunity to explore bodily depiction from approximately 110 different cultural groups. It may be a wee bit early to get excited about March openings, but I must confess I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland opening on March 7 and featuring not only Henry Raeburn’s Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, but his portrait of Colonel Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry in full Scottish military regalia which inspired my master’s ‘virtual exhibition’ on tartan and Scottish dress. Even more exciting is the arrival of High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Legion of Honor on March 14.

What exhibitions are you making time for this winter? Are there any exhibitions you want to share with Worn Through readers? If so, feel free to either email me or to share your thoughts in the comments!

Opening image from the website for Hillwood’s Cartier: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Dazzling Gem

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Museum Life: Sensory perception in the gallery

Last month I was able to take a long overdue vacation and view many wonderful exhibitions along the way, as well as attend and present at the 4th annual Fashion Now & Then conference at LIM College, which I’ll discuss in next month’s post.

One thread that that ran through my gallery observations was a heightened awareness of sound incorporated into the exhibition experience.  Obviously, the visual sense is privileged in the gallery setting–both for object presentation and preservation.  Touch is a strong urge among gallery goers–especially when sumptuous fabrics or iconic garments are involved–and this audience longing for a real, tangible connection with the object is often overlooked, and of course must be controlled for conservation reasons. There have been some inventive ways to incorporate the sense of touch into exhibition experiences, such as the inclusion of half-scale, touchable models of Charles James gowns at the Charles James: Genius Reconstructed exhibition at the Chicago History Museum in 2011.

Sound can also be an effective tool in enriching sensory experience, establishing context, and creating a certain mood.  Upon my visit to Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I became very aware of the use of sound, which suffused and spilled over beyond the exhibition space. Before a single ensemble was glimpsed, the strains of Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, Op. 48 could be heard as one descended the steps into the galleries.  Only the exhibition title was in view at this stage, placed in a cameo shape encroached upon by a painted weeping willow, referencing both mourning jewelry and embroidered memorial paintings of the 19th century.

Death Becomes Her exhibition entrance Photo by the author

Death Becomes Her exhibition entrance
Photo by the author

The music did not detract from the setting, but added to the physical and metaphorical weight of the clothing that women (and men, also represented through a few examples) wore through the mandatory stages of mourning.  The music also seemed to affect the audience mood and conversation.  People spoke in hushed tones or not at all, as though they were attending a funeral or other somber memorial event.  (I should say that I attended the exhibition in the middle of the week, when there were less crowds than on the weekend—with a crowded gallery, the music may be muted and not have the same effect).

Another interesting use of sound in the galleries could be found in the exhibition, Kimono: A Modern History, also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A fountain by Isamu Noguchi could be heard near a display of 19th century fireman’s jackets–fascinating garments that I did not expect to see in an exhibition on kimono.  The flowing water certainly evoked the calm of the Japanese home, palace, or garden where kimono were worn, but could also be a tangibly audible reference to the function and use of the fireman’s jacket.  Before fighting a fire, the jacket would be turned inside out with the decorated side against the body, and would then be soaked in water for added protection.

Installation view of 19th century fireman's jacket's, Kimono: A Modern History Photo by the author

Installation view of 19th century fireman’s jackets, Kimono: A Modern History
Photo by the author

A museum that may seem an unlikely subject in a discussion of costume exhibitions is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but it is filled with numerous textile-based items--uniforms and other fascinating artifacts of the luminaries of baseball’s past.

Installation view of women's 1940s uniforms,  National Baseball Hall of Fame Photo by the author

Installation view of women’s 1940s uniforms,
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Photo by the author

Filling the galleries were audio interviews with players, music that may have been heard during the early 19th century days of the game or from the Caribbean islands from which so many great players have hailed.  These auditory pieces added by the museum were augmented by the lively banter of the audience themselves–reminiscenes of games past, memories of experiences in the stadium, the sound of “whooaaa”s by young baseball fans in awe.  This in itself is also part of the exhibition experience.

How have you experienced sound in an exhibition?  Are there creative ways you have heard it used?

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CFP: Fashioning Professionals

FASHIONING PROFESSIONALS

A symposium on the historical and contemporary representation of cultural and creative professions

Research Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, March 27, 2015

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Agnès Rocamora

The labour market is increasingly made up of those working in the creative professions of fashion, art, design and advertising, but what does it mean to be defined and represented as a ‘creative professional’? From artist to curator; couturier to fashion intern; designer to art director; architect to design student; stylist to blogger; these professional identities can be viewed as social practices, enacted and performed through media, which includes the fashion press, lifestyle magazines, daily news, television, film, and the internet. Here social, cultural and professional identities are co-constructed. These professions and their professionals are both products of, and productive in meanings and values that inform our understanding and knowledge of culture, in both the past and present. They also vary in their representation according to different levels of expertise and career status.

Focusing on the representation of cultural and creative professions, Fashioning Professionals asks the following questions: How have photography and media worked to define and represent creative labour in particular ways? How have individuals represented and defined themselves as professionals in different fields of culture? How do different aspects of cultural identity, such as gender, class and ethnicity, inform these representations? How do different methodologies and disciplinary approaches enrich the study of cultural and creative professions? How can histories and theories of fashion and design contribute to a wider reading and understanding of the professions?

We welcome papers from a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives that respond to and reflect upon these questions in relation to the following cultural sectors and their professions:

  • Ÿ Art
  • Ÿ Fashion
  • Ÿ Advertising
  • Ÿ Design
  • Ÿ Architecture

Proposals: If you wish to present a paper, please submit a 250 word abstract in Word format to fashioningprofessionals@gmail.com

Abstracts are to include the following information:

  • Ÿ Author(s)
  • Ÿ Affiliation(s)
  • Ÿ Email Address(es)
  • Ÿ Title of Abstract
  • Ÿ Body of Abstract

Deadline for Submissions: Monday January 5, 2015

Acceptance Confirmation: Monday January 26, 2015

Please note that there will be a £10 fee for attending the symposium, which will cover lunch, tea and coffees. Registration for the symposium will open in February 2015.

Organising Chairs: Dr. Leah Armstrong and Dr. Felice McDowell

Email address: fashioningprofessionals@gmail.com

Symposium blog: www.fashioningprofessionals.org

Twitter: @fashioningprofs

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You Should be Watching: The Return of John Galliano

Last month, Renzo Rosso of unconventional fashion brand conglomerate Only the Brave confirmed the appointment of John Galliano as creative director of Margiela Haute Couture. Galliano has kept a low profile since his dismissal from Dior and his eponymous label in 2011 following allegations of verbal abuse and the release of a video in which he makes anti-semitic proclamations. He appeared on Charlie Rose last year, and recently assisted as a “designer in residence” for one of the late Oscar de la Renta’s final collections in fall 2013.

OTB CEO Stefano Rosso told an audience at last week’s WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit that the group recognizes Galliano for his talent and does not judge him on the past. Galliano has the support of the Anti-Defamation League and of Jewish Parisian fashion industry figure, Armand Hadida, who said Galliano knew his mistakes and corrected them.

Vogue.com published Why Fashion Needs John Galliano, citing his “indisputable talent” and lamenting the “waste” of excluding him from fashion weeks. Maison Margiela Artisanal was granted Couture status in 2012. The Margiela lines have been designed for years by a mysterious in-house team; Galliano is the first known creative director at the brand since Martin Margiela left in 2008.

The two videos below feature fashion critics Alexander Fury and Tim Blanks, respectively.

Click the thumbnail below to watch Fury’s interview at Byronesque.com.

Fury is the fashion editor at The Independent. He recalls Galliano’s Fall 1994 show, one of the first in Paris. Galliano ran out of money and was rescued last-minute by Anna Wintour. Most looks in the collection were made from the same black silk fabric. “This show’s so important . . . it revived for the Nineties the use of bias cutting . . . it proved to be incredibly influential and was copied by everybody. It also triggered a trend amongst other Parisian designers to start showing their own collections away from the central Louvre show ground.” You can watch the full 1994 fashion show here.

Tim Blanks is Style.com’s Editor-at-Large. He names Galliano’s opulent Spring 1998 Dior Couture show at the Palais Garnier opera house as his “favorite fashion show ever. When you look up ‘fashion show’ in the dictionary, this is the show that should be there.”

The reverence for Galliano’s craft is undeniable and, coming from industry experts who have attended countless runway shows, has not been diminished by the controversy of the past few years.

Is creative genius sufficient reason to forgive Galliano’s bigotry? Will you anticipate his first Couture collection for Margiela? Let us know in the comments.

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On Teaching Fashion: I Do Not Know The Answer To Your Question

Have you ever lectured in a classroom filled with students and been asked a question that you could not answer? What do you do? Do you try to answer it as best as possible? Do you divert the question? Do you tell the student “we are not discussing this today” to avoid embarrassment? When I first began teaching I was worried about getting in this type of situation. My mother, who taught in higher education for many years, gave me great advice. She said that if you do not know the answer to a question just say: “I do not know the answer to your question”.

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I recently heard from a frustrated graduate student who is unhappy with her new teacher. This new teacher is trying to rigidly adhere to her syllabus and will not entertain any questions or conversations that go off topic. The graduate student wants her questions answered but the new teacher is not prepared to do so. The graduate student feels that she is wasting her time since she feels that she “knows more about the subject then the new teacher since she will not answer the questions”. I asked a few undergraduate students in my classroom if they had experiences with teachers who would not answer their questions during class. One student said that she “can tell when a teacher does not know the answer to a question and would appreciate just hearing that instead of confusing the class by trying to sway her question away”. Another student said that she “felt ignored because the teacher would not respond to her question”. She said she “waited until after class and asked the TA who gave her an answer but she wished she had been acknowledged during class”. The most surprising information was a student who spoke about how frustrating it was for him that his teacher “did not know enough about a particular subject and she would discourage students from working in a specific area”. He said that this teacher “has a reputation of doing this and that if you want to do well in the class you will just do what she recommends”. He added “teachers have enough resources and that if they are not familiar with something they should at least be able to work with the students and not try to discourage you”. He was “disappointed and felt like he did not get anything out of his class because he was persuaded to do differently than he had wished”.

When I was filling out a form last year, I had to check the occupation field and kept looking for my area but could not find it until I finally saw educator listed under customer service. I was surprised as I never thought of teaching being the same as customer service. I always though of a teacher in the same way I think of a personal trainer. For example, you have a goal of being in a marathon next year so you meet with a trainer and tell them your strengths and weakness and they developed a plan to help you meet your goals. Now if I decide to hangout at the juice bar during the training sessions then I am missing out and nobody can force me to use the treadmill anyway. The question then arises “Can you blame the trainer for your disappointing end results at the marathon due to your lack of effort?”. If a teacher is part of the customer service field then it would make sense that they are held up to a standard of being able to provide you with everything that you need at that moment so that you are happy. If a teacher is like a trainer then the focus is on helping you to achieve your goals even if you are not going to like everything you hear. Although a student will not always hear what they want to hear from a teacher, which is bad customer service, the teacher has the big picture in mind and is thinking about your end goals, which is more in thinking like a trainer. If you are holding back from a topic or not answering a question because you have an end goal worked into your lesson plan, it might be worth saying this so that the student will not feel they are being ignored or assume that you do not know the subject. But if you are in a situation where you do not know the answer to a question you can think like a trainer and ask the student to research it themselves and let you know their findings and perhaps present it to the class. A student answering their own question will have not only provided them with the answer they are looking for but also reinforced research skills. This seems in line with what a trainer will do instead of a customer service representative. I would love to hear how you handle these situations. Please share your stories in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Sad Farewell to Worn Fashion Journal

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Not strictly related to this side of the Atlantic, I admit, but perhaps an indication of its far reaching influence, today’s post is an acknowledgement of the end of Worn Fashion Journal, a Canadian based bi-annual magazine that has provided a much needed platform for critical but accessible fashion and dress journalism over the last ten years.

Personally, this is timely as it has also been a decade since I lived in Montreal and got myself a brief spot as a local reviewer of clothing stores in the Outremont area for Worn’s website.  I still remember being interviewed by Serah-Marie McMahon, its founding editor, in Casa Del Popolo on St Laurent, and thinking how exciting it was to see someone with no formal journalism experience wanting to give voice to the complex narratives, practices and techniques we associate with our clothes.  The first copies I owned, including the third issue (which is pictured above), contained such gems from how to adapt your jeans for a skinny fit, the history of bakelite jewellery to the advent of ethical fashion and interviews with Alexandra Palmer.  The diverse topics, the absence of advertisements and the emphasis on what people actually wear instead of what they should wear was a much needed antidote to the gloss and proselytizing of most mainstream fashion magazines.

Interview with Alexandra Palmer from the third issue of Worn Fashion Journal (authors own image)

I am probably not alone when I say that with Worn Fashion Journal, I felt I had found a like minded friend.  It definitely allowed me to have an academic interest in fashion and dress while still enjoying the fun sensations associated with dressing up and playing with clothes.  It also contributed to my return to the UK a few years later to take up a place at the Royal College of Art in London to study history of design.  I have much to thank Worn for!

A poster for the launch of Worn Issue 2, that I kept because I loved the design (author’s own image)

The gap left by its absence will be sizeable and I only hope that it does not represent the final descent of very independent fashion publishing.  Its presence was notable for its refusal to accept fashion at face value, trying to look beyond but always in a curious and non-judgemental way.  There really must be space for media like this because it enables us to hear a dynamic cacophony of clothed voices above what can sometimes feel like the constant drone of commercial, mass produced fashion. 

The final double issue is published on 22 November and the magazine is also having a farewell ball, which is sure to be well attended by its many followers, aptly named the ‘Wornettes’.

Cover of the final issue, published on 22 November

When looking for tributes to and articles on this inspirational magazine, it seems the coverage is predominantly by Canadian press.  I would love to hear from anyone who has written about or shared an interest in Worn Fashion Journal, wherever you are, and it would be great to know if anyone is thinking about doing a dissertation or thesis about Worn Fashion Journal – could be a very interesting project!

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Parisian Insights: The 50s Fashion in France. 1947-1957

This weekend ended the Palais Galliera’s glamorous exhibition dedicated to the 1950s fashion in France. We often think that because we know all about the New Look, the Bar ensemble imagined by Christian Dior in 1947, we know everything about the 1950s fashion. Yet this display demonstrates how versatile the stylistic silhouettes proposed by the designers of the decade were.

Installation View

Installation View

Within its splendid 19th century palace, the museum decided to privilege a simple modernist scenography that would moderate the extravagance of the architecture and emphasize the garments displayed. The exhibitions follows a thematic thread built on the typical wardrobe of an elegant Parisian of those days who would change several times a day to assume her social and fashionable obligations: we thus explore daywear, evening wear (within a ballroom-like presentation), leisure garments and cocktail dresses with a few accessory and undergarment hints. About 100 objects illustrate the abundance of styles, cuts and adornments that for most reveal how Parisian Haute Couture optimistically gained respectability and glory again after World War II  while others announce a subtle fashion and social revolution, one that would burst in the 1960s.

The first thing you think of when observing all the garments displayed is how imprisoned the feminine body was during the 1950s, how male designers, led by Christian Dior’s iconic and scandalous ample New Look (influenced by Jacques Fath),  fantasized a luxurious nostalgic silhouette with heavy layering of material, rich adornments and girdled hips. Most 1950s wealthy women dressed to seduce and entertain not to work, they wear Haute Couture designs alongside Tupperware products in the pages of the magazines hung on the walls of the Palais Galliera. The masculine and liberated image of women established during the war was erased for a more conservative archetype enhanced by the structural undergarments displayed within the exhibition on walls as abstract art works.

Pierre Balmain, « Antonia », evening dress, spring-summer 1954 Collection Palais Galliera

Pierre Balmain, « Antonia », evening dress, spring-summer 1954
Collection Palais Galliera

Yet alongside those romantic corollas, we observe the voluminous and sculptural garments of Cristobal Balenciaga who still inspire many contemporary designers while Gabrielle Chanel’s tailored suits announce the androgynous silhouettes of the following decade. Yes, the Chanel garments of the exhibition clearly stand out. The designer who had stopped her fashion career decided to triumphantly return in 1954 and do what she had already done in her beginnings: fight against archaism and help women build their emancipation with the help of fashion. She despised the hindering silhouettes of the male authorities and created her very own scandal with her sleek ensembles that provoked a cleavage in the middle of the decade.

Installation View: Evening Wear

Installation View: Evening Wear

Although the 1950s decade surely embodies the peak of French Haute Couture, the couturiers of the period help draw the early foundation of ready-to-wear. The exhibition makes it clear that, alongside various social factors of course, the success of Haute Couture worldwide, gave birth to ready-to-wear. The baby boomers of the decade and their youthful tastes are not represented within the display but we can’t help but note how the section dedicated to leisurewear announces teenage fashion and the 1960s ready-to-wear. Led by influential cultural figures such as Brigitte Bardot, young women favor light coton, beach dresses, ballerina shoes, naive prints…that provide the body with unrestricted, dynamic and graceful moves. Those looser designs serve as and experimental platform to the up-coming 1960s wear.

Finally, just as the exhibition’s span begins with the revolutionary look of Christian Dior’s 1947 collection, it symbolically ends with the appointment of the young Yves Saint Laurent as Artistic Director of the Christian Dior house in 1957. Although at Christian Dior, he pursues his master’s opulent style, we know how promptly he would become the emblem of feminine emancipation and ready-to-wear in the 1960s.

Installation View: Day Wear

Installation View: Day Wear

The Palais Galliera exhibition was a strongly didactic display that not only diffused eye-candy but also proposed an innovative lecture of the decade’s fashion, far from clichés and easy assumptions and raised an undeniable debate: What do you think? 1950s fashion: revolutionary or archaic?

 

Further Resources:

Exhibition Catalogue: Bosc, Alexandra. Les années 50: La Mode en France 1947-1957. Paris: Paris Musées, 2014.

 

 

 

 

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CFP: Creators and Consumers – Women and Material Culture

The 2015 David B. Warren Symposium on American Material Culture and the Texas Experience
Creators and Consumers: Women and Material Culture and Visual Art in 19th Century Texas, the Lower South, and the Southwest

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Proposals due January 15, 2015
Symposium held October 23-25, 2015

Bayou Bend is currently accepting proposals for papers on women’s experience of material culture and visual art in pre-1900 Texas, the Lower South and the Southwest, to be presented at the fifth biennial David B. Warren Symposium in 2015. This symposium will explore women’s contributions to material culture and visual arts of the 19th century, through making, decorating, choosing, arranging, or using functional or artistic objects. Subjects of interest include traditional arts and crafts produced by women; participation in or support of traditionally male creative activities, as well as women’s influence through their choices and consumption. Proposals focusing on Texas and those presenting previously unpublished research will receive particular consideration. Papers will be published in the proceedings of the symposium in 2016.

Participants are invited to submit a 300-word abstract proposal for a paper to be presented as an illustrated oral lecture 25 or 50 minutes in length. The abstract should be accompanied by a current C.V. Please indicate presentation length in proposal. In general, 25-minute lectures will be more appropriate for emerging scholars while 50-minute lectures will be appropriate for senior scholars. Paper proposals are due to Bayou Bend by January 15, 2015; acceptances will be announced by March 1, 2015.

The overall theme of the symposium series is “American Material Culture and the Texas Experience,” with the goal of providing an ongoing forum that examines pre-1900 Texas (as well as the lower South and Southwest) through the lens of American material culture. The symposium is named in honor of David B. Warren, the founding director emeritus of Bayou Bend.

For more information about the symposium or to submit abstracts, visit http://mfah.org/dbwsymposiumThose whose papers are accepted will receive transportation expenses, an honorarium for speaking, and a fee for preparing their manuscript for publication.

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You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Mourning

 

16.-Death-Becomes-Her-Gallery-View

In honour of the Costume Institute’s newest exhibition, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, Worn Through would like to recommend the following readings on fashion and mourning. Our selection includes a classic book on the subject to be revisited, followed by two more recent articles – exploring the link between 19th century mourning dress and 20th century fashion, and the significance of clothing in memory and mourning through English wills spanning three centuries. Have you seen the MET’s new exhibition or have any favourite mourning-related readings of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.

1. Taylor, Lou. (2009). Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History. London: Routledge.

First published in 1983, Lou Taylor’s Mourning Dress is a comprehensive survey of women’s fashionable mourning dress from the middle ages to the decline of mourning traditions after the First World War. Taylor begins with an introduction to European funeral practices and the social status of widows, later tracing the development of fashionable dress for mourning across social classes and from different countries. Supplementary chapters on mourning jewellery, the mourning dress and textile industries and the colours of mourning reinforce both the scale and importance of these grieving rituals in Western society over four centuries. Accompanied by over a hundred photographs and two appendices on fabrics and the stages of mourning, the book is a valuable resource to any dress or social historian studying the development and significance of fashion for mourning.

2. Mitchell, Rebecca N. (2013). ‘Death Becomes Her: On the Progressive Potential of Victorian Mourning.’ Victorian Literature and Culture, 41(4), 595-620.

On the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, Queen Victoria was depicted in a woodcut by William Nicholson that was to become extremely popular. So stout that her proportions approach those of a cube, the Queen is dressed from top to toe in her usual black mourning attire, the white of her gloved hands punctuating the otherwise nearly solid black rectangle of her body. Less than thirty years later, another simple image of a woman in black would prove to be equally iconic: the lithe, narrow column of Chanel’s black dress. Comparing the dresses depicted in the two images might lead one to conclude that the only thing they have in common is the color black. And yet, twentieth- and twenty-first-century fashion historians suggest that Victorian mourning is the direct antecedent of the sexier fashions that followed. These are provocative claims given that most scholarly accounts of Victorian mourning attire offer no indication that such progressive possibilities were inherent in widows’ weeds. Instead, those accounts focus almost exclusively on chasteness and piety, qualities required of the sorrowful widow, as the only message communicated by her attire. The disparity in the two accounts raises the question: how could staid, cumbersome black Victorian mourning attire lead to dresses understood to embrace sexuality and mobility? — Paraphrased Article Abstract

3. Lambert, M. (2014). ‘Death and Memory: Clothing Bequests in English Wills, 1650-1830.’ Costume, 48(1), 46-59.

Specific clothing bequests form a distinct and often intimate feature in a range of English wills during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Carefully and symbolically allocated to new owners, garments were thus imbued with commemoration as well as financial worth. This paper suggests that gender differentials in this practice have been exaggerated as individual men could be as committed to the process as their female counterparts. Crucially, men and women without children or partners were most disposed to draw up detailed wills reallocating a range of possessions, especially clothing. In this creation of stewardship for chosen garments, individual personality and familial situation were more decisive than any general social or economic considerations. – Full Article Abstract

Image Credit: www.metmuseum.org

 

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