Curation, the idea of Tailoring

20170105_113935

( by Stacey Richards 2017)

I was given the opportunity to curate the glass boxes, within the JPS campus library. The theme for January was Tailoring, an area I have a strong interest in from my freelance work as a military costumier. At first it was a little daunting, but at the same time it seemed like a great experience to take.

 

My first meeting was to discuss the idea of tailoring and to get a feel for the items I would have access to. The head of the Special Archives Elizabeth Higgs, met me with me towards the end of December to work through my ideas and to show me what I could use to curate the spaces.

 

After this first meeting, some planning was need and more in-depth thought was given. We met again just before closing for the Christmas period where she had kindle pulled the items I was interested in using for me to see.

 

Then the day came for me to actually get to work and put my personal idea of tailoring into the glass boxes. I had decided to a woman’s box and a man’s box as the Special Archive had some really stunning pieces that would suit this idea.

20170105_093802

(by Stacey Richards 2017)

The large single tier box I decided to use for the woman’s display, for this I wanted to include my own personal Alexander McQueen unfinished tailored jacket. For me, this piece really put across the notion of tailored construction. In the box also is the Visionaire issue 58, which is the tribute volume to McQueen.

20170105_095441

(by Stacey Richards 2017)

I used the images within the box to form the base for the objects. The case is set up with tailoring items and some of the archives women’s construction books. I had the idea of using my own pattern pieces and drawing on the glass using chalk pens. I wanted to incorporate more of the feeling of making and being in the making environment into the space.

20170105_112334

(by Stacey Richards 2017)

From then I moved on to the men’s tiered box, for this I wanted to start with modern ideas of tailoring and then move down into more traditional works on the subject. Again the Special Archive has some beautiful pieces to include, one such piece was an Artist book, which is at the very top of the case.

20170105_120435

(by Stacey Richards 2017)

I simple loved the Visonaire collection we have and so included the issue 35 Man. I also mixed in issue 20, which was about Comme des Garcons. Then the space moves into traditional shirts, waistcoats, military attire and ends on pattern cutting.

20170105_121306

(by Stacey Richards 2017)

The experience is one I really enjoyed, and despite initial nerves of exactly what I should do, I would love the chance to do something similar again.

Stacey Richards MA Fashion Culture: Fashion in Film.

Advertisements

Exploring evolving fur discourses through advertising

By Lindsay Parker

label-me

Luxury, glamour, wealth, status, success, exclusivity; these are the words most commonly associated with fur; they conjure up the embedded cultural meanings that have been established through years of use, regulation and representation of the material. Though these meanings have been (and continue to be) challenged by anti-fur campaigners, with arguably some level of success, fur is still considered the ultimate luxury, unattainable to most and increasingly prevalent once again in the collections of luxury fashion brands.

However, as the industry has faced a backlash from anti-fur campaigners, the allure of glamour and luxury alone is no longer always a sufficient tool for the promotion of fur. In the 1990s, in the UK and US at least, the material began to be linked with unnecessary cruelty and out-dated notions of glamour and the industry had to alter conceptions whilst retaining the elements of its appeal which had been built through years of intertextual discourse.

One response has been the use of technology with new techniques used to disguise and enhance furs, and new colours, textures and forms of fur clothing developed, in some instances, to create even more expensive and exclusive products (For example, Fendi’s silver coated, 1 million Euro Coat).

fashionistas

Fur brands have also updated their image through advertisements which aim to appeal to a younger demographic, referencing “highly energetic, totally trendy and gloriously glamourous fur” (Vogue September 2006) and highlighting technical developments. This appeal to youth can be seen as one of the key elements of furs resurgence in recent years, reaching out to those who have not grown up through the height of the anti-fur movement or have tired of the hard hitting and relentless campaigning by animal rights groups.

Increasing consumer awareness of a vast range of ethical and environmental issues has meant that, for many, issues surrounding what constitutes responsible and sustainable fashion are no longer black and white. This shift is reflected in the appearance of advertisements which promote fur as sustainable, natural and timeless, as opposed to wasteful fast fashion or environmentally damaging synthetic alternatives. For example, the Origin Assured “label me…..” campaign featured high profile designers such as Oscar de la Renta claiming that – “Buying Origin Assured furs removes a lot of questions for a customer. It allows her to buy fur with confidence.” the advertisements are designed to introduce the new label which claims to promote transparency and adhere to strict animal welfare standards” suggesting that real fur can be part of an ethical fashion wardrobe.

Reviewing advertisements past and present suggests that, no matter how established fur is as a sign, discourse on fur in fashion is subject to change to correspond with the ever altering wider social discourses which impact on the field of fashion. This means that advertisements must respond to these discourses, and more recently this has been through adapting existing meanings to appeal to consumers changing understanding of ethical and responsible fashion and by embracing new technologies to shake off unwanted associations with times gone by.

Dressing like a girl in the 1990s

by Siân Hunter

cher and dion

Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash in Clueless, 1995 (source)

From knee socks to babydoll dresses, during the 1990s girly items of clothing made a resurgence. However, depending on the subculture to which the wearer belonged, these garments held differing meanings. For kinderwhores and Riot Grrrls, girliness was being reclaimed and subverted through aggressive styling and attitudes, while preppy girls aimed to prove that they could be taken seriously while retaining femininity.

Femininity and feminism

kinderwhore-fashion-6

‘Dishevelled kinderwhore’ (source)

The idea of femininity, and especially childlike femininity, has been a point of conflict between feminists — particularly between waves of feminism. Some second wave feminists argued for rejecting feminine fashion in favour of masculine dress (Hollows, 2000). They saw femininity as an obstacle to gender equality due to its associations with subservience and passivity. However, in a postfeminist social order, femininity is celebrated by women and reclaimed with an element of self-conscious fun. Embracing femininity, especially at its most childlike, expresses self-confidence in a woman’s gender identity.

Female musicians celebrated girlhood as a way of creating a female youth subculture, something that had previously been lacking in the male-dominated narrative of youth culture (Wald, 1998). Punk led the way with female inclusion: both genders felt similarly disillusioned with mainstream culture and wanted to express their anger against the status quo. Riot Grrrls took advantage of this increased visibility and created a new image — one of exaggerated girliness, which contrasted with their powerful music that raged against the patriarchy.

The preppy look

vassar student 1950s

(source)

The prevalence of girly fashion during the 1990s has been observed by scholars of media and communications including Alice Leppert (2014) — who wrote about the influence of films such as Clueless (1995)). It is important to note how the average teenage girl, as well as musicians and characters on screen, appropriated this trend for girly clothing. Whether it was the Riot Grrrl’s adoption of childlike femininity to critique misogyny or the preppy teens imitating Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher Horowitz in the movie Clueless (see Figure 5), girly fashion was a significant part of female culture in the 1990s (Leppert, 2014). This trend for cuteness, epitomised by Silverstone as Cher (see above): ‘a ditsy, scrambled Beverly Hills dream teen in imitation-Chanel junior-miss plaid suits, thigh socks and high-heeled Mary Janes’ (Schoemer, 1995: p54), was a reaction against the androgyny and drabness of grunge. With this well-defined aesthetic and prescribed set of garments, girls could own their own femininity and sexuality. Easy to imitate, the look swept America as malls began selling the signifiers of girlhood: Macy’s stocked Mary Janes, baby-doll dresses and knee socks, while Bloomingdale’s made Clueless required viewing for the buyers of their juniors department (ibid).

cher

Alicia Silverstone as Cher in Clueless, 1995 (source)

Although the items of clothing that are worn are similar — demure dresses and knee socks, for example — the styling of these garments worn by Riot Grrrls and preppy teenagers means that the messages created by the looks are radically different. Whereas Riot Grrrls adoption of childlike fashion was combined with a non-conformist attitude that was reflected in their music, preppy girls were less political and more aspirational in their dress. Preppy style is traditionally a celebration of intellect and academic achievement and adopting such a look suggests a dedication to success.
References
Clueless (1995) Directed by Amy Heckerling [Film]. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures

Hollows, J. (2000) Feminism, femininity and popular culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Leppert, A. (2014) ‘Can I please give you some advice? Clueless and the teen makeover’, Cinema Journal, 53 (3), p131-137

Schoemer, K., & Chang, Y. (1995). ‘The cult of cute’. Newsweek, 126(9), p54-57

Wald, G. (1998). ‘Just a Girl? Rock Music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth’. Signs, 23(3), p585–610

Gender Fluidity at Berlin Fashion Week A/W 16/17

By Chloe Rockwell-Townsend

emre erdemoglu aw1617 groupEmre Erdemoglu AW16/17 {source}

Ever since Berlin Fashion Week was established in Summer 2007, it has worked hard to gain international fashion status by offering a unique style ethos with gender fluidity at its core. Designers such as Kilian Kerner, Sarah Effenberger and Emre Erdemoglu emulated this gender fluid ethos at the A/W 16/17 shows by sending male and female models down the runway within the same show, styling models in an androgynous manner and offering up unisex designs.

Sarah Effenberger AW16/17, “Fomme” {source}

New talent Sarah Effenberger asks why, in such an open minded and liberated society are men so restricted from dressing in a sensual manner. Her motivations behind her unisex collection “Fomme” was to free men from their reserved dress and prove that a man can remain masculine in more decorative garments.  The collection shows men wearing skirts, chiffon and stereotypically feminine pussy bow ties, offering a fresh take on unisex items. A flowing grey chiffon blouse and wide leg trouser perfectly depicts Effenberger’s aim of showing how men can borrow from typically feminine styles, opening up a whole host of experimental dress opportunities.

Kilian Kerner AW16/17 “The Huntingans” {source}

Kilian Kerner who launched his label in 2004, was also seen embracing gender fluidity by sending both sexes down the runway in an Anna Wintour-inspired look complete with her signature bob and oversized sunglasses, adding an element of humour to his show. Designs were fairly muted in autumnal shades of camel, grey and black, focusing on the sharp tailoring and detailed with interesting bird motifs. The ambiguity of the models’ gender works extremely well in showcasing his creations achieving a great sense of fluidity, in both design and gender.

Emre Erdemoglu AW16/17 {source}

Emre Erdemoglu’s show was a spectacular blend of striking metallic ensembles in silver, rose gold and champagne, for both men and women including matching skirts and coats alongside more subdued monochrome pieces. Anyone brave enough to invest in a shimmering masterpiece from Erdemoglu’s collection will be sure to turn heads walking through the streets of Berlin come autumn.

Vladimir Karaleev AW16/17 {source}

Vladimir Karaleev‘s show was influenced by contemporary architecture and he demonstrates a clear understanding of clothing as both a medium of expression as well as its functional purpose. The dark understated colours combined with geometric shapes highlight his aim of creating clothing that capture one’s individuality whilst letting their personality remain the focal point.

Reviewing the diverse and exciting range of designer talent showcased at Berlin Fashion week has opened my eyes to the way in which we view gendered fashion. With gender fluidity being a key theme of Berlin Fashion Week ever since its conceptualisation,  it appears that the designers showcasing at Berlin Fashion Week along with a growing variety of other designers around the world are situating gender fluidity at the heart of their design aesthetic. Attitudes towards gender fluidity are progressively positive in today’s society and it seems we have a lot to thank for the designers that are using their creative talents to put gender neutral fashion on the map.

A Tactile National Identity: Latvia’s Map in Mittens

By Anushka Tay

DSC_2833 (1)

Mittens Map of Latvia – Sena Klets, Riga, March 2016. Photo: Anushka Tay

To what extent can a place be experienced, understood or consumed through dress? I recently spent a day in Riga, Latvia, where I made sure to visit Sena Klets – the National Costume Centre. Nestled in the touristy heart of Riga’s Old Town, I was expecting it to be a museum of Latvian traditional dress; so was surprised to discover that it functioned equally as a display of folk costume, organised by region; and a tourist souvenir shop. I was previously aware of Latvia’s famed knitting traditions; but didn’t realise that the patterns were governed by location. The hand-made items on display were presumably created specifically for sale to tourists, and were priced to a reflect some consideration for the labour time (€54 for a pair of mittens). As is so common in tourism, national identity is presented as a commodity for consumption. However, in this case, what is also being sold is the concept of supporting cottage industries, and of promoting a country’s textile heritage.

DSC_2834

Hand-knitted colourwork mitterns – Sena Klets, Riga, March 2016. Photo: Anushka Tay

Is this yet another iteration of what Simona Reinach refers to as the ‘romantic nationalism of the past’?  Traditional dress, or folk costume, occupies a strange place within the discourses of fashion in today’s industrialised, increasingly globalised world. In academia, fashion is largely agreed to constitute the system of change, with the individual styles of clothing themselves irrelevant (Kawamura, 2006). The adoption of the Western fashion system has in many ways come to symbolise a marker of progress, and Reinach (2011) demonstrates how with the rise of more and more smaller fashion weeks around the world, the fashion industry is more than simply an arm of commerce, but has come to consecrate national identity and mark countries’ presence as a major player in the global economies. Skov (2011, p.149) further analyses the relationship between fashion designers and folk culture, whereby on the one hand there is ‘the common perception that folk culture is the opposite of fashion— rural, static, backward, and soaked in nationalism’ – yet ‘fashion…has had no qualms about incorporating all kinds of colorful elements from non-Western, including Russian, folk culture. The new demand is that designers engage with their national culture and dress tradition, but in such a way that it can be attractive to outsiders.’

Whilst the mittens and other items in the National Costume Centre weren’t presented as fashion items, I personally found it fascinating to see that colours and patterns often used as references in ‘folk style’ fashions were still being produced. Integral to their production and display was the notion that they were still being worn; a sense of national identity embedded in craftwork, and displayed in a strange contradiction of exhibit and commodity.

 

References:

Kawamura, Y. (2006) Fashion-ology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies. Oxford and New York: Berg

Reinach, S. S. (2011) National Identities and International Recognition” in Fashion Theory 15:2, pp.267-272

Skov, L. (2011) “Dreams of Small Nations in a Polycentric Fashion World” in Fashion Theory, 15:2 pp.137-156

Transgender representation in fashion – Part 2

By Siân Hunter

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as reality television star and former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner, poses in an exclusive photograph made by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine

Caitlyn Jenner by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine and released by Vanity Fair on June 1, 2015. 

In part 1 of this blog I explored the theory behind the ways we represent gender, using Judith Butler’s ideas of performativity. I will now apply this to representations of transgender individuals in fashion media.

Returning to Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, for her media debut as Caitlyn, her chosen look is incredibly feminine. After identifying as a gender that she felt unable to share for so long, it is understandable that when she finally presents this identity to the public it should strictly conform to its norms. As Butler writes, ‘Identifying with a gender under contemporary regimes of power involves identifying with a set of norms that are and are not realizable, and whose power and status precede the identifications by which they are insistently approximated.’ (Butler, 1993: p126).
Fashion as a mirror and a medium
As gender is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion, and there are debates surrounding the inclusions of more than two genders, it logically follows that fashion brands and press seek to be a part of this cultural conversation.

It is important to note that the transgender individuals currently represented in fashion all have a certain status. Caitlyn Jenner is an Olympic gold medal-winning athlete who has already ‘earned’ her place in the public eye, and Laverne Cox is an influential actor. Along with Andreja Pejic, all are conventionally attractive women who could easily ‘pass’ as female. Representations of transgender individuals are increasing, but only a certain category of transgender beauty is allowed to be seen.

& other stories

Advertising campaign from & Other Stories {source}

The rules for high street fashion are a little different to those luxury design houses that reserve substantial budget for spectacular runway shows and advertising campaigns. High street brands must appeal to a broader demographic and designs must be accessible. This makes & Other Stories’ use of an entirely transgender creative team for their The Gaze & Other Stories collection (see Appendix 6) an exceptional step forward for transgender representation in fashion. Not only is this a high street brand that sells at a much more affordable price point, but also the campaign was shot, styled, and modelled by transgender men and women.

It is important that the creation of these images is directed by transgender individuals. As Goldsworthy writes, ‘Fashion photography has always and almost exclusively been about and directed at women, but the images have almost always been created and controlled by men, and as such are inevitably suspect from a feminist perspective’ (Goldsworthy, 1988: p110). Only transgender individuals can truly know how they would want to be represented, so this campaign allows us some insight into how gender is envisioned by those who do not wish to be confined by norms.

The future of fashion and gender
As Butler suggests, ‘if sex does not limit gender, then perhaps there are genders, ways of culturally interpreting the sexed body, that are in no way restricted by the apparent duality of sex’ (Butler, 1999: p143). However, it is impossible to create new gender identities by constantly reinforcing the idea of male and female. As Butler writes, ‘The citing of the dominant norm does not, in this instance, displace that norm; rather, it becomes the means by which that dominant norm is most painfully reiterated as the very desire and the performance of those it subjects.’ (Butler, 1993: p133).

Just as fashion has been instrumental in the establishment of gender norms, so will it also be key to this assertion of gender potential. Just as the repeated presentation of exaggerated femininity and masculinity has cemented gender norms, so can new gender identities become established through the use of models who blur gender boundaries, through clothing that subverts gender norms, and through the involvement of creatives who understand the tensions and ambivalences of contemporary society.

References:

Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of “sex”. New York: Routledge

Butler, J. (1999) Gender trouble. Tenth Anniversary Edition. London: Routledge

Goldsworthy, L. (1988) ‘Commercial images of fashion’ in Ash, J. & Wright, L (eds) Components of dress. London: Routledge, pp. 110-113

Transgender representation in fashion – Part 1

By Siân Hunter

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as reality television star and former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner, poses in an exclusive photograph made by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as reality television star and former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner, poses in an exclusive photograph made by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine and released by Vanity Fair on June 1, 2015. REUTERS/Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair’s cover that launched Caitlyn Jenner into the public eye in June 2015 signified the growing importance and acceptance of transgender representation in fashion and popular culture. However, the styling of Jenner — and of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs — reproduces the traditional idealised femininity that permeates much of the fashion press and advertising. While the fashion industry can be key in expressing societal tensions and signal-boosting marginalised groups, there are still strict codes to which it must adhere. In this two-part blog I will explore the theory behind the representation of gender, both in the media and in everyday life and apply this to examples of transgender individuals who are present in the fashion media.

The gender binary
In Gender Trouble (1999), Judith Butler states that individuals ‘only become intelligible through becoming gendered in conformity with recognizable standards of gender intelligibility’ (Butler, 1999: p22). Gender norms are based on ideals of masculinity and femininity, in order to continue the ‘heterosexualization of desire’ (Butler, 1999: p24).

With the idealised ‘hyperbolic versions of “man” and “woman”‘ (Butler, 1993: p257), those who fail to fit specific ideals can risk punishment. In fact, the myth is believed over the lived experiences of individuals. As Simone de Beauvoir writes, if the feminine ideal ‘is contradicted by the behaviour of flesh-and-blood women, it is the latter who are wrong: we are told not that Femininity is a false entity, but that the women concerned are not feminine’ (de Beauvoir, 1949: p283).

The performativity of gender
According to Butler, gender norms are achieved ‘through a stylized repetition of acts‘ (Butler, 1988: p519) that include bodily gestures and movements as well as dress (Butler, 1999). In this way, gender is performative: the reality is only true to the extent that it is performed (Butler, 1988).

The desire for coherence in our identities causes this repetition of acts through our bodies, which in turn creates the illusion of a natural gender that is being expressed. Acts are repeated by other actors and the illusion continues as imitations of imitations proliferate. This construction of gender conceals the reality that it is based upon fiction (Butler, 1999). There is no such thing as a ‘real woman’ and yet fashion is complicit in the perpetuation of this myth. Magazines and brands rely on our desire to re-enact gender in order to sell their products.

In Part Two, I explore how gender is represented by fashion brands and the media. Click here to read Part Two.

References:

Butler, J. (1988) ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,’ Theatre Journal 40(4): 519-531

Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of “sex”. New York: Routledge

Butler, J. (1999) Gender trouble. Tenth Anniversary Edition. London: Routledge

De Beauvoir, S. (1949) The second sex. London: Random house