The fashion archive at Nordiska Museet, Stockholm

Pre-tied Regency cravat, made from silk satin

Academic studies of fashion are frequently theory-heavy, with texts such as Yuniya Kawamura’s Fashion-ology (2004) even going as far as to assert that fashion should not be about garments at all, being a sociological concept. But the clothes do matter: unlike in The Emperor’s New Clothes, we do not go about dressed in ideas alone (Andersen, 1837). In my opinion, fashion scholars shouldn’t forget about garments – and archives are a fantastic resource for accessing them.

The Royal Thermals

One of the courses during my study exchange at Stockholm University was a unit on material culture methodologies. We were taught a range of scholarly methods to best analyse an object, to discover how society has led to its making, and how it embodies its contemporary ideologies. A visit was organised to Nordiska Museet, where we met with two archivist-curators of women’s and men’s historical dress, and the archive conservationist. They had prepared a range of Regency era pieces from Sweden. We students worked in groups to analyse and speculate on the garments, before the archivists told us about the pieces in more detail – leading to a few surprise discoveries!

Regency dresses, for party and everyday

Regency clothing styles are surely very familiar to the British, thanks to the British affinity for period drama of the Jane Austen kind. It was therefore very interesting to see how these cuts and silhouettes were transported to, and translated within Sweden – adapted to cultural temperaments and local climate conditions. We saw a range of garments: delicate woollen thermal underwear for a queen, complete with lace crown motifs (in case she forgot her position? This was shortly after the French Revolution, after all!). A well-worn silk dress in an ikat weave, arsenic green with an inner boned bodice. A sky blue brocade ball gown, worn by a countess.

Scandinavian tailoring for cold countryside winters

My favourite piece was a woollen tail coat, very heavy and strong, lined in thick linen. It was warped and misshapen, obviously worn in winter snows, with sleeve linings taken from a different jacket, and with multiple pockets. The conclusion? It was worn by a fashionable farmer. Surprisingly stylish for work wear, this good-looking functionality is surely an early embodiment of Scandinavian cool.

Many thanks to Nordiska Museet for permission to take and share these photographs.

References
Andersen, H.C. (1837). The Emperor’s new clothes. Denmark: C.A. Reitzel

Kawamura, Y. (2004) Fashion-ology: an introduction to fashion studies. Oxford and New York: Berg

Nordiska Museet website

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Study Exchange with Stockholm University: Part II

By Anushka Tay

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Swedish designers at the Utopian Bodies exhibition, Liljevalchs, Stockholm February 2016

In Part I of this series on my Erasmus exchange whilst on MA Fashion Cultures, I discussed some of the academic differences between LCF and Stockholm. In this blog post, I dwell on some of the practical considerations of doing a study exchange. 

Finance
There’s no way around it: Stockholm is an expensive city, and if you’re hoping to do a study exchange, start saving now! As the exchange is organised via Erasmus, you’ll automatically be eligible for a grant from Erasmus+. This won’t be enough to cover your rent, but will go some way towards paying for food and local travel. Be aware that you don’t receive all the money upfront, so arrange your financial affairs so that you don’t run into cash-flow problems.

I also successfully applied for means-tested grants through UAL: the Access to Learning Fund and the Final Year Award. These took several months in total to apply for, so start the paperwork as early as you can. It’s a long-winded process, so I advise maintaining a positive relationship and regular e-mail contact with your advisor from the finance office whilst completing the application.

Accommodation
It is notoriously difficult to find accommodation in Stockholm; simply put, there is a lack of housing available on the rental market. If you’re considering doing this exchange in the coming academic year, I advise getting the application forms completed as soon as possible, so that you can apply for student housing via Stockholm University. This really is the best option not just socially but practically, as it is really difficult to find a room in Stockholm on your own. Contact the Erasmus co-ordinators for information regarding housing. If you’re told (as I was) that the university has run out of accommodation at the time of application, don’t worry – you are very likely to be offered last-minute accommodation as people tend to drop out.

Stockholm is a small city, and if you’re used to London commuting times, living outside of the city centre will be a breeze. I was unfortunately unable to get student accommodation from the university, but ended up feeling thankful to find anything at all. My (shoebox) room was 30 minutes to the city centre on the fringes of Zone A, and was only a minute from a national park. It’s even easier to find rooms that are further out (a 45-60 minute commute is not abnormal for London but far by Stockholm standards), where you are likely to have a larger and cheaper room.

Try Housing Anywhere and the Stockholm Facebook groups: Looking for flatshare, Lappis, Kungshamra, Erasmus Stockhholm.

Money
Sweden is a pro-card country, with many places even refusing to take cash. Setting up a Swedish bank account is not straightforward, and as as the study exchange is less than 6 months, it’s not really worth the hassle. I applied for a UK credit card which offered overseas spending at no extra cost; and opened another UK current account that allowed me to make cash withdrawals overseas via debit card with no surcharge. See Money Saving Expert for which banks are the best at the time.

Work
I didn’t manage to find a job whilst in Stockholm, but other students have managed to pick up language teaching and tutoring/child minding jobs. Be aware that this presents a whole new set of concerns though as officially you must register into the Swedish system and get a Personnummer (personal identity number), even as an EU citizen. This is notoriously bureaucratic, as in order to get a P-nummer you need a Swedish bank account and permanent Swedish address; whilst in order to get a Swedish bank account you need a P-nummer!

Language
Finally, rest assured that nearly all Swedes are multi-lingual, and you will be able to get around perfectly fine speaking English. The university’s websites usually have English language options, but these are quite clunky; you’ll do better just to use Google Translate, which happens automatically on the Chrome browser. Be aware that the most problems I have encountered with the language barrier has been at the library, when searching for English-language resources, as there are often fewer copies of texts in English. Whilst there is a selection of core texts in fashion studies, the library just does not have the extensive, arts-specific catalogues that are available to us at UAL. Nonetheless, we are in the fortunate position to be able to simultaneously use UAL’s extensive online databases. Thank goodness for e-resources!

Outside of school, I have met a few people (usually older Swedes, but not always) who only spoke Swedish, but this is fairly uncommon, especially when you consider how few Brits are bi-lingual! Beginner Swedish language courses are available at Stockholm University, and you can enrol for free. I recommend the class as a great way to meet people!

Study Exchange with Stockholm University: Part I

By Anushka Tay

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My snowy Stockholm campus

In the autumn, shortly after starting the MA Fashion Cultures course, we were given the opportunity to do an Erasmus exchange with Stockholm University. Although study exchanges are pretty common in the humanities, it’s less usual to find opportunities at art school universities. Whilst many of my classmates are international students that moved to London specifically to study at London College of Fashion, I’m a home student. So, I decided to take the plunge, trade in British rain for Swedish snow, and spend the spring semester studying in Stockholm.

This initiative was started by our current course leader, Dr Shaun Cole, but I’m the first student at LCF to go to Stockholm University; and similarly, no one from the MA Fashion Studies programme in Stockholm has yet gone to LCF. So, I was given this rather daunting task of setting the precedent for what will hopefully become strong links between students of both institutions.

Stockholm University is one of the few places in the world to offer a dedicated Masters programme dedicated to the academic study of fashion. As a more humanities- and science-based institution, however, exchange programmes across the whole university are common and very established. What I found exciting was the opportunity to choose from a selection of courses to study within the wider Institute of Media Studies, which the Fashion Studies Centre is part of. I took three options: two in Fashion Studies, and one in the Cinema Studies programme. I could have taken more courses related to film, journalism and media; but decided that fashion courses might be the most relevant. In hindsight, however, I would urge future students to consider taking a range of units, as this could feed into your research and study approach in a way that you didn’t expect.

Having now studied here for over two months, I’ve been taught by several different lecturers, including two PhD students. The courses are of course heavily influenced by the teachers’ own research topics and published work; so a true wealth of knowledge about Alfred Hitchcock was imparted by Jan Olsson during my film studies course in Hitchcock, in light of his recent book. Nonetheless, all courses have embraced the Swedish ‘democratic’ teaching method, whereby a formal lecture platform is eschewed in favour of a seminar format, and a huge mandatory reading list. The degree of informality differs with each teacher of course, but overall all staff have encouraged comment and discussion during classes. The trouble here is that the Swedish are famously reserved (even more than the British, it turns out!) and it has frequently been difficult to get into real debates. I’m not sure if absolutely everyone in Stockholm has this experience in their classes, but I’d advise future students to be aware of this and be prepared to talk a lot yourself!

As my study exchange nears its end, I’m simultaneously beginning preparation for the Masters project back at LCF. In the next part of this series on the exchange, I’ll discuss more practical considerations of moving abroad for four months.