Below are two more papers that will be presented this coming Saturday May 7th at The Annual Research Symposium of the Fashion and Textiles: History, Theory, Museum Practice Program at FIT’s School of Graduate Studies.


By Ilene Hacker

Jacques Esterel, 1966 collections: "Mironton" (left), a Scottish-style plaid kilt ensemble, and "False Brother" (right), a vinyl pantsuit with zipped jacket ensemble. © AP/Wide World Photos.

Jacques Esterel, 1966 collections: “Mironton” (left), a Scottish-style plaid kilt ensemble, and “False Brother” (right), a vinyl pantsuit with zipped jacket ensemble.
© AP/Wide World Photos.

On May 3, 1968, student protests erupted in Paris in response to the conservative and outmoded system of Charles de Gaulle’s post-War France.  Factory workers joined the protest in a move that eventually brought the country to a halt.  The events of May 1968 led to a social upheaval, especially in regards to gender issues.  “The notion of a stable masculine ‘norm,’ that underpinned so many cultural ideas in the West, was dismantled by the shifting definitions of femininity, no longer seen as an ‘opposite’ that would remain poles apart from the ideals of strength, independence and rationality, previously viewed as the sole prerogative of men.”

The Parisian couturier Jacques Esterel, known most famously for designing Brigitte Bardot’s wedding dress, launched a couture unisex collection in February 1971.  The Institut National Audiovisuel in France has video footage of Esterel presenting the collection.  “Alice 71 in Wonderland” is partially narrated by Esterel, who lends insight not only into his own thought process but also the collective spirit of the post-1960s generation.

In the opening sequence, a male and female model walk hand-in-hand, smiling brightly and both wearing dresses.  “If I am attempting to dress men not as women, but rather put men in dresses, it does not mean that they have to, but that they can if they want to.  It is just another door towards freedom.” Unisex dressing represented a utopian dream for many, who were striving to achieve universal equality.

In this paper, I will use “Alice 71 in Wonderland” as a framework for analyzing the breakdown of the fashion system and the gender issues that resulted from the events of May 1968, as seen in extant garments, photographs, interviews and articles, and supporting the conclusion that periods of crisis are not only foreshadowed by, but also directly result in, changes in systems of dress.



By Elisa Koizumi


Black Panthers in New York City. Photograph by  David Fenton / Getty

Dress, the silent messenger, is one of society’s most powerful communicators.  The message is purely visual, and relies on how it resonates with the observer.  Further interactions are often informed by how one curates himself. Society relies on codified systems of dress, dictated by tradition, class, gender, age, environment or any combination of, and imposes a degree of expected adherence in order for the individual to be accepted. These are the norms that create cohesion within the societal groups.

Angela Davis of the The Black Panthers Party

Angela Davis of the The Black Panthers Party

Throughout history crisis events have caused upheaval to present patterns of dress, forcing new, or limited choices, thus creating change. For instance, war can choke supply, strong religious shifts might compel modesty, or a personal event can impact the contents of one’s wardrobe.

This paper will explore the converse, when the wearer uses fashion to convey a message. These are the messages without words that rely on visual signifiers to capture the essence of a motion. Demonstrative forms of dress can broadcast critical events and times.  In both cases, there is a response, but the emphasis of this paper will be to explore the deliberate act of using fashion, clothing or dress to methodically pull away from the surrounding norms to emit powerful messages, in the hope of persuading change. One is caused by change, the latter is in the effort of causing change; one is reflective, the other is performative

The central focus will be the Black Panthers; a group that used image and visual components to convey a message.  In their message, they conveyed the need for change as a result of generations of crisis that arose from racism in America.  I will assert that the impact of the Black Panther “look,” as an overall part of their presentation, had a persuasive influence and helped promote their message. As a group they used dress in an organized manner as a means of dissent, solidarity, unification, and identification, to add a visual conditions to a political agenda; dress became an extension of the group’s philosophy.  This group has been chosen as a case study because they illustrate the how cultural, racial, individual and political identities, are separate components that intersect through the power of dress.  In addition, the available documentation provides invaluable information for analysis, thesis development, and comparison. More importantly, the available documentation, which includes living party members, allows for an observation of the evolution of the relationship between fashion and reform. Lastly, it must be observed that the quantity and quality records is a result of the impact this group had on the media, and the media’s appetite for image-makers – and what this means in the modern age of communicating through the visual.



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She’s Got Legs on Unravel Podcast

I had the pleasure to be interviewed for the (relatively) new fashion history podcast Unravel. Jasmine Helms and Dana Goodin, two graduates of our program, have been doing such a great job in going deep into different aspects of fashion history.  It’s really one of the best fashion podcasts out there, make sure you check it out! tNEsNaXy_400x400

I had a conversation with Jasmine and Dana on the book I co-authored, She’s Got Legs: A History of Hemlines and Fashion. In addition to highlighting some of the themes and topics covered in the book I also go into details about the process of co-authoring, sourcing the images, and the pains of writing! You can listen to it on soundcloud or iTunes. I hope you can find the time to listen and let me know what you think.

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Below is another glimpse into the kind of papers that will be presented this coming Saturday May 7th at The Annual Research Symposium of the Fashion and Textiles: History, Theory, Museum Practice Program at FIT’s School of Graduate Studies.


By Laura Donovan

Harper's Bazaar cover, 1943. Photographer Louise Dahl Wolfe

Harper’s Bazaar cover, 1943. 

On June 14, 1940, the Nazi occupation of Paris began. The Fashion Group, an assembly of women formed in New York to promote and protect the business of fashion, called a meeting to discuss the impact this would have on American commerce. Having just recovered from the economic devastation of the Great Depression, it was pertinent to strategize a means of continued creation despite being cut off from French designs. Although some were hesitant to continue without the guiding force of Europe, it was decided that the best way to survive the uncertainty of war to promote a uniquely “American Look.” Despite hardships and limitations, professionals in the fashion industry joined together to forge a new direction that was uniquely suited for the contemporary American woman.

Harper's Bazaar cover, 1948.

Harper’s Bazaar cover, 1948.

Carmel Snow, a founding member of the Fashion Group and editor of Harpers Bazaar, was dedicated to promoting the new recurring motifs of patriotism, elegant escapism, and American style in her magazine. Assisting her with this endeavor was staff photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895-1989). A pioneer in the field of environmental fashion photography, and a visionary with color Kodachrome film, Dahl-Wolfe became one of the preeminent contributors to Harpers Bazaar during the World War II era. The extensive collection of Dahl-Wolfe’s fashion photographs offers visual documentation of this formative period.  Dahl-Wolfe’s photography exemplifies the themes adopted by Bazaar, and highlights even the most nuanced implications of World War II in American fashion.

In this paper, I will examine the photography Louise Dahl-Wolfe produced for Harpers Bazaar from 1938 to 1950. The images, along with copies of the magazines in which they originally appeared, will be analyzed as the extant manifestation of the American fashion industry’s reaction to the turbulent World War II era. Findings within these photographs will support the conclusion that the Louise Dahl-Wolfe photography collection is an important and unique primary source recording this formative period in American fashion.


By Taylor Elyse Anderson

Image credit Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Image credit Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

There is an undisputed fascination that surrounds the pink suit Jacqueline Kennedy wore the day her husband was assassinated. Currently stored at the National Archives in Washington DC, the suit will remain out of the public’s view until the year 2103. In a 2013 interview with the New York Times, museum curator Phyllis Magidson stated that if put on the display, the suit would “produce hysteria.” In that same article, author Catherine Horyn summarized the peerless historical significance of the suit writing, “curators cannot think of another historical garment imbued with more meaning, and also deemed too sensitive to be shown.”

Literature – both scholarly non-fiction and fiction – has addressed this iconic garment, exhaustively piecing together its unknown history, cultural significance, and fashion provenance. This paper does not intend to offer another piece of the suit’s historical puzzle. Rather, it uses Kennedy’s suit as a case study in considering the talismanic nature of cloth and clothes, particularly in tragedy, grief, and even its consequent sensationalism.

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Following are some of the fascinating papers which will be presented this coming Saturday May 7th at The Annual Research Symposium of the Fashion and Textiles: History, Theory, Museum Practice Program at FIT’s School of Graduate Studies.


By Doris Domoszlai-Lantner

Thierry Mugler Les Milteuses' Communist-style dress, Autumn/Winter 1986-87. Image source:

Thierry Mugler Les Milteuses’ Communist-style dress, Autumn/Winter 1986-87. Image source:

As the Soviet Union drew its last breaths, major design houses created collections that included garments and accessories, which drew upon its impending collapse. The year 1986 was particularly significant, as the Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s complementary policies, glasnost and perestroika, found their place on some of fashion’s greatest runways. Although houses such as Thierry Mugler and Yves Saint Laurent sent Soviet-inspired pieces marching down their Fall/Winter 1986 runways, the fashion world’s enfant terrible, Jean Paul Gaultier’s, collection was arguably the most expressive. Gaultier brushed past the overt Soviet militarism that his colleagues had drawn upon, and instead, focused on the early period in the union’s history during which the Russian Constructivist art movement formed and thrived.

1986-87 Jean Paul Gaultier russian collection on Harpers Bazaar cover

1986-87 Jean Paul Gaultier russian collection on Harpers Bazaar cover

With a stage and runway set to underscore the terminology and and philosophy of the Constructivists, Gaultier presented his collection as an homage to, and dialogue with, some of the Soviet Union’s most devoted, politically-charged, and prolific artists. In his collection, Gaultier utilized many of the techniques and motifs from the Constructivists’ body of work. He captured the essence of the Russian Constructivist aesthetic by integrating Cyrillic letters and numbers in block type, linear and geometric forms, and photomontage, in a color scheme that was analogous to, and nearly duplicated that of his Soviet comrades.’ Gaultier delved into the precarious social and political climate of the Soviet Union, drawing numerous connections between his own work and that of the Constructivists, and the USSR’s policies at the time.

Reverberations of this collection continue to be felt nearly three decades after its debut: it was featured on the cover of Harpers Bazaar Russia’s fifteenth anniversary issue, and is the basis for numerous contemporary designers’ collections. Undoubtedly monumental, Gaultier’s Russian Constructivist collection has a longstanding legacy that underscores its importance in fashion and Soviet history.



By Rebecca Love

bloomingdale bags

In the 1970s, Bloomingdale’s commissioned artists to create shopping bags for the store.

In his 1975 state of the Union address, President Gerald Ford was not optimistic. He said, “I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good.” As Ford went on to detail what was not working, it became clear that the root of the current crisis was the economy. He continued, “Prices are too high and sales are too slow … I’ve got bad news and I don’t expect much, if any, applause.” Starting in 1973, the United States had been struggling to maintain the fiscal strength and stability it had enjoyed since the end of World War II. A gas shortage, high unemployment, and massive national debt as a result of the Vietnam War were all parts of the economic downturn. In December of that same year, however, Time Magazine ran a cover story about the “U.S. Shopping Surge”, pointing towards “trendy Bloomingdale’s” as the center of this retail activity. At a time when it seemed like America and its people were running out of money, Bloomingdale’s was enjoying higher sales and peak popularity.

A large part of the success of Bloomingdale’s during this time was its creation of a shopping playland. Products and promotions centered around a setting that did not reflect the failing economy. Fashion had begun to turn away from the fussy precision and prohibitive expense of couture and Bloomingdale’s used this to its advantage. Bloomingdales launched its own boutique layout, embracing emerging designers as opposed to established couture labels. These designers were often given their own in-store boutique where shoppers could immerse themselves in the artist’s aesthetic without the obligation to buy. Similarly, Bloomingdale’s expanded  its cosmetics department, encouraging visitors to spend time at the counters to receive advice and makeovers. A longtime pillar of Bloomingdale’s success, the home furnishings department was celebrated in a 1973 home decorating book that featured such fantastical decor as cardboard furniture and a room designed to look like a cave. For New Yorkers living in a city where the economic collapse was especially destabilizing, Bloomingdale’s had become a place of fantasy. In 1973, Lori Gould wrote in the March 15th issue of New York Magazine, “What it all signifies, I think, is that Bloomingdale’s, at the ripe age of 100, may be the only store in the world that doesn’t act like a grown-up.”

This paper examines the financial and popular success of Bloomingdale’s between 1973 and 1975, a period during which the American economy was at its lowest point since before the second World War. Bloomingdale’s strength in the fashion sector is compared to the drop in sales suffered by other stores such as Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus. In the midst of high unemployment, union strikes, soaring inflation, an oil crisis, and what is described by economists as a national “malaise”, Bloomingdale’s sold fantasy in the form of a fashionable lifestyle, a model which proved especially effective for the store throughout the 1970s.



By Naomi Sosnovsky

Bracelet Place of creation: Germany Date: 1830s Material: cast iron Inventory Number: ЭРРз-809, Hermitage Museum

Bracelet Place of creation: Germany Date: 1830s Material: cast iron Inventory Number: ЭРРз-809, Hermitage Museum

“Gold to the Fatherland! I gave gold for defense; I took iron as an honor.” Born out of and nurtured by the crisis of war, the Prussian cast iron industry produced adornment that embodied the nation’s strong fighting nature and stirred deeply patriotic emotions among its people. German commemorative propaganda posters circulating during the Great War embodied the same nationalistic spirit saturating the country exactly one hundred years prior during Napoleon’s occupation. Originating in Prussia in 1806 and enduring through the 1871 unification of Germany, Berlin ironwork jewelry rooted itself in the country’s economy, architecture, and fashion.

Following an appeal by Princess Marianne of Hesse-Homburg in 1813, gold jewelry was given in trade for a cast iron surrogate as a means of raising funds for an uprising against Napoleon. The fashionably designed iron jewelry became widely popular most notably because it allowed for an understated demonstration of national pride.

This paper will explore a one-hundred year period of wartime fundraising and fashion using extant examples of jewelry, propaganda, and illustration in a study of romantic nationalism and German memory culture. In an exploration of the gendering of patriotism, iron jewelry will be investigated as an opportunity for female wartime contribution and a device for the public display of solidarity.

Samuel Neuberg


Henrietta-Lucy Dillon, the Marquess de La Tour du Pin’

Henrietta-Lucy Dillon, the Marquess de La Tour du Pin’

A pivotal moment in the foundation of modern European history, the French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. Not only a revolution of politics and ideas the Revolution was one of fashion as well. As Balzac observed the Revolution was “a debate between silk and broadcloth.” Influenced by progressive Enlightenment ideals, the Revolution saw the inversion of French social hierarchy as French citizens uprooted the centuries-old socio-political systems of the Ancien Regime; rejecting the systematic oppression which stratified French society into rigidly stratified social hierarchies recognizably categorized by strict sumptuary laws.  Aristocratic decadence was abhorred and the silk and satin fineries of the Ancien Regime were abolished in favor of universally plain and simple cloths of the people.

Written between 1820 and 1853, The Memoirs of Madame de La Tour du Pin provide a first person account of the radical changes brought on by the French Revolution. Born into the aristocracy of the Ancien Regime Henrietta-Lucy Dillon, the Marquess de La Tour du Pin’s memoirs cover her life at the court of Louis XVI, the crisis brought on by the Revolution, her life in exile as a political refugee, the trials of returning to France under the Directoire government, and her life during the first year of the Restoration. A witness to a rare moment in history Dillon’s memoirs are rich in their detailed descriptions of clothing and dress, tracking both the subtle and swift changes to fashion and dress brought on by the Revolution. Though much has been written broadly about fashion in France before, during and after the Revolution, Dillon’s memoirs offer fashion historians a unique opportunity to assess how the crisis of the French Revolution affected fashion and dress on an individual level.

For this paper I will engage in a critical analysis of Dillon’s memoir from the perspective of a fashion and dress historian, assessing the role that clothing and dressed played in mediating her transition from Ancien Regime aristocrat to political refugee of the French Revolution.  I will supplement Dillon’s written accounts of clothing and dress with contemporaneous works of visual culture in an attempt to illustrate  Dillon’s memoir and place it within the broader context of the political fashion revolution which rocked France in late eighteenth century.


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The Annual Research Symposium- Crisis as Catalyst in Systems of Dress

Crisis as Catalyst in Systems of Dress

Please join the students of the Fashion and Textiles: History, Theory, Museum Practice Program at FIT’s School of Graduate Studies for their  Annual Research Symposium this coming Saturday May 7th.

thats_torn POSTCARD rvsd 4-11  Fashion’s ability to mirror society is especially evident during times of crisis. The weakening or collapse of social stability is often directly reflected in changes in dress, which respond to the new behavioral norms created by political or economic turmoil. Fashion can provide a means of escape from harsh new realities or embody newly created aspirations for the future.

In this symposium, students in FIT’s MA program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice will present papers on a range of topics, exploring the effects of crisis on dress, from the French Revolution to the present day. From individuals to entire populations, people use dress as a tool for navigating the liminality of crisis. In the next couple of days leading to the symposium we will share with you the abstracts of the papers that will be presented. This event is free and open to the public. We hope you can join!


Saturday, May 7, 2016, noon–5 pm

Robert Lagary Board Room

Marvin Feldman Center, Ninth Floor

Fashion Institute of Technology

Seventh Avenue at 27th Street




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She’s Got Legs- The Book

She's Got Legs CoverThose of you who have followed the blog, must have noticed that beyond our lively facebook page I haven’t posted in almost two years. It’s not because I got lazy or shifted all my attention to posting links on FB, but because during this time I was laboring over my first book, She’s Got Legs, which comes out this week from Schiffer Publications. The book, co-authored with Jane Merrill, has really been a labor of love and I am so thrilled it is finally out. The book is a fashion history survey from antiquity to present day which aims to examine, study, and explore the relationship between body and clothes from the waist down.

We offer a lens from which to look at attitudes toward exposure, concealing, and shaping of the lower-body and a complexity of influences on beauty and body ideals through the ages. Some of the topics we cover are posture, undergarments and shaping of the body, sports and fashion, dance and fashion, the hemline history, and swimwear to name a few.


Please follow the book’s facebook page for announcements on book giveaways, talks, and other events, in addition to exclusive previews and sneak peeks. v3-shegotlegsINT-81

If you order the book on Amazon please leave us a review so we know what you think of the book!


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Interview: Tracy Jenkins talks to Christine Zhu

Tracy Jenkins and Christine Zhu are two graduates of our program. Last year Christine interviewed Tracy for the Biweekly art publication Packet. Tracy co-curated the graduate exhibition Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution, you can read the interview I did with her, here and here. I will let Christine take it from here:

For our special fashion issue (issue #32 // April 13, 2014), I decided to interview my friend, colleague, and classmate Tracy Jenkins. Tracy is currently working at the Costume Institute at the MET as a research assistant in the collections management department. She also teaches NYU’s student exhibition class, where the students are required to come up with a topic to center an exhibition around. I was actually in F.I.T.’s version of the class with Tracy, and thought it would be interesting to interview her because she experienced the class both as a student and as a professor.

 IMG_7045Christine Zhu: Hey Tracy! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview about your experience as the professor of the NYU Visual Culture: Costume Studies MA Program’s student exhibition class for Packet! Wow, that was a mouthful!

Tracy Jenkins: Hi Christine! You’re very welcome. Thank you for asking me to participate.

CZ: First of all, this is your first time teaching, right? I remember being in FIT’s version of the class with you, when you acted as co-curator, with Cassidy Zachary. Can you tell us a little about what you took away from that experience and how you applied it to the class you taught at NYU?

T.J: This was my first time teaching, yes. As you know, and as we’ll talk more about in a minute, the NYU class is structured differently from the one we took at FIT. From a teaching standpoint, this is ideal because I can borrow the most successful aspects of the FIT class and graft them onto mine. For example, the additional roles that each student must take on: registrar, exhibition design, graphic design, PR, and education. Working directly with the Museum at FIT taught us exactly what those roles encompass within an institution, which gave me a framework to present them to my students, who were essentially independent curators. I also made sure to include guest lecturers who could speak to different kinds and experiences of curation, as well as to ancillary duties such as fundraising, label writing, etc.


 CZ: I’m seriously loving this idea of a democratic approach to curating an exhibition and having eight curators, each responsible for choosing an object and researching it rather than just one curator’s vision. How did you arrive at this structure? What were some pros/cons to this approach?

TJ: It was actually nine curators! I cannot take credit for the approach; it is how the class, now in its third year, has been structured from its inception. I like that you used the word “democracy” in your question, because it’s an apt comparison. Everyone had a voice, and a vote, in every decision. It makes for some inefficiencies, but I think they are valuable ones, especially in a teaching environment. Part of the measure of success of the class, for me, is that each person feels ownership and agency. So you have very different, often opinionated, individuals working on a collective endeavor that has to result in a cohesive whole. Ultimately the choice of object and how to present it was the decision of each of the curators, but there were so many rich conversations leading to those choices that I’m not sure we would have explored had everyone not felt equally invested.

CZ: Can you describe how you/your class arrived at the topic: Runway Moments: New York Fashion Week?


TJ: We were several classes in to the semester without a topic, not yet a crisis but I think I had said we ought to pick something that evening. I had some ideas on the board to get started, and was soliciting suggestions. This was during the S/S shows in New York, so students were talking about current designers and what was going on in the collections. Then someone said, “what if our topic was New York Fashion Week?” and it just clicked. The vote was unanimous, myself included.

CZ: Let’s discuss the idea of the fashion show. Caroline Evans, in her new book, The Mechanical Smile talks extensively about how the fashion show was a reflection of modernity at it’s inception and solidification around the turn of the century – everything from the way the models moved, to the role of women, etc. Do you think this idea of the fashion show is still a reflection of modernity today?

TJ: Caroline Evans is a deeply brilliant thinker whom I will not do justice to with this response. Hmm, is there “modernity today”? How would you define it? I’m not sure what historical moment we’re in, with regard to modernity, post-modernity, or something else, but I do think that fashion shows are a direct reflection of their times, if that isn’t too simplistic an observation. Fashion mirrors and sometimes predicts the future, and its modes of presentation – including fashion shows — support and enhance that. To the extent that fashion shows have become part of popular culture, and are increasingly viewed by those outside the industry, they reflect those influences as well.

CZ: I f you were to include yourself as a curator in the exhibition planning process, what object and New York runway moment would you have chosen?

TJ: I have no idea! Is it strange that this never crossed my mind? My belated ideas would be to somehow represent Eleanor Lambert [who in the 1940s organized New York’s biannual fashion presentations into “Press Week,” which ultimately became New York Fashion Week], or Bill Cunningham’s work and/or street style during the shows. 

CZ: What qualities do you think make a good curator?

TJ: In no particular order: curiosity, openness, honesty, flexibility, decisiveness, diplomacy, collaboration, patience, humor, communication, and tenacity. Hand skills are also great. Be a Renaissance (wo)man, no matter what you do.

CZ: Were there any runway moments that your students decided to omit? Why?

TJ: There were. The most memorable example is a New York Times photograph taken by Bill Cunningham on September 11, 2001, of Fern Mallis consulting with staff outside the tents. The photograph was taken just after the attacks on the World Trade Center and captured part of the discussion that resulted in the decision to cancel all subsequent New York Fashion Week shows and events that season. The class supported the student’s choice and sensitive handling of this powerful moment, but she as its curator ultimately decided she would prefer not to include it.

IMG_7044CZ: The gallery space you worked with seems very limiting in terms of size. How did your students work around this?

TJ: It’s a small gallery with a great location and curb appeal, so that’s the trade off. Most of us had seen the previous year’s exhibition, so we had an idea of the space’s limitations going in. We made early visits to the gallery and spoke with the director and registrar about what was possible. One advantage was that we had only two dressed mannequins (out of a potential nine), which require a footprint that objects on the wall do not. We had a mandate to include media other than garments, which was a blessing in terms of utilizing a small space.

CZ: I really loved that Runway Moments featured various mediums such as video, text, photography, etc. that really engaged the viewer and kept their attention. I recall this being a non-negotiable requirement of our exhibition class, which was rather tedious to plan and install, but ultimately very rewarding. Can you describe this process?

TJ: It was non-negotiable from my point of view as well! The inclusion of mixed media is something the program director feels strongly about, and I agree. It’s both a practical and ideological consideration in this case: the space can’t easily accommodate a mannequin for every curator, nor is a dressed mannequin the best representation of most of the chosen runway moments. Curating an exhibition necessitates contextualizing the material in a way that communicates it successfully to the audience, be it through material objects, a recording of an event or performance, or a recreation through words and images. On a purely aesthetic level, I think that in a small space, mixed media makes for a visually appealing show. I also think that in the case of a fashion exhibition, it’s valuable to remind viewers that fashion does not equal clothing. Static garments are only part of the story; clothing on the fashionable bodies of its time, in motion, can add a necessary dimension, as can ephemera, recreation, etc.


 CZ: The show is comprised entirely of objects that were not borrowed from a museum. Can you talk a little about this alternative method of curating where everything has to be acquired rather than borrowed?

TJ: It’s the best of times and the worst of times. It’s great in the brainstorming phase because ideas are unfettered by the limitations of a collection. But then you realize certain “runway moments” don’t have extant objects, or none you can locate, or that there are other issues of space, time, and money. It’s a useful lesson in that much of curating, particularly without a collection to draw from, is logistical, sometimes tedious, work. But the investigation of alternate methods of presentation got us to some interesting places, and in many cases the curators’ ideas were better served by not finding a piece of clothing to represent them. Several objects were fabricated by the students themselves, which is not something most curators have to contend with.

Tracy Jenkins’ Required Texts

Greenberg, Reesa, Bruce W. Ferguson, and Sandy Nairne, Editors. Thinking about Exhibitions. London: Routledge, 1996. Chapters 10, 14, and 23: “Creating Spaces,” Gerald McMaster, pp. 191-200(10).

“Constructing the Spectacle of Culture in Museums,” Ivan Karp and Fred Wilson, pp. 251-267(17). “A Visual Machine: Art installation and its modern archetypes,” Germano Celant, pp. 371-386(16).

Karp, Ivan, and Steven D. Lavine, Editors. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. Chapter 1: “The Museum as a Way of Seeing,” Svetlana Alpers, pp. 25-32(8).

O’Doherty, Brian, and Thomas McEvilley. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. Chapter 1: “Notes on the Gallery Space,” pp. 13-34(22).

Prown, Jules David. “Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method,” Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring, 1982), pp. 1-19.

Rand, Steven and Heather Kouris, Editors. Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating. New York: apexart, 2007.

Steele, Valerie. “A Museum of Fashion Is More Than a Clothes-Bag.” Fashion Theory, Vol. 2, No. 4 (November 1998), pp. 327-335(9).

Taylor, Lou. “Doing the Laundry? A Reassessment of Object-based Dress History.” Fashion Theory, Vol. 2, No. 4 (November 1998), pp. 337-358(22).



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Patrick Kelly’s One Seam Coat

As part of their current exhibition, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is featuring a web tutorial on the construction of the designer’s one-seam coat. I analyzed Kelly’s technique and partnered with the PMA’s graphic design team to create this feature for the museum’s website. Kelly took a large piece of uncut fabric and used origami-like folds and a single seam to create an oversized cocoon coat. This technique of manipulating fabric instead of cutting and sewing separate pieces to achieve the desired shape has also been employed by designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga and Issey Miyake.

Photo and illustration of Patrick Kelly's one seam coat.

Photo and illustration of Patrick Kelly’s one seam coat.

See the tutorial here.

Patrick Kelly was active  in the 1980s but received little recognition when starting out as a fashion designer in the U.S. His career gained momentum after moving to Paris thanks to a one way ticket he received from an anonymous friend (later revealed to be from his friend and model Pat Cleveland). Kelly’s silhouettes celebrated the shape and size of every woman and his designs reflected his personal cultural background. Kelly’s short but prolific career came to an end when he succumbed to AIDS in 1990.

Patrick Kelly's Love List featured on Philadelphia Museum of Art's website.

Patrick Kelly’s Love List featured on Philadelphia Museum of Art’s website.

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CSA National Symposium 2014: Day 4

The last day of the symposium ties with Day 1 as the most impactful day of the symposium, for me. Rachel M. Sullivan, from Oregon State University presented on a comparison she worked on with Elaine L. Pederson about Western College’s dress styles from 1949 to 1957. Kimberly Chrisman Campbell, Jo Paoletti, and Petra Slinkard held a panel discussion entitled Beyond Material Culture: Sources for Scholarship. As a student  I took away from the presentation and panel tools on how to analyze sources.

Sullivan presented her methods for analyzing dress at Western College, which relied mostly on photographs from magazine editorials and yearbooks. Strong content analysis was her framework all of her sources were print related sources which is a skill that is not emphasized to students. Her completed work to date has resulted in a survey of 1950s women’s dress. Sullivan also has a formula for content analysis to either move forward or backward in the timeline to survey other styles of dress. When talking with her Sullivan is eager to expand her search to more regions in the same time period.

Campbell (an independent scholar), Paoletti (professor and lecturer), and Slinkard (Chicago History Museum) emphasized a depolarization in the way scholars use garments/ accessories and print sources. The arguments made by the presenters included the idea that garments and accessories may not be available to you as a scholar, does that make your work less valid? Does focusing on a specific designer or rich individual limit the scope of dress/costume study? How does access, student vs. independent scholar vs. museum professional, restrict study? The roundtable discussion was lively, the participants and presenters had strong opinions. And while most of the questions were not resolved, as a student observing the interactions between scholars was very eye opening. Many participants saw a strong necessity to think of the garment and then other sources while others agreed that every source that supports the scholars argument should be valued equally. If the roundtable did nothing else, it inspired conversation about changes that could be made to how we think about sources.

The final day was bittersweet. This was my first introduction to many contributors to dress and costume scholarship. Reading an article or book by a contributor is not the same as interacting with them in person. I met students from other programs like NYU, University of Rhode Island, and … who were passionate and as wide eyed as I was. I interacted with founding members and veteran scholars as well as museum professionals that were as new to the CSA as I was.  I want to encourage any student to attend the CSA or any other symposium/conference because interacting with knowledge in real time is worth the ticket price. While there is always room for improvement in any organization, overall the words I would use to describe my experience are warm, inspiring, and fun.

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CSA National Symposium 2014: Day 3


Houndstooth Suit worn by Jacqueline Kennedy on the campaign trail via The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Houndstooth Suit created by Bob Bugnand and worn by Jacqueline Kennedy via The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The third day of the symposium started off with presentations that had a central theme of ingenuity and the different forms ingenuity takes. Ariele Elia, curator at the Museum at FIT and a FIT graduate, gave the first presentation and focused on copyright law and fashion. The next presentation was given by David E. Lazaro, costume curator at Historic Deerfield, and discussed New England’s adoption of Dior’s New Look style. And lastly Susan Neill, independent scholar and museum consultant, gave a much needed biography of Bob Bognand’s couture and ready to wear career. Elia, Lazaro, and Neill presented on the concept of ingenuity which is not often discussed allowing for familiar subjects to be re-explored, like copyright and the New Look.

First Elia gave an introduction to copyrights throughout fashion history.   The copying of high fashion objects was a legal practice and still is today. Elia, in conclusion to her presentation, proposed solutions to protecting intellectual property. She posed the question: Do the counterfeit copies of high fashion objects dilute or popularize the original/genuine work.

Lazaro emphasized the importance of the dissemination of idea of the New Look skirt from an exclusive garment to the the uniform of a New England college student. He thought critically about the definition of the New Look, how the silhouette changed in New England, and what the advertisements could offer as source materials to interpret the effect of the New Look on the inhabitants of New England. As a student I thought his approach was simplistic but necessary.

With a fashion history biography Neill stressed the dynamism of Bob Bugnand to transition and thrive as a designer when many of his colleagues closed up shop after the 1960s. She used extant garments and Bugnand’s design archive at FIT to articulate his marketing savvy at a time when couture houses were rapidly closing.

Portrait of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, George D'Almaine after Gilbert Stuart, 1856, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Charles Joseph Bonaparte, xx.5.78

Portrait of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, George D’Almaine after Gilbert Stuart, 1856, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Charles Joseph Bonaparte, xx.5.78

The rest of the day was dedicated to exploring the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS). As a native Marylander I was excited to see the new exhibits and the upgrades to their facilities. The exhibition most interesting to a fashion and textiles historian is entitled: “Woman of Two Worlds:” Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy. The exhibition highlights Bonaparte’s live and includes several extant textile objects and a few garments which were in the permanent collection. When not viewing the permanent exhibitions at the (MdHS) many symposium goers snuck in some research at their library, myself included. I focused my energy on preliminary studies on sumptuary law and its effect on slave dress. The symposium has worked its magic to inspire new scholars and students!

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