As the beginning of a new quarter approaches, I find myself preparing for my classes conflicted. A part of me still feels close to my students in age and personality traits. I remember being in college and how I thought and felt. Another part of me feels removed. The conversations and motivations of my students seem very different than how I acted in college. As this inner conflict arose while preparing for this quarter, I began asking myself new questions; how do I engage these Millennial students? And beyond engagement, how do I actually teach them?
Photo courtesy of FC Tech Group.
First we must endeavor to understand a Millennial. According to Michael Wilson and Leslie Gerber (2008), Millennials are sheltered, confident, optimistic, team-oriented and are not internally driven. “Millennials respond best to external motivators… (Wilson & Gerber, 2008, pp.31).” Despite their sheltered upbringing, millennials are international consumers and show concern regarding global issues (Pasricha & Kadolph, 2009). In addition, students who choose to study fashion are “more creative and interested in the arts than students in other majors (Hodges & Karpova, Majoring in fashion, 2010, pp. 69).” The most significant motivating factor for students is the perceived professional image and a personally satisfying career (Hodges & Karpova, Majoring in fashion, 2010). Students want to “…take their love of fashion beyond an interest and turn it into a career (Hodges & Karpova, Majoring in fashion, 2010, pp. 71).” Many understand they will not graduate into their desired position but they expect to grow into it instead; others express the desire to be their own boss (Poshadlo, 2010; Hodges & Karpova, Making a major decision, 2009).
Photo Courtesy of Tru Access Blog.
With the beginning of understanding comes the beginning of teaching theories. Some educators are responding by shortening lecture times, reshaping assignments and incorporating more technology (Wilson & Gerber, 2008). Others are simply not assigning work they know the students are not “good” at. But, just as my own conflict sways me to one side, another sound argument is presented; at what point does this “reshaping” destroy higher education (Barnes, Marateo & Ferris, 2007)? At what point do we stop the “razzle dazzle,” as one of my colleagues puts it, and we teach?
Photo courtesy of Forbes.
The benefit of my position as the coordinator for fashion design and management programs is that I can look at the whole picture and see how new ideas can be applied to a larger construct. For these fashion millennial students, how can we tap into their motivators and provide quality education throughout their program to develop them into a successful fashion professional? Through analyzing our total curriculum, a colleague helped define an approach I believe can address this challenge. Through curriculum analysis, this hypothesis can start students at a “discovery” phase to explore and gain a foundational knowledge then lead them to critical thinking. After they critically evaluate the material, students and faculty can create a “collaborative learning environment,” which applies the course concepts, enhancing the student’s skills (Pidgeon, N., personal communication, 2014 April 2). To ensure these fashion millennials find value in this collaborative environment, applying a social concern in a service-learning activity could actively engage them (Videtic, 2009). Karen Videtic from Virginia Commonwealth University (2009) explores this concept in greater detail for fashion education and presented strong arguments supported by research completed by Anupama Pasricha and Sara J. Kadoph (2009).
I have constructed my own course content with this new progression;
- Scavenger Hunt: The first homework assignment students will be given is a scavenger hunt. This hunt will require them to find examples of various topics, which will later be covered in the quarter. This is a discovery project and sets them up for the competencies of the course.
- Article Analysis: Next, I lead them into a critical thinking phase. The student’s read articles related to the topic of the week. After they read the articles they must develop their original opinion on the content and create a presentation to deliver to the class the following week.
- Socially Responsible Project: A project that involves a socially responsible component is an active engagement exercise. The students must work as a team to develop a project centered on a class-selected charity. The project is a total competency assignment summarizing the information taught throughout the quarter. Just as the scavenger hunt was a homework assignment to “discover” the content of the class, this final project is an “application” of what they have learned.
These new approaches should allow these millennial students the opportunity to embrace their learning and walk away from my courses with a deeper understanding of the content. Thanks to the insight provided by the many notable scholars on millennials, these assignments, activities and project will guide students through the learning phases in my courses. By changing my methods to engage and teach the millenial students, my conflict remains but has lessened in importance.
I will be trying this out this quarter and will let you know how it goes! Wish me luck!
Photo courtesy of Eyedea.
Barnes, K., R. Marateo, and S. Ferris. (2007). Teaching and learning with the net generation. Innovate, 3 (4). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=382 (accessed April 24, 2008).
Hodges, N. & Karpova, E. (2010 March 24). Majoring in fashion: a theoretical framework for understanding the decision-making process. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 3(2), 67-76. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/external?sid=ee4d9ae7-d4e9-4510-939f-e468c27039df%40sessionmgr115&vid=3&hid=122 (accessed March 24, 2015).
Hodges, N. & Karpova, E. (2009 July 13). Making a major decision: an exploration of why students enrol in fashion programmes. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 2(2-3), 47-57.
Pasricha, A. & Kadolph, S.J. (2009 October 6). Millennial generation and fashion education: a discussion on agents of change. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 2(2-3), 119-126.
Poshadlo, G. (2010 September 20-26). Fashion students don’t want to be part of the brain drain. Indianapolis Business Journal, pp 38.
Videtic, K. (2009 November 7). Service Learning: opportunities for deep learning in fashion design and merchandising education. The International Journal of Learning, 16, 397-403.
Wilson, M. & Gerber, L.E. (2008 Fall). How generational theory can improve teaching: strategies for working with the “Millennials”. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 1 (1), 29-44.
Today Worn Through would like to present a guest post from Hannah Schiff, a current Master’s candidate in New York University’s Costume Studies program. Her research primarily focuses on the strange and unusual, centering on curiosities and outliers throughout history.
In addition to my passion for antique and vintage dress and textiles, I was drawn to Costume Studies in large part due to its interdisciplinary nature. A quintessentially human phenomenon, dress is linked to virtually all aspects of life, from fine art to politics, anthropology to economics. Fashion may often be marginalized or trivialized, but one may argue that this is done, in many instances, as a response to the overwhelming power clothing and textiles have over us.
In attending The Fourteenth Annual Richard Martin Visual Culture Symposium, an event hosted by the Costume Studies program at New York University, I was pleased to see the interdisciplinary nature of this field on full display. The four M.A. candidates and guest speaker, Dr. Alison Matthews David, made it clear through their dynamic and varied presentations that the boundaries of this discipline are limitless.
The evening began with the presentation of Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, by Dr. Alison Matthews David of the Ryerson School of Fashion. A rich and visually stimulating talk, Matthews David took the audience on a forensic journey through some of history’s darker moments in the conception of aesthetics. Her strong language (including references to “satanic mills” and “homicidal luxury”) acted as vibrant punctuation for a series of fascinating topics discussed, namely the intersection of disease and dress, toxic processes and dyes used, and fashion accidents.
Matthews David referenced this charmingly grim turn of the century poster representing the transformation of rabbits into hats (the source, as she explained, for the perennial favorite magic trick), in her discussion on the use of mercury in constructing hats.
Specific examples explored included the use of mercury in millinery, the 1778 development of an emerald green pigment created with arsenic, and the tragic death of a prima ballerina in 1862 after her tutu caught flame. Matthews David’s use of quotes from primary sources, and her deep exploration into the scientific, psychological, and sociological causes behind these varied fashion traumas made for an engaging talk. Her forthcoming book on the subject promises to be just as inspired as her presentation, and while waiting for its release I would encourage all who are able to see her work on display at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
The first M.A. candidate to present was Felicity Pitt with her talk entitled Bare-Cheeked Bicycling: Trick Cyclists and the Eroticism of Female Bicycle Riders, 1885-1900. This cheeky presentation chronicled the impressive feats, both on wheels and in society, of female daredevils at the turn of the century. Pitt’s research primarily focuses on 25 cigarette cards advertising these female performers, which reside in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Female trick cyclists of the nineteenth century wore scandalous (for the day) garments, Pitt argues, both out of necessity for movement and as an attraction.
The talk, centering on voyeurism, objectification of the female body, adoption of masculine influences in female dress, and displays of curiosity and taboos, demonstrated how these performers also engaged in impressive social feats in order to balance out their subversive behavior. “The mere sight of a woman riding at this time is a trick,” states Pitt, underscoring the fact that the athletic skill of these revolutionary women was perhaps only a piece of the equation which brought them notoriety.
Following Pitt, Anna Burckhardt presented a strikingly original topic entitled Walking Weavers: Ethnicity, Gender, and Tradition in Contemporary Indigenous Columbia. As the title suggests, this research has a strong anthropological component, and is a refreshing contribution to a field dominated by the study of Western dress throughout history. Burckhardt spoke passionately about the gendering of weaving and themes of reviving tradition in spite of geographic and cultural displacement.
Mama Rosa, a member of the community at La Maria in Piendamó, Columbia, weaves a chumbe, a band of cloth essential to female cultural expression.
Specifically looking at the chumbe, a woven band of cloth, usually in bright colors, Burckhardt illustrated how this woman-woven textile is an umbilical chord which connects the woman’s hand to the land of her people. Burckhardt’s personal experiences conducting research in the reservations of Silvia and La Maria in Columbia lent further support to her discussion, and her visual aids, many of which were pictures she took during her time there, offered undoubtable proof of the agency and support system weaving provides for these indigenous women.
Continuing on the thread of autonomous women, Bruckhardt was followed by Stephanie Kramer presenting You Look Good in My Dress: Courtney Love, Grunge and the Role of Gender in Postmodern Subcultural Style. Of the topics presented, Kramer’s was perhaps most accessible to the audience, for while grunge may have emerged as a subculture, it rapidly gained media attention and made household names of musicians such as Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. However, while much existing scholarship (and press) have traditionally focused on the male contributions to the grunge sound and aesthetic, Kramer shows the strong influence wielded by Love by placing her within the framework of theorist Simone de Beauvoir.
Kramer illustrates the significance of Courtney Love’s role in the grunge movement by placing her life within the theoretical framework established by Simone de Beauvoir.
Tracing Love’s journey through the three phases of womanhood de Beauvoir outlined, Kramer provided compelling support for her assertion that Love subverted each of them. Above all, Kramer’s use of quotes from Love, such as “I am a woman. I depend on artifice as I have been taught,” vastly legitimized the agency of a woman commonly ridiculed by the media rather than seen as an originator of a trend and a figure consciously in control of her image.
Rounding out the evening, Eric Zhang brought levity to the symposium with his presentation Just Landed Like Fresh Tilapia: Race, Gender, and Ambivalence in Asian American Drag Performance. Zhang, like Burckhardt, provided a much needed discussion about a minority rarely represented in fashion or academia. Tracing the construction of identity of several drag queens featured on various seasons of the television series, RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as queens who have not participated in the show, Zhang looks critically at the ambivalence of gender and race in Asian American drag culture.
In both visual and rhetorical terms, many Asian American drag queens express the complexity of their cultural identities.
Assessing the “rhetoric and aesthetic of race,” Zhang locates these performers as falling “somewhere in between being Asian and American,” calling the audience’s attention to the tensions present between race, gender, and the presentation of the two. Although video clips from Drag Race elicited laughter from the audience, they also provided solid evidence supporting Zhang’s interpretation of the complex relationship between gender, race, and the development of a performer’s persona and personal ideologies.
As the vastly divergent presentations of The Fourteenth Annual Richard Martin Visual Culture Symposium illustrate, Costume Studies is a discipline with endless possibilities for research. Trauma induced by fashion, female trick cyclists at the end of the nineteenth century, the links between tradition, textiles, and cultural identity in Columbia, the subversion of gender norms and theory by a female grunge music and style pioneer, and the search for identity among Asian American drag performers may all be seemingly disparate subjects. At their heart, however, they are tied together with intersecting themes of gender, race, identity, and the impact of dress and textiles, and have been masterfully woven together by the five scholars to show the numerous impacts fashion has on human experience.
Opening Image Caption: Open until June 2016, The Bata Shoe museum in Toronto plays host to Fashion Victims: The Pleasures & Perils of Dress in the 19th Century.
Did you attend the symposium? What did you think? Have you attended other symposia with student speakers that you would like to share with Worn Through readers? Please feel free to share your thoughts and impressions in the comments below.
Kia ora from Aotearoa/New Zealand! This is my first post as the Worn Through New Zealand contributor and I’m starting off with something a little unorthodox. Creamy Psychology is an art exhibition that recently showed at Wellington’s City Gallery. It was the first time that the whole gallery had been dedicated to the work of one artist: the inaugural winner of the Walters Prize (New Zealand’s most prestigious art prize), Yvonne Todd. Todd is an Auckland-based artist and alumni of the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland who works predominantly with photography to create often unsettling portraits of characters, real and imagined. The show consisted of around 150 photographs, an installation featuring a selection of Todd’s expansive vintage clothing collection and a room showcasing objects and images that inspired Todd’s work. As a recent convert to the Yvonne Todd cult, I found the recurring themes of nostalgia, obsession, glamour (and the fall from it), reality and imagined reality throughout her oeuvre. The creations in Todd’s photographs are a mixture of characters she has dreamed up, real people/situations she has obsessed over before styling and photographing, and people playing themselves, or at least Todd’s version of themselves. Throughout her work clothing and costume is a constant, whether it be the inspiration for the story she tells or an element she employs to assist in her storytelling.
Installation view of frock room
The first room I entered presented two opposing walls of close-up portraits, the first a series called Bellevue depicting 9 women immaculately presented in their stiff cosmetician’s blazers and smocks. For this series Todd used real women i.e. women who worked in the beauty counters at local pharmacies, but these women were presented very coldly: their unsmiling faces and chests are cropped and lit in a way that makes them unapproachable. The starched look of their clothing only adds to the prim, distant feeling the evoke. Todd tells a story of how one of the woman reacted when seeing her portrait, gasping at it in shock and leaving the gallery. Across from these women is a similar series of female face and chest portraits titled Sea of Tranquillity. Here, Todd’s characterisation of the models is more overt; she has styled them all in high-necked, mock-Victorian, polyester blouses, again their faces are immaculately made-up but on their heads they wear wigs. However, these women do not match the unapproachable distance of the cosmeticians, in fact none of them look at the camera and their minds appear to be elsewhere. These portraits have a stifling feel about them, a sadness belies their distant looks and the oppressive feel of the itchy-looking high necks only adds to this. That Todd sees Bellevue as a modern day rendition of Sea of Tranquillity is highly insightful in regards to her childhood obsessions of cosmeticians.
The following room featured a photograph titled Pupators and on face value looked like a it could be from a girls clothing catalogue. It features three delicately fluffy angora cardigans that float in a black background. Though the cardigans were made for young girls, they are filled out by an unseen, flat-chested mannequin so they appear beguilingly androgynous. Todd styled these so as to emphasise a time in life when girls are in a state of transformation, verging on puberty and inevitable adulthood. By presenting the cardigans in this way, Todd highlights the opportunities and experiences to come but with the black background the sinister feeling that is ever-present in Todd’s work remains.
Also featured in this room was the unsettling series Vagrants Reception Centre. This was one of the instances in which the story was inspired by the clothing. Todd is an avid vintage clothing collector and after buying two Victorian dresses online, she realised upon receiving them that the extremely nipped in waists would not work on modern women thus this series of discomfiting portraits of young girls was borne. For the most part the photos are cropped in a similar way to Bellevue and Sea of Tranquillity with the face and chest on show, and this only highlights the juxtaposition of their overdone, mature facial make-up and the high-necked, embellished, ruffled Victorian dresses. That these dresses were intended for women and yet are worn by modern day 12 year old girls is unnerving, what does this say about how young women’s lives in today’s society? What do they tell us when their portraits appear as a caricatured version of kids playing dress up in their mother’s closet yet none of them appear to be enjoying themselves? The leg o’ mutton sleeves appear even more exaggerated upon their young shoulders and symbolise the oppressiveness that recurs throughout Todd’s work.
Installation view of frock room. The work in the background is “Mulkie” and features a model wearing a Norman Norell pantsuit.
As aforementioned, a selection of Todd’s clothing collection was displayed as part of the exhibition. Curated by Claire Regnault, Senior Curator Creative Industries at the national museum Te Papa, the decision was made to focus on the glitzier pieces in Todd’s collection. Todd has collected clothing for many years but her collecting practice gained momentum with the advent of websites like Ebay which gave her unprecedented access to glamorous clothing of a higher quality than before. Consequently Todd now has pieces by Emanuel Ungaro, Norman Norrell and Bob Mackie with some pieces having significant celebrity provenance including Whitney Houston and Liza Minelli. Despite these interesting back stories, Todd insists that the impetus to buy is due to the dress itself, not the provenance. Regardless, the inclusion of the dresses in the exhibition added a material dimension to the exhibition wherein the exquisiteness of the dresses in situ could be appreciated up close and the back stories added an element of intrigue in and of the clothing that is somewhat superfluous when they are utilised by a model in character. Glamour is a dominant theme in the works of Todd’s that I haven’t covered here but it is a flawed glamour, a glamour that has undercurrents of despair and darkness. The stories that the clothes and their former owners add via this sculptural dimension reinforces a lot of Todd’s ideas surrounding glamour and their inclusion is to be lauded.
Installation view of frock room.
The final series that I want to highlight is Todd’s most recent work Ethical Minorities: Vegans and this is because I think it is her most overt example of the way in which Todd confuses reality, and clothing plays a major part. Todd herself is a vegan (and includes a self-portrait in this series) and through this work she wanted to explore the ways in which she believes that wider society sees vegans. Todd recruited her artists through specialist publications and unlike most other series’, the models showed up in their own clothing and it is unknown to the viewer whether Todd kept them in their clothes or not. By keeping this to herself, we as viewers are forced to confront our own perceptions of what a vegan looks like and what a vegan wears. It is a fascinating exercise in stereotyping and indicative of the ways in which Todd plays with her viewers.
There is so much to discover in Todd’s work and I implore you to look it up. She uses clothing to tell stories but also to manipulate what you think you know. A comprehensive book about the exhibition has been published and is available here. The book includes essays and images of her works.
All photos credit: Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology installation view. City Gallery, Wellington, 2014. Photo by Shane Waugh.
A note on my column title: Kōrero Kākahu translates very literally from Māori to English as “talk of clothing” but can also be read as the stories gleaned from clothing or the stories that clothing holds. Future columns, particularly those that cover Māori content, may delve into this meaning a little deeper.
This week I’d like to revisit Worn Through’s inaugural YSBW post, written almost two years ago by Jon Frederick. Jon highlighted the documentary Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution, what he synopsized as an “upbeat retelling of the events leading up to the fashion show and the event itself, utilize excerpts of interviews with models, designers, and socialites involved with the show in 1973.” This historic event continues to fascinate fashion historians. Last fall, photographer Bill Cunningham was featured in the 92nd Street Y’s live discussion series, “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis.” The interview made headlines the following day for Cunningham’s emotional recollection of the 1973 show as the best one he’d ever seen. I was reminded of Cunningham’s talk this week, when the Museum at FIT shared a video of fashion critic Robin Givhan discussing her first book, The Battle of Versailles, released last month. See the videos of Cunningham and Givhan below, and check out the archived post for information on the original documentary and additional sources on this topic.
Survival & Revival: Clothing Design that Survives & Fashion Trends that Are Revived
International Conference of Dress Historians
Saturday, October 31, 2015
The Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AT, UK
Some styles and forms of garments have remained static for decades, if not for centuries, perhaps symbolizing the eternity of the sacred or the authority of tradition. Meanwhile, from Augustus to Napoleon to modern day, in countless periods and cultures, dress has played an important role in revivals whether for patriotic, political, or other purposes. This conference will explore the meanings of ‘survival’ and ‘revival’ in dress from the archaeological to the conceptual, from ‘retro’ to ‘futuristic.’ We invite the submission of proposals for papers that might include, but are not limited to, the following themes.
Survivals: Clothing design that has survived and remained consistent over long periods of time, including religious dress and ecclesiastical vestments, ceremonial garments, ethnic or national folk dress, military and other uniforms, utility clothing (including blue jeans, etc), and ‘heritage brands’ such as Burberry, etc.
Historic Revivals: Fashions and trends that have been revived including, Medieval, Greek and Roman revivals at different periods, vintage garments, Scottish tartan, and replicas of historic fabrics for dress.
Designer Revivals: The work of designers who reference earlier periods or utilize archival material, including Laura Ashley, Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Paul Poiret, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, etc.
Call For Papers
Please submit your proposal as a Word document with a paper title, a 200-word abstract, a brief biography, and contact information to the ADH Events Secretary, Jennifer Daley, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each speaker will be allotted twenty minutes. The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2015. Notification of the outcome will be advised by e-mail on or before July 1, 2015. Speakers do not have to pay the admission fee, though we do request that all speakers become members of the association.
The English language is not my first language, although I’m a near-native speaker. I find it to be a very easy-going and practical language for connecting with people. No matter whether the person you are speaking to is someone you are meeting for the first time, or a close friend, whether it is someone younger or older than you – one can address him or her with “you.”
Meeting for the first time or not?
And when you teach in German, like I do at the moment, the correct use of “you” becomes an important matter in the classroom. Perhaps those who have encountered a foreign language, might have heard the various forms of the second-person pronoun “you“ and already can guess what I am referring to.
This is because in many other languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and English (just to name a few which I happen to be familiar with) there is an entire cultural set of rules and a codex of behavior attached to this pronoun. One has to use a formal or informal pronoun based on the context of the conversation and relationship of the speakers. This is the rule for everyday life and especially important when teaching because this sets the tone for the student-teacher relationship.
“Voulez-vous étudier?“ means “do you want to study with me?” in French, and VOUS is formally used instead of th informal TU.
Lets have a look at Germany as an example:
In the classroom such as mine, where teaching takes place in the German language, it is vital to estabish a rule for the correct form of addressing the students from the beginning. I’ve spoken to my colleagues on this matter and they each have a personal approach. Some say that using a formal “Sie” versus the informal “Du“ is the way to go. Others offer an informal “Du“ from the getgo. So how does this affect the student-teacher relationship you may ask? And which one is the right one to apply?
1. SIE – Mutual respect or distance
“Sie,” the formal you, means mutual respect. „Sie“ is what a person is entitled to be called once he or she is 18. It is a sign of being an adult and by addressing a young person this way it acknowledges their adulthood. If a young person is addressed with the formal “Sie” by an elder, they have to use the same pronoun in return. So here we would establish a very formal but respectful form of communication in the classroom setting.
The downside of this pronoun is that it can equally create distance. In fact, sometimes it is used in speech on purpose to show superiority or even mockery.
2. DU – Friendship and equality or disrecspect
“Du,” the informal you, is mostly reserved for friends, family and children.
Image credit: here.
All adults are permitted to address children or young looking people (the definition is up to the speaker!) with the “Du.”
It means: “You are a youngster, I am older. I know more.”
Children however, are in big trouble if they use “Du” with elders. Whether it is the lady selling bread at the bakery, their teacher or any adult who they are not realted to – they must not say “Du“ or else it is an insult.
Image credit: here.
In the past and sometimes even today, children in France or Russia were not allowed to use an informal pronoun when speaking to their own parents!
When used amongst friends, “Du” is the way to go. It means equality, informality, a comfort zone and closeness. Even adults can use this informal speech amongst each other but only if they are a) relatives, b) friends or c) have oficially offered the “Du.”
Option c) – offering to switch from “Sie“ to “Du”- is a big sign for commeradery. In Europe you might say: „If you like, we can use the informal you from now on.“ Or „You can call me by my first name and use the informal you.” (This offer implies that obliges the other person to extend the same invitation or else it will be a really tricky situation.)
Image credit: here.
By now I hope that you are not too confused and still here, dear reader! As you can see, this matter is quite complex, although in most European countries one learns the rules from childhood on and knows them instinctively.
Which one did I opt for when teaching fashion? I decided to use the formal, mutually respective “Sie.”
My fashion students are young adults and have embarked on a journey of fashion education in order to pursue a career in this field. I want to respect this effort. The distance and professional setting which this formal pronoun creates adds to the seriousness of the classroom. Equally, the students have to address me the same way and thus acknoledge my position as their tutor. I call them by their last names and they have to address me by my last name.
Image credit: here.
Here is the fun part though: Once the students have graduated and are no longer attending my class, I am allowed to offer them the informal „Du“! In this context, the elder person has to offer it first, but I will be more than happy to do that. Without explaining, this coming-of-age sort of inuendo implies something to the extent of: “You have made it. You have passed all tests and are no longer my student but my equal. Therefore we can reduce the distance and step to the same level. You can call me by my first name and use an informal pronoun.”
Image credit: here.
Have you ever taught in a different language than English? How did you address your students? Is there a way to establish a serious working environment even when using the English “you?” How did you approach distance and closeness, formality and mutual respect in your classrom? I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences!
The Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) is an online resource for visual art and design images. The service, based at the University for the Creative Arts campus in Farnham, Surrey, holds images from several significant archives from institutions across the United Kingdom.
Collections focused specifically on fashion and textiles include but are not limited to: London College of Fashion’s College Archive, Cordwainer’s Shoe Collection, Gala Archive, Paper Patterns, Victor Steibel Archive and the Woolmark Company Archive, The Textile Collection at the University College for the Creative Arts, Goldsmiths Textile Collection & Constance Howard Gallery and Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection.
The database has over 100,000 images that are available free and copyright cleared for the purposes of learning, teaching and research in the United Kingdom (North American and international readers: this means that unfortunately they are still copyright restricted outside of the UK). The website is minimal and easy to use, with a simple keyword search bar on the home page to get your research started. An advanced search option is available to narrow your search by date, artist/creator, title, description, material and other factors, as well as the option to narrow your search to certain collections.
Every individual image is accompanied by a core record with additional information on the item. A quick search through the London College of Fashion’s Paper Patterns collection revealed many high resolution images of paper pattern envelopes, each accompanied by additional details including the date, size, pattern number, original price and the item’s corresponding accession number within the collection. To keep track of one’s research, users can create an account and save images to their ‘lightbox’ for later reference (a feature which was temporarily unavailable when I accessed the service, but will hopefully be available again for use in the future).
VADS also offers ‘advice and guidance to the visual arts research, teaching and learning communities on all aspects of digital resource management from funding, through delivery and use, to preservation.’ These services include advisory services for digital projects, depositing data to VADS and web development for visual arts organizations and projects. There is also a list of links to learning and teaching resources, including the Fabrics Forming Society module from the Designing Britain 1945-1975 collection and Hand-Blockprinted Textiles: Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher from the Crafts Study Centre at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design.
VADS could therefore serve as a valuable tool for both students and teachers alike, as the collections held in the online database may serve as the starting point for a new research project or visual and educational resources for classroom presentations.
With the recent focus on fashion and aging this year at Worn Through, from suggested readings to documentaries available on Netflix that explore the lives of women and men who remain engaged with fashion and style well into their later years, I thought it might be a good moment to review a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Julia Twigg’s Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life.
And with a new documentary on Iris Apfel about to be released, actresses and writers such as Charlotte Rampling, Tilda Swinton, and Joan Didion appearing in ad campaigns for various labels, and media proclamations of “sixty is the new forty” and the like, it appears that fashion is beginning a healthy and robust engagement with women well beyond its youthful ideal of the late teens and early 20s. And yet Twigg’s study wisely wishes to interrogate such developments further, and asks some very interesting questions in the introduction, including do such changes reflect “the aspirational nature of consumption rather than any real change in the cultural location of age?”, and “What part does age play in the dynamic of fashion transmission itself, and has it replaced social class in the ordering of this”? (p. 1).
Twigg’s interest in women and fashion is rooted in “a concern with questions of embodiment and its role in the lived reality of people’s lives” (p. ix). This study is intended to address gaps in her own discipline of sociology, which has historically viewed aging “through the lens of social welfare”, or in terms of frailty, dereliction, and inevitability–as though aging and becoming old is solely determined in biological terms and “naturalized in the body”, instead of being culturally constructed like gender, class, or sexuality. This has begun to change, she notes, with the rise of studies in cultural gerentology. The study of fashion and clothing has also gained respect in the academy with the rise of cultural studies, consumption studies, postmodernist themes of identity and agency, and feminism’s embrace of fashion as a worthy topic of inquiry, and does include in her discussion previous sociological studies of women and their relationship to their wardrobes.
Twigg differentiates between fashion and dress, and explains her use of both terms. Although “fashion” appears prominently in the title, she prefers “dress” for her study, as she sees “fashion” as potentially narrow and exclusionary, leaving out the vast majority of clothing that lacks glamour and does not follow seasonal trends or chase youthful styles. She also limits her study to women (briefly discussing men, fashion, and aging), as reflective of “the way fashion is constituted as a feminized field”, as well as the societal view that “the female body is unfinished business” (p. 18). And she is certainly correct that women are far more scrutinized than men as they age, from their changing bodies to what they wear. She repeatedly notes that there is no male equivalent for the derogatory phrase, “mutton dressed as lamb.”
She points out that most fashion writing and studies are focused on the young, the avant-garde, ultra transgressive, or “edgy”, noting that, “Beyond forty in this literature, there is silence” (p. 2). There are, of course, exceptions made for ultra fashionable women with a highly developed sense of personal style and performance such as Daphne Guinness, Isabella Blow, Apfel, or the many ladies of Advanced Style. Twigg strives to illuminate the life of the woman who does not engage with fashion as a strong marker of identity, or as a customer of couture or high-end labels, but rather as a mundane but necessary activity of daily life that nevertheless brings up strong emotions, memories, and feelings of both joy and loss. While many of Twigg’s interviewees have an ambivalent or distanced relationship with fashion, Twigg does profile three individual women for whom fashion is a force for personal expression, identity, and creativity. And it is all of these personal stories and viewpoints that are the heart and soul of Twigg’s Fashion and Age.
Before delving into these narratives of women’s personal lives, Twigg discusses in the first two chapters how fashion, the body, and aging have been theorized across disciplines and approaches in research. It is here that Twigg introduces several concepts to which she’ll return in later chapters during interviews with everyday women, magazine editors, and designers and buyers. “Age ordering”, or “the systematic patterning of cultural expression according to an ordered and hierarchically arranged concept of age ” (p. 25), is still strongly evoked through certain styles and cut of clothes throughout a person’s life. She discusses the similarities between clothing on both ends of the age spectrum–the looseness, easy and simple closures, and pastel colors of clothing for the elderly and for babies–which can be read as either playful and easygoing or can “point darkly to another future” of easy-care clothing found in nursing homes and hospitals. But she also acknowledges that the increasing casualness and ease of dress is found within mainstream fashion, not only with the clothing that older people are expected to wear. There are styles stereotypically associated with older women, some negatively (the overly feminine “sweet old lady” style), and others with more positive, flexible connotations (the “mother-of-the-bride” style, often associated with the royal family) (p. 28-29). Twigg asks, does age ordering or age “coding” in dress–what a woman is expected to wear during different stages of her life–still exist now?
19th century “Age ordering” for women in dress, from Fashion and Age: Dress, The Body and Later Life, Bloomsbury, 2013
The concepts of “agelessness” and “moving younger” are also introduced here. “Agelessness” is enthusiastically embraced by the designers, buyers, and magazine editors, and this concept is often presented in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other high-end fashion magazines. It simultaneously tries to deflect age ordering by encouraging older women to wear more youthful styles, while still cautioning readers on culturally contingent boundaries that should not be breached. While Twigg acknowledges that the varied choices now available to women are beneficial and positive, she also warns of the potential for the older woman to “participate in [her] own erasure” (p. 46) with the concept of “agelessness” and the denial of the experience of an entire life lived, collapsing these long, rich histories with youth, which of course is the engine that drives fashion’s constant state of change. She suggests that the diffusion of dress styles may not be “moving younger”, which is an idea more in line with the aspirational nature of consumerism and capitalism, but rather “moving older”, as styles are quickly abandoned by the young as they are adopted by older wearers (p. 49).
She also discusses the double-edged blade of “heroic forms of anti-ageing”, most commonly associated with the baby boomer generation (p. 40). While offering alternative views of the lives of aging people, a focus on only these narratives can silence the difficulties of the less healthy and affluent aging population and can obscure ageist attitudes that are pervasive and largely unchallenged in the mainstream cultural arena. Twigg raises the important point that denigration and exclusion of the aged is not naturalized, but the result of social and political policies and processes; she states that breaking down the barriers of dress between the aged and the mainstream can be viewed “as a political project”. She notes starkly, “everyone will get old, but there is no solidarity in this” (p. 34).
Chapters 4 and 5, “The Voices of Older Women” and “Dress and the Narration of Life” are the most compelling of the study. The demographic information for the interviewees is found in the appendix, which states that 20 women were interviewed, all were at least 55 years of age, most of the interviewees lived in east Kent and all were white. This information, if included in the main text, would provide an opportunity to directly discuss the limitations of the sample and acknowledge that narratives of women of color are absent from the study. Nevertheless, the stories and quotes Twigg culls from these interviews is valuable and absorbing. Twigg states that, “Change lies at the heart of narrative”, and narrative “helps to undermine a static concept of age as a fixed state” (p. 75), as well as the “othering” of age that does not take into account subjective views and circumstances of the subject.
These interviews illuminate the complexities of feeling and experience surrounding fashion and getting dressed. These include feelings of a loss of self, regret, and frustration when shopping, especially during “the changing room moment” (p. 62), when women confront the loss of their younger bodies and their perceived inability to wear styles they once enjoyed. While “age ordering” in dress and ageist attitudes have been internalized, many women do acknowledge that they dress and look much differently than their mothers and grandmothers, and some vow never to don the markers of “old age” dress, such as Crimplene fabric or pleated skirts. Some interviewees remark on this change as a cultural shift, while others attribute it to the hard working class life of their mothers and grandmothers, who didn’t have time, money, or energy to devote to their appearance. (p. 57-58). Others note the desire to look and dress well is not necessarily motivated by fashion, but rather by working class values instilled in them from a young age, such as always looking clean and tidy. Such impulses become significant, Twigg notes, and centered around anxieties of “passing muster”, as the elderly are scrutinized heavily for signs of “slippage” in tidiness and cleanliness.
One of the most interesting points that Twigg pulls out of these interviews is that these women, once subject to a patriarchal or sexist gaze, are now under “the gaze of youth” (p. 59) and the pressures to live up to a new, more youthful ideal of dress and being. One respondent brings up the value of what is usually viewed as a negative–invisibility. She found that “she was happy to be quiet” (p. 64) and invisible, and could easily observe people and their behavior for her writing projects. Twigg notes this is in opposition to the “empowerment” narrative of older people participating in up-to-date consumption. At the same time, other interviewees noted a continued connection to visibility and sexuality through clothes.
For her extended interviews with three women with a passionate engagement with fashion, Twigg frames and analyses their stories from three intersecting trajectories: their own personal histories and circumstances (‘an unfolding of an individual’s life’), the historical moment when they discovered their sense of style, and how femininity and age are defined in the times in which they lived as younger selves and live now as older women (“aged by culture”; “young or old in a particular historical moment” [p. 78]). Threads of similarities and differences can be found in all three stories, and all are very illuminating and poignant as each woman reflects upon her own personal, still-evolving style. From the woman who refuses to retreat from Goth corsets and lace to join “the anorak brigade” and wear shapeless, sexless clothing, to the woman who defiantly wears her bright, loose-fitting, clashing pattern ensembles as a firm affirmation of self and her own definition of allure, to the scholar who continues to perform an imagined identity with her romantic, Edwardian-inspired clothes, and finds an affinity with her subject of study–James Joyce–in this alter-ego-like performance.
Twigg’s interviews with magazine editors, buyers, and designers explore the presence, or lack thereof, of older women in the pages of three UK magazines with a female readership across age ranges and socioeconomic backgrounds–Yours, Woman & Home, and Vogue. Twigg finds again that ageist attitudes and “age ordering” concepts have been internalized by editors, and they often picture their reader as being much younger than the reality. Some interviews reveal that in wishing to constantly imagine a younger customer, opportunities are missed to reach older customers in their 70s who are or would be interested in lines of clothing marketed to younger consumers in their 50s and 60s (Twigg found that some magazines/companies did not want to participate in the study for fear of their products being associated with the elderly; conversely, the label Viyella was very enthusiastic about serving and representing the older customer).
An overly celebratory narrative prevails in the fashion industry, masking over the anxieties and pressures older women may feel to live up to a new standard of heightened visibility and youthful vigor. Gone is the voice of Mrs. Exeter, the fictional voice of the mature woman in Vogue. Though definitely a construction of the era of the 1940s and 1950s, she is a woman who is accepting of her age and appearance and does not strive to appear younger–advice that Vogue no longer dispenses.
Mrs. Exeter as seen by Cecil Beaton, 1948,
from Fashion and Age: Dress, The Body and Later Life, Bloomsbury, 2013
Although Twigg conclusively warns against too fond an embrace of the celebratory view (it “bleaches out significant differences between older women, underplays their diversity” [p. 140]), she ultimately, simultaneously acknowledges the joys and pleasures for older women of being invited and courted to “join in” with fashion. The “grey market” is a significant segment of the population that fashion must address; interviewees in this study noted that they were much better off financially than when they were younger–income does not preclude buying clothes, especially with clothing being a staggering 70% cheaper in the UK than in the 1960s (p. 120). Older women are replenishing their wardrobes more and more often, and designers and editors are paying attention to this. In Chapter 7, “The High Street Responds”, Twigg looks at the realities of the aging body and how designers are responding to this in adjusting the cut of clothes; she also acknowledges the very real challenge of offering styles that “move younger” for the body that is inescapably moving older (she and some interviewees also point to slimness and strict dieting as a strategy to maintain a youthful body and wear younger, more fashionable styles).
Size UK mature fit mannequin, from Fashion and Age: Dress, The Body and Later Life, Bloomsbury, 2013
Throughout the study, Twigg repeats her points strongly and often, which partly may be due to the style of presenting research in the discipline of sociology and social policy. While some portions may seem repetitive, these numerous reiterations reinforce important observations and findings on a conversation that fashion generally does not wish to have, except when it concerns exceptional (and often wealthy) individuals. Clothingandage.org is where most of Twigg’s research resides, with more targeted articles on such topics that would never be addressed in mainstream fashion magazines, blogs, or photo spreads, such as women’s relationships with their handbags after the onset of dementia. Twigg’s continuing work will undoubtedly continue to shed light on and illuminate this previously much ignored subject in fashion.
All photos provided by the author.
It’s no secret that I love the FIDM Museum. This is not just because I have worked there. I loved the museum long before I worked there simply because of the quality exhibitions they produce. Their annual Art of Motion Picture Costuming exhibition and the ever-changing Helen Larson historic collection displays are no exception.
With the V&A’s Hollywood Costume having overlapped with the opening of this year’s Art of Motion Picture Costuming, I had wondered what was in store for me when I headed down to Los Angeles this weekend. I was, of course, not disappointed. There may have been some competition for costumes this year, but Michael Black is a master at finding them — especially those by FIDM alumi — after all this time and the museum staff put together a truly wonderful exhibition.
Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent costume, which you see above and below, opened the exhibition and set the tone for drama and fantasy that rather pervaded this year’s exhibition as it pervaded many of the 2014 films.
As the exhibition is entitled The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design, opening with the Maleficent costumes was a perfect way to emphasize the artistry that goes into costume design. The dramatic silhouette of Angelina Jolie’s costume is of course the first thing you notice, but there is a intricate interplay of textures and fabric that draw you in closer and must have been wonderful to see on screen. The train on the gown, coupled with the collar and the sleeves don’t compete for attention but all combine to create a perfect garment for, I confess, my favourite Disney villain EVER. And this was not a case of emphasizing one character at the expense of the others.
Above you see the costumes for not only the fairies, but Prince Philip (in hunting garb) and Princess Aurora when in hiding as Briar Rose. The mediaeval origins of the costume designs are clearly present, but adapted to create a fairy tale world in which dragons and griffins and sleeping curses exist. Having been disappointed before by costumes that turned out to be printed fabrics, it was delightful to see embroidered details on even the fairies’ aprons and gowns, and detailed trimmings on Philip’s hood — minor characters who still received the designer’s full attention.
FIDM Museum’s skill at exhibition design was far more subtle even than the black on black details of Maleficent’s costume. It wasn’t until I’d been all the way through the exhibition that I realized how well the exhibits flowed from one film to the other, from one film genre to the other. Moving in a clockwise motion around the Maleficent display, you saw most of the other fantasy film costumes on display: Exodus, Dracula: Untold, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Night at the Museum. Oddly the biblical costumes for Exodus with their ancient Egyptian armor were the perfect segue into the fantastic interpretations of Turkish and Eastern European clothes found in Dracula.
I loved the Egyptian gown above for its clear links to Fortuny. Even more interesting was the use of the alien villain, Ronan’s costume as a transition from the Eastern European aesthetic of Dracula into the pure SciFi of Guardians of the Galaxy — the similarity in lines between the Turkish armor from Dracula and Ronan’s armor would never have occurred to me had the two not been displayed. I found myself wondering what the Guardians of the Galaxy designer’s inspirations and research included, and what their design process was — exactly the purpose of the exhibition, to highlight the expertise and broad range of knowledge designers must have to draw upon when it comes to even designing for a “comic book” movie (albeit one I rather enjoyed).
It was the next transition that I realized later was absolutely brilliant — it was so subtle that it was only as I flipped through my photos choosing which one I would use for this review that I noticed it. Moving again in a clockwise motion, we went from Guardians of the Galaxy to Birdman, which has its contemporary costumes, but also Michael Keaton’s ‘Birdman’ persona and its extravagant, feathered suit lurking in the background. This was the perfect transition from the purely fantastic movies we had begun with to the more contemporary or historical costumes that dominated this next section of the exhibition.
This section was also the point at which I realized I really hadn’t seen many movies this year, because wonderful as the costumes were (Gone Girl, Get on Up, Step Up — the last costumed by a FIDM alumna) I hadn’t seen many of them.
The next genre shift wasn’t as smooth as the Birdman transition, but it made sense in my head from an historical costuming perspective. Between the fantastic dance costumes from Step Up and the rather incredible costumes by Colleen Atwood from Into The Woods (possibly my absolute favourite Sondheim musical, and it starred Meryl Streep, need I say more?), was a display of costumes from Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby. This made sense in my head because upon seeing the purple dress Carey Mulligan wore as Daisy it became obvious that it wasn’t ruffled, they had simply sewn on little satin “tassels” if you will to simulate ruffles. A way to save fabric no doubt, but in combination with the menswear’s trouser legs being much to narrow for the time period, with Into the Woods costumes beyond it seemed to emphasize the fact that this was a fantasy version of the 1920s – and Fitzgerald’s novel, for that matter – rather than trying for any historical accuracy. Again, a juxtaposition that revealed aspects of the Great Gatsby costuming that would have escaped me otherwise.
I will try not to spend too much time waxing rhapsodic about the small collection of Into the Woods costumes — perhaps it is Disney’s seemingly bottomless budgets, but their costumes always seem to actually be good quality rather than simply appearing good on screen — but I absolutely adored the fairy-tale mix of genres: The 1890s leg o’ mutton sleeves seemingly constructed out of feathers on Meryl Streep’s blue gown, and the adaptation of a seventeenth-century doublet into a rocker-cool leather jacket from Rapunzel’s prince were absolutely brilliant.
The rest of the costumes seemed to rather mirror each other, Big Eyes (set in the 1950s and 1960s) next to the costumes from Jersey Boys, and directly across from them the costumes from Selma, those from The Theory of Everything down the way, with the wonderfully eccentric costumes from The Grand Budapest Hotel mixed in. This was a wonderful grouping because it showed the myriad ways in which a single era of clothing could be interpreted to fit a film’s aesthetic and tell a story.
Also on display were the costumes from The Imitation Game — mixed into the 1960s smorgasbord you see above — and those from X-Men: Days of Future Past. The latter was what you saw as you moved from this main display space back into the opening room with the other fantasy and science fiction costumes — so again, an excellent transition out of historical interpretation into fantasy, especially since I understand that movie involves time travel back to the 1960s. The planning of this exhibition’s displays and layout is absolutely incredible.
This is born out by the fact that as you exit the Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition you see two sets of costumes from two British historical films: Belle and Mr Turner. The latter I have not yet seen (but very much want to), and the former I would not have seen if not for a wonderful podcast review over at Frock Flicks.
Putting these two films together made absolute sense simply from the perspective of grouping the costumes together by genre; but when I tell you that these are the last sets of costumes you see before you round the corner to see the eighteenth-century historic clothing on display from the Helen Larson collection, it becomes apparent that this is also excellent exhibition design.
And this is where I get very, very excited. It’s not that I don’t love movie costumes, it’s just that I love historic garments that much more. In my own research I tend to focus on menswear which is something that does not often make it into exhibition displays — at High Style there wasn’t a single man’s item of clothing to be seen — so I was utterly delighted to see more menswear in this display than women’s clothing. This could just be because the men’s silhouettes were so much narrower for the time period and display space is at a premium in the Helen Larson collection gallery, but the FIDM Museum managed to create such a masterful display that it really captured the range of clothing worn by ladies and gentlemen of the eighteenth century.
There were two full court suits, four waistcoats, and four coats for men; there were four gowns for women including robes à la française, anglaise and a robe volante. My mother had come with me to share the driving and was absolutely fascinated by the latter, especially since the tombstone explained that it was the transitional style that would eventually lead to the other styles on display. Through four gowns FIDM managed to convey the evolution of women’s eighteenth-century court attire. The unfortunate nature of the display space, though, was that since the backs of all but one of the gowns was emphasized it was nearly impossible to see the fronts of the gowns on the other three. I imagine mirrors would have amplified the light which would not have been good for the silk, but it still would have been lovely to see as close to a 365º view of the gowns as possible.
I, naturally, was in raptures about the menswear. Here, too, there was a range of decades in menswear so you could see the breadth of choice that men once had when getting dressed in the morning before the “Great Masculine Renunciation” of color in clothing. I loved the contrast of the velvet court suit with the bright coral silk suit opposite it on the platform. These two suits and the range of coats and waistcoats showed the various ways that menswear in the eighteenth century could be decorative. There might be embroidery, the fabric — as with the velvet suit (my personal favorite) — might be decoration enough, or you might have not only an exquisite fabric but appliqués and tassels as with the coral court suit.
And to put the finishing touches, if you will, on the period — there were a number of accessories on display including a fan, a work bag, and two pairs of very elaborate (of course!) shoes.
These two exhibitions have confirmed my belief that a visit to the FIDM Museum is always worth the trip.
The 23rd Annual Art of Motion Picture Costuming exhibition closes this Saturday, April 25, so get there while you can! Opulent Art: 18th-Century Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection will be on display until July 4th.
Have you seen either of these exhibitions? What did you think? Do you have an exhibitions or events happening near you or at your institution that you would like to share with Worn Through’s readers? Feel free to leave a comment, or to email me the details!
May 1-2, 2015 is the Fashion and Gender Symposium at the University of Minnesota.
This is where I teach part time and I live in the area so I’m curious if any readers will be in attendance? Drop me a line if you plan to come to town.