You Should Be Watching: Teen-Age Fashion

While researching topics for an Museum Theory class project last Spring, I stumbled upon a 1944 Life article profiling a group of teen girls in suburban Missouri who, according the the magazine, “liv[ed] in a wonderful world all their own.” Much of the story focuses on fashion, and I was struck by the accompanying photographs of 15-17 year-old girls wearing baggy jeans and oversized mens’ shirts, clothing they borrowed from their brothers and fathers and wore as an “after-school uniform”–they could have been expelled for wearing “dungarees” to school, as the girls below purportedly were.

The concept of the Fifties-era rebellious teen girl always evoked, for me, images of teddy girls and pink ladies, but other than Ken Russell’s 1955 photographs of the British “girl gangs,” early documentation of authentic teen style is scarce. That’s why the documentary Teenage, now available streaming on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes, is so remarkable. The film, directed by Matt Wolf and based on the book Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture: 1875-1945 by punk historian Jon Savage, sourced diaries and home movies. It includes never-before-seen archival footage that depicts real teens and their voices: from Swing Kids, Subdebs and Bobby-Soxers and other subcultures.

Future historians should have no trouble locating video diaries of Gen Z-ers thanks to innumerable vlogs, but it was in the 1930s and 40s when the concept of the teenager itself was emerging. Seventeen magazine was founded in 1944 and promoted to advertisers as a golden opportunity to tap into a new market. At the same time, young women and men sought to take part in shaping their identities, telling a different story than in glossy newsreels like the one below.

Do your parents or grandparents have photos or stories of their teen style? I hope Teenage inspires more people to share their personal collections.

Image credit: Calumet412


CFP: Fashion and the Body: An International PhD Workshop

The Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University, May 5-6th 2015

Workshop Co-convenors: Joanne Entwistle (King’s College London), Caroline Evans (Central Saint Martins) and Andrea Kollnitz (Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University)

Joanne Entwistle will serve as a co-convenor of this workshop alongside Caroline Evans and Andrea Kollnitz. Caroline Evans, fashion historian and author of Fashion at the Edge (2003) and more recently, The Mechanical Smile (2013), will offer her expertise in technologies of the body as well as the connections between fashion and early 20th century cinema. Art historian Andrea Kollnitz, editor of the forthcoming Modernism och Mode (2014) and a forthcoming research agenda about artistic self-fashioning, will similarly broaden this highly interdisciplinary workshop with her interest in the relationship between fashion and identity.

Traditionally, the literature on fashion and dress has tended to ignore the body, while the sociology of the body has tended to ignore dress. However, fashion can be seen as a tool to speak about identity and the body in new ways. One of the great contributions of The Fashioned Body is Entwistle’s discussion of dress as “situated bodily practice”—a paradigm for recognizing that all bodies are inherently dressed bodies, as well as for the dynamic intersections between the body, dress and culture. Working from this legacy, the workshop welcomes PhD papers that interrogate and expand upon the various relationships between fashion and the body, as well as their intersections with identity, power, gender, race, sexuality and the fashion industry.

Furthermore, this workshop will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of fashion studies and aims to bring together disparate research interests from PhD students working within the bounds of critical fashion thinking. We welcome applications from a wide range of academic fields and disciplines including, amongst others, cultural studies, dress history, sociology and anthropology, as well as from students doing applied PhDs in fashion.

The workshop will run for two days during which time the participants will have the chance to present and discuss their research with the convening professors who have engaged in their own research pertaining to issues of fashion and the body. In practical terms, the two-day workshop will be as follows: the PhD student will briefly present a summary of his or her research and one pre-chosen co-chair professor will then comment on the paper and offer feedback. After each presentation, a group discussion will be held with the participating PhD students and the other co-convening professors. At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants will also discuss different opportunities and possibilities for jointly publishing their work in a journal or edited volume.

In addition to the workshop, participants will be invited to attend Dr. Entwistle’s open lecture on the afternoon of May 7th 2015 with a reception to follow.

Practical Information for Applicants

PhD students are invited to submit a 300-word paper abstract along with a brief summary of their doctoral projects by February 20th 2015. Applicants will be informed of their selection two weeks later, on March 5th 2015. Papers of 3,000-4,000 words will be due in-full no later than April 17th 2015.

More practical information—including details about the schedule, meals, social events and the format of presentations and visual aids—will be provided by the organizers in advance of the workshop.  Funding is not provided for this event, so students will be required to fund and arrange their own travel and accommodations. Students will, however, receive a certificate as verification of their participation, which they may take back to their home institution to receive course credit.

Interested PhD students are kindly asked to send their applications to the following email address:

For Further Information

Lauren Downing Peters, PhD Student, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University 

Sara Skillen, PhD Student, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University


Fashion-Focused Digital Resources: Jalou Media Group Archives

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Established in 1921, Jalou Media is the family-owned French media group that owns L’Officiel and several other fashion magazines. The Jalou archives have been digitised up to 2013 and uploaded to a searchable database of high-resolution images. L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode à Paris began as a trade publication for the Parisian fashion industry, later evolving into a magazine covering fashion and high society.

In 2010, Jalou bought the archives of L’Art et la Mode, another fashion magazine that was published from 1883 to 1965. Other, more current publications that have also been archived on the website include L’Officiel Homme, Jalouse, as well as many of L’Officiel‘s international incarnations.

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The database is searchable by keyword and date, although the transcription of the text is not always accurate, so a manual browse is recommended if searching for a particular designer or event. A quick search for Chanel, for example, returns 950 hits in 156 different issues of L’Art et la Mode alone, which can then be sorted by relevance or date for further browsing.

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Each cover and page spread is viewable as a larger full-screen image, which can then be zoomed in further to read smaller text and view detail. Every page can be printed or saved as a PDF to use for further study, although all images are of course under copyright for commercial purposes.

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A comprehensive visual archive of one of the world’s leading fashion magazine publishers, the Jalou Media Group’s archives are a valuable digital resource to fashion historians, particularly those researching twentieth century fashion or the history of the French fashion industry.

Image Credits: Jalou Archives


Happy New Year!

Celebrate the New Year with some wonderful Pathé videos: ‘Fashions on Ice’ from 1965 and New Year’s celebrations from 1970!

If you want something a little older, see how the New Year was celebrated (and what costumes were worn) with Fancy Dresses Described, from 1887.

Resources found by Emma.


CFP: Education, Conservation, and Inspiration in Dress and Textile Studies

Costume Society of America Northeastern Region
Call for Papers

CSA Northeast Region Symposium
In Celebration of Dr. Margaret Ordoñez: Education, Conservation, and Inspiration in Dress and Textile Studies
University of Rhode Island

Abstracts due January 15, 2015
Symposium held September 2015

Dr. Margaret Ordonez is retiring after fifty-three years of life in the academy! In celebration of her long career, the Northeast Region of the Costume Society of America invites you to join us at the region’s fall meeting. Papers and posters of recent research, conservation projects, or exhibitions by former students of Dr. Ordoñez are requested for presentation at the symposium, to be held on the URI campus on a Saturday in late September 2015. CSA members and non-members from all geographical areas are invited to submit. The Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design Department will sponsor a reception and keynote speaker on Friday evening to start the symposium.

Instructions for Submission
Submit a one-page abstract of your proposed presentation or poster no later than January 15, 2015. Do not put your name on the abstract. All submissions will be blind-reviewed by two CSA senior scholars. Selections will be announced no later than March 23, 2015.

Use 12 pt. font (Times New Roman). Include a cover sheet with name, affiliation, contact information, and connection to Dr. Ordoñez.

Submissions can be by email: or three hard copies to:
Blair Walker
500 Horseneck Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748
Questions: 508-636-7114


You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Literature


In the absence of surviving garments, or to support their analysis, a form of primary source material available to fashion historians and one being explored with increased frequency in academic study is works of literature. In her book, The Study of Dress History, Lou Taylor comments that ‘novels can identify through subtle textural nuances how each stratum and member of society, male or female, rich or poor, young or old, enjoys, flaunts, defies or denies their social place through dress.’ (150) The following books and articles represent some of the most recent studies of fashion in works of literature.

1. Joslin, Katherine and Daneen Wardrop, eds. (2015). Crossings in Text and Textile. Durham: University of New Hampshire Press.

This is a collection of essays about how we dress, what it costs, and how we read it. Writers look at fabrics and designs from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth century, a period of remarkable change in textiles, production, labor, and fashion, especially in the reform of female dress as a sign of modernity…We’ve labeled the study Crossings in Text and Textile to announce up front the cross-disciplinarity that combines prose writing with clothing style, text with textile. This combination offers a fresh twenty-first century emphasis on the overlap between verbal workings and material culture. – Excerpt from Introduction

2. Rieger, K. Irene (2014). ‘Garment No. 5: The New Woman Novel and the First Maternity Clothes.’ CEA Critic 76(3), 259-266.

Attitudes toward maternity in the nineteenth century varied, but there were numerous reasons why many expectant mothers, particularly of the upper classes, wished to hide their growing waistlines. The most obvious reason was that the belly of the pregnant woman was the literal embodiment of sex…However, there were other reasons aside from propriety. Perhaps the most mundane is one still heard today, that the fat belly was simply considered unattractive. In Women, Marriage, and Politics: 1860–1914, Patricia Jalland quotes a diary of a pregnant woman who decides not to travel anymore once she no longer “looks decorative” (143). Another reason, still common today, was fear of miscarriage and the disappointment to follow…One of the few people who did have to know was the dressmaker. Maternity clothing as such did not appear until 1904 (Wertz & Wertz 148), and thus it is during the time of the New Woman that attitudes toward maternity and pregnancy saw a sea change. – Paraphrased Article Excerpt

3. Redmond, Moira. ‘How Nylons Changed Literature.’ The Guardian. 18 October 2014.

In honour of the 75th anniversary of the first limited production of nylon stockings by DuPont, Moira Redmond, a journalist who blogs at Clothes in Books, covers the history of hosiery throughout the twentieth century. Using references to works by Agatha Christie, James Joyce and others, Redmond traces the symbolism of stockings as markers of class and aspiration in the early twentieth century, to a rationed luxury during the Second World War, to an everyday item of clothing by the 1960s.

Image Credit: Girl Reading by Charles Edward Perugini, via Wikimedia Commons


From the Archives: Scottish for Christmas

For Christmas Eve day, and because I’m neck deep in my phd applications on the topic of Scottish dress, here is my post from two years ago examining the use of tartan/plaid in American Christmas-time decorations. Enjoy!

Vintage Christmas Card

It’s a rare serendipitous moment for me when fashion seems to line up perfectly with something I’m working on in a positive way. In this case, I was several weeks into re-researching tartan as a Christmas-time stateside appropriation when Chanel showed its glorious pre-fall 2013 collection. To save any confusion, I use the Scottish terminology – tartan for the pattern, plaid to refer to a wide-width of fabric, or blanket.


Chanel Pre-Fall 2013, photos by Giovanni Giannoni, via WWD online.

In looking at the history of tartan and fashion, tartan seems to lend itself to borrowing by anyone and everyone. Vivienne Westwood’s famed use of the Royal Stewart as protest in punk clothing was her first use of the pattern and has been long-lasting up through her use of it in runway collections like Anglomania. Several books have been written on the long and continued use of it in fashion, including Jonathan Faiers’s contribution to Berg’s “Textiles That Changed the World” series. Worn Through‘s own – Monica has a whole section on Westwood’s and latter-day punks’ use of tartan in her soon-to-be-published book on punk style. Burberry is recognizable through its trademark check, Ralph Lauren makes free use of tartan in many of his collections, and Alexander McQueen challenged the beatific Scottish stereotypes through his Widows of Culloden and Highland Rape collections which made use of the sett – the technical term for a specific tartan’s colors, way, and check – he himself designed. Isaac Mizrahi, Marc Jacobs, even Jean-Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint-Laurent have featured it in their designs.

Kate Moss as the Bride for Westwood’s A/W 93-94 Anglomania collection

Tartan is in Catholic school uniforms, Japanese school uniforms, table linens, even Scotch tape. But what started my latest research endeavors into one of my favorite textiles were the American Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, and dresses – mostly for little girls – made of or featuring tartan. I have no idea exactly how the tradition started, but there is something about red & green tartan – sometimes with white or black thrown in – that seems indelibly linked with December and Christmastime in America. My hypotheses, which have not been proven in any way, shape, or form, is that seeing Scottish émigrés in the Royal Stewart – one of the “free” tartans, which like the strictly “fashion” setts are open to everyone – with its red and green colors (or a clan tartan with similar colors) other Americans thought it looked festive, and so copied it. Or that perhaps it was copied by their descendents who forgot in time that it was traditional Scottish dress, instead associating it with Christmas because that’s when they saw it. I’m basing these theories on the fact that most traditional Scottish dress has only been worn for special occasions since the end of proscription in 1782. Having been banned by law in 1746 after the final failed attempt by the Jacobites to regain the crown for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Stewarts, most Scots forty years later were accustomed to wearing the same style of dress as everyone else for everyday.

Vintage Pendleton Advertisement, via Pinterest

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a tartan for every clan. In fact, most registered clan tartans have only been around for the last two centuries or so, and the tradition is largely an invention of Sir Walter Scott’s novels and the Victorian vision of a romantic Scotland. Tartan’s proliferation through souvenirs purchased by tourists during the nineteenth century, when travel first became popular, was the first exposure most people had to real tartan. Until then, sketches alone had been available since the first examples of what we today would recognize as tartan first began to appear in Scotland itself in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

It was around this time that the first western European dress histories were compiled as records of the exotic and strange things people in far off places wore. They were collected by the upper classes to shock and titillate, or to prove that they were cultured and worldly to their acquaintances. Scotland was considered as far away and exotic as China. But what truly warranted Scottish dress a place in these early histories was not actually the plaid they wrapped around their waist before draping over their shoulder, as can be seen in the below portrait of Lord Mungo Murray, but the pattern of the fabric. Until the sixteenth century, Scottish fabric had been simple stripes and checks, such as what is known as the Shepherd’s tartan, a Lowland sett and possibly the oldest one, with an example dating from the third century on display at the National Museum of Scotland. In the sixteenth century the more complex tartan began to emerge and its bright colors and unusual pattern as much as the manner of wearing it was what made it “exotic”.

John Michael Wright, Lord Mungo Murray, the Highland Chieftan, c. 1680.

This is one of the things that I absolutely adore about the latest Chanel collection. It combines Scottish patterns with styles inspired by mainstream European fashions of the same century in which tartan acquired its modern form.


Chanel Pre-Fall 2013, photos by Giovanni Giannoni, via WWD online.

But what do the Scots think of fashion’s appropriation of not only tartan, but their national dress? I asked my friend, Michelle Irvine, a Glaswegian who actually has an ancient clan tartan – one that began before tartan was tartan and evolved into the beautiful sett you see below. Michelle loves seeing Scottish and Scottish-inspired patterns and dress in fashion, or in American Christmas decorations. What she doesn’t like is when tourists of Scottish descent, typically from America – she apologizes, but it’s true – come to Scotland, discover they do not have a clan tartan, and have someone design one for them on the spot. There are thousands of Scots without clan tartans, so they where the free tartans, such as Black Watch or the Royal Stewart. They don’t have someone create one for them. There are also, thanks to tartan’s ongoing popularity in fashion, hundreds of fashion tartans, such as McQueen’s or the setts seen in the Chanel show last week, which can be worn. Having one designed for you denigrates the tradition and the history. Especially since another friend of mine who is an Edinburgh native, Amy Porteous, doesn’t believe people should be bound to wear only their family tartan. Her father has and wears a traditional kilt, but prefers the Ancient Baird to the Porteous family tartan. Amy really loves kilts made from Harris Tweed, since they create a modern, updated version of the kilt, but still out of a (gorgeous) traditional Scottish fabric. She also told me that one of her sisters married an Englishman, with no right to tartan at all, but that she wanted him to wear a kilt for the wedding. He and his father and best men settled on contemporary black kilts as a compromise.

Irvine Tartan

Harris Tweed

Tartan entered fashion fully in 1822 after George IV (formerly the Prince Regent) visited Edinburgh – largely because he wanted to be loved by someone and no one was going to love him in England – and the attention paid to the traditional Scottish dress worn to receive the king created a craze for all things tartan. Its popularity can be seen in this tartan turban from 1829 0 1835 at the V&A. There are earlier examples. While I was doing research on banyans for my presentation in Brighton last year, I discovered a man’s gown from about 1770 – 1810 in the Colonial Williamsburg collection made with tartan-patterned silk. The adaptation of existing or creation of new setts exclusively for fashion is nothing new.

Tartan: Romancing the Plaid describes tartan’s allure as “… both democratic and noble, establishment and antiestablishment, high and low …”. Perhaps that’s why it appeals to both punks and haute couture designers: tartan’s versatility of interpretation and redesign. I found myself wondering, as I received Michelle and Amy’s endorsement of Scottish-inspired fashion or the general wearing of tartan: is appropriation always a bad thing, or can it sometimes actually be cultural exchange? Is America’s use of tartan at Christmas, without realizing its history, or fashion’s continued use of it really appropriation? Many Americans do have Scottish heritage because this is where the Scots re-established themselves during the Clearances, but does that matter? Perhaps it is that fabric is less political than many other aspects of fashion. Perhaps its because when done with respect the end results are true evolutions of an ancient tradition.

Meaning I can covet the new pre-fall Chanel without any guilt at all.

Please share your thoughts.


Further Reading:

Banks, Jeffrey & De La Chapelle, Doria. 2007. Tartan: Romancing the Plaid. New York: Rizzoli.

Cheape, Hugh. 2006. Tartan: The Highland Habit. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland.

Faiers, Jonathan. 2008. Tartan. London: Berg Publishers.

Faiers, Jonathan. 2011. McQueen and Tartan. June 30. Now At the Met blogpost: Accessed 10 December 2012.


CFP: Feminisms and Rhetorics 2015

The Tenth Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference
Women’s Ways of Making

Memorial Union, Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona

Proposals due February 1, 2015
Conference held October 28-31, 2015

The Graduate Programs in Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies as well as the ASU Writing Programs in the English Department at the College of Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University (ASU) invite proposals for the Tenth Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference to be held at ASU October 28-31, 2015. The conference theme—Women’s Ways of Making—is meant to call attention to women as active knowledge and meaning makers in an inestimable variety of fields. Resonating as it does with the influential Women’s Ways of Knowing by Mary Field Belenky et al., published nearly three decades ago in 1986, this theme draws attention to making as an epistemic endeavor. Thus, the theme collapses several impoverished binaries: mind/body, producer/consumer, passive recipients/active agents, public/private, male/female, and craft/art. Our intention is to aim for a conference that will challenge gendered notions of making, of artifacts, of practices, of innovation, of digital spaces, of applied/theoretical research as well as more conventional notions about ways of making arguments, making knowledge, and making sense.

Working together to articulate a multi-vocal sense of women’s ways of making, we call for proposals that value and emphasize different ways of innovating, composing, creating, making, translating, hacking, using, reusing, repurposing, recycling, researching, and remixing in history or today. We encourage proposals that engage conference participants in making, in other forms of collaborative work, and in community building.

See a list of possible topics and presentation styles on the conference website.


You Should Be Watching: The Future of Fashion

Fashion is by its very nature obsessed with the future. An ever-accelerating cycle of seasons and trends encourages constant innovation and an obsession with the ‘new.’ With the advent of new wearable technologies like Google Glass and the hype surrounding new production techniques like 3-D printing, the future of fashion has never been more exciting as designers look to incorporate these elements into their work. At the same time, the fashion industry is slowly becoming aware of its impact on the environment and its responsibility to work towards more sustainable models of production and consumption. The following three videos explore the future of fashion with a particular focus on issues of sustainability and technology.

1. The Next Black – A Film About the Future of Clothing

A fascinating documentary from an unlikely source (home appliance company AEG), The Next Black is a series of profiles of designers and other innovators in the fashion industry, all of whom are working towards their vision of the future of fashion. From Studio XO and Adidas’ wearable technology to Biocouture and Patagonia’s work towards an increasingly sustainable industry, all of the interviewed subjects passionately convey their vision for the future of the industry.

2. SHOWstudio: Sustainable Fashion Panel Discussion

Lou Stoppard of SHOWstudio is joined by Dilys Williams and Renee Cuoco of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Katherine Poulton of The North Circular, jeweler Michelle Lowe-Holder and Abigail Murray of Designer Jumble in this thoughtful panel discussion on developments in sustainable fashion. The panelists discuss the inherent difficulties faced by an industry that is notoriously unsustainable while acknowledging the many larger issues that are at play. Countless interacting spheres of production, distribution and consumption influence each other, while sustainability is not a fixed point – how a consumer engages with and uses a product after it is purchased is a major factor in its overall sustainability. The panelists conclude that the future of sustainable fashion lies in convincing consumers that true luxury is about integrity and encouraging people to question their purchasing decisions, suggesting that everyone can enjoy fashion without necessarily having to buy more.

3. Has Technology Changed Pattern, Colour & Cloth in Fashion? Digital Talks from London Fashion Week SS15

Simon Hopkins of the Knowledge Transfer Network chairs this panel discussion at London Fashion Week with Francesca Rosella of CuteCircuit, Lauren Bowker of The Unseen, Nancy Tilbury of Studio XO, Cher Potter of London College of Fashion and contemporary ‘cyborg’ artist Neil Harbisson. A lively discussion covering many aspects of fashion and technology, the panelists share their successes and visions of the future while acknowledging the difficulties faced in creating innovative wearable technologies. The need for new training for designers as well as increased collaboration and a shared vocabulary between designers and engineers and coders is identified as crucial to the development of the industry. Possible negative side effects to these wearable technologies are also touched upon, from the risks and repercussions of being constantly connected to technology through our clothing, to issues of privacy and data protection.

Bonus: Clothing of the Future! 

And finally, just for fun, a video from the archives of British Pathe Studios foretelling the future of fashion, as predicted in 1939 by a few unnamed American designers. A reminder that despite our best informed predictions, it will always be impossible to predict what the future holds for the fashion industry.


Book Giveaway 3 – Punk Style

punk style

We’re feeling generous this months and have been giving out a book a week!
U.S. replies only please–sorry I need to save on postage fees

In this post we’re giving away:

Punk Style by me(Monica Sklar)

The first reader to email me with the correct answer to the following trivia question about Worn Through question can have this book!

Here is the question. The answer can be found reading previous blog posts.

What Parisian design house is in the process of digitizing and sharing an extensive online archive?

Thanx for playing! Look for more giveaways in 2015.