Welcome to the first edition of the fashion history round-up! Each week I will be writing a summary of all the things that have inspired me during the past seven days. These could be announcements about new exhibitions or museum openings, inspiring articles I have read and book releases I am anticipating, and social media posts that I find engaging and interesting. I hope you will all appreciate these posts and will find them useful! These weekly blog posts will accompany Instagram stories, so make sure you are following me at @whatgrandmawore.
#1 – Book release from fashion historian Kimberly Christman-Campbell.
Campbell’s Worn on This Day (you may already follow her Twitter and Instagram accounts @wornonthisday), will be released in the UK at the end of November. This book explores the various narratives surrounding items of clothing worn on particular calendar days or occasions from January to December.
Using a variety of material culture, Campbell’s stories will vary from the funny to the poignant, juxtapositions which echo the physical contrasts of items that are stored side by side within museum and dress collections. The book will demonstrate why all garments have a chance of entering museum collections and why so many should be saved as possible, in order to communicate the diverse histories of their wearers.
Since I am so interested in the ‘ghosts’ of individuals attached to clothing within fashion collections, I look forward to reading this!
#2 – The Costume Institute releases the theme for its 2020 exhibition!
Fashion history obviously, well, resolves around time, and this will be the theme for the Institute’s upcoming exhibition in 2020. Late last week curator Andrew Bolton announced that the exhibition will be called ‘About Time: Fashion and Duration.’
A broad theme (you could really exhibit a lot of concepts with this one), the relationship between fashion and time is complex. Discussions surrounding the chronological lifespan of clothing has previously been discussed in relation its place within museum collections. In the past, curator Valerie Steele has debated whether a museum becomes a ‘cemetery’ for ‘dead clothes,’ and Ulrich Lehmann has analysed fashion’s tenancy to ‘jump back,’ into the past for inspiration with relation to Walter Benjamin. This ‘tiger’s leap,’ or ‘tigersprung’ back into the past may alter our perceptions of history.
In a statement by The Met:
‘a linear chronology of fashion comprised of black ensembles will run through the exhibition reflecting the progressive timescale of modernity, and bringing into focus the fast, fleeting rhythm of fashion. Interrupting this timeline will be a series of counter-chronologies composed of white ensembles that predate or postdate those in black, but relate to one another through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration.’
Virginia Woolf will be the narrator of the exhibition, an interesting combination of fashion and literature. I look forward to seeing how The Met handles the topics of time and duration, whilst perhaps reflecting on the ephemeral nature of clothing.
#3 – An article written by Huma Qureshi for The Guardian
Huma Qureshi published a poignant and moving article in The Guardian this week which led me to think about the power of clothing to invoke memory and emotion.
The article, ‘Fashion Addiction: Expensive Clothes Hid My Loneliness – Then I Gave 90% of Them Away,’ details Qureshi’s experiences of using clothing as pacifier to combat negative emotions during her time away at university and after the passing of her father.
I found this article moving and fascinating because I could resonate with Qureshi’s experiences- and I think many others will too. It sheds light on why the study of material culture is so compelling, and how we interact with objects during times of mourning and emotional stress. Qureshi’s wardrobe is loaded with emotional significance, marking key moments and events in her life. The article offers a psychological perspective into why we buy, when we are more likely to buy, and what we buy during times of bereavement and sadness. Can we replicate happiness through the consumption of material goods?
At the end of the article, after meeting and marrying her partner, Qureshi gives or sells most of her clothes away. The garments loaded with meaning are no longer necessary for Qureshi to carry during the next chapters of her life. This ending prompted me to question the lifecycle of clothes and the memories attached to garments – when do we feel ready to give these objects away?
#4 – Instagram post by @millywdresshistorian
Milly Westbrook, a final year fashion and dress history student posted an image of this Egyptian dress dated to 2551-2528 BC. Currently held within the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, this post blew my mind, simply because it is a fantastic example of how clothing can survive all the odds to make its way into a museum collection. Something to take away from this post – the painstaking work of conservators – these are the people behind the scenes maintaining these fantastic garments which give us an idea of fashion and dress thousands of years ago during the reign of King Khufu.
27.1548.1. Beadnet dress. 2551–2528 B.C. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/146531
#5 – Instagram post by @fatfashionhistory
Do you follow Lauren Downing Peters PhD on Instagram? @fatfashionhistory is an account detailing the research Peters has conducted on the history of plus-sized fashion. In her most recent post, Peters announced that after several months of research at the Columbia College Chicago, several anatomically-correct and plus-size mannequins have arrived for fashion students to mount and to cut garments from. This coincides with hiring faculty staff with specialisations in plus-size clothing and pattern-making.
We know that how dress is displayed within museum galleries is crucial in regards to how museum audiences interpret the historical body and ideals of the past. Mannequins can be used to show how garments would have been worn on the body, but can equally warp our beliefs on body culture.
This will ultimately transform how fashion students work with clothing and patterns. It is promising to see some variety in how we interpret the shape of bodies in fashion history and curation. Innovative campaigns such as Peters’ will only encourage prospective research in body culture.
Make sure you check back next Monday for the latest weekly round-up! Thank you to all of those mentioned above who have allowed me to feature them in this post.