Dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of fashion from an academic perspective, the quarterly journal Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture views fashion as a cultural phenomenon, offering the reader a wide range of articles by leading Western and Russian specialists, as well as classical texts on fashion theory. From the history of dress and design to body practices; from the work of well-known designers to issues around consumption in fashion; from beauty and the fashionable figure through the ages to fashion journalism, fashion and PR, fashion and city life, art and fashion, fashion and photography — Fashion Theory covers it all.
In this issue's Dress section, we once again take a closer look at the textiles which changed the world. In Stronger than Steel, Finer than Gossamer, Julia Demidenko attempts a brief overview of the growth of silk- making. Tracing the evolution of this five-thousand-year-old craft, the author focuses not only on the geographic spread of silkworm farming
from East to West, but also on other changes, such as the shift from manual to industrial production and back thanks to the revival of ancient methods of producing the noble fabric.
In Crushed, Hammered and Smashing: Velvet in Medieval Europe, Iri- na Mikhailova uses a wealth of diverse sources to look at the history of the luxurious cloth in Europe in the Middle Ages. At that time, Eastern, Italian and French-made velvet was used in European countries, where the rich fabric was used to stress the high social status of its wearer, and his or her belonging to the best circles of the wealthy. By offering velvet to Catholic and Orthodox monasteries, people could show their devotion to their chosen religion. In Russia, where some pagan beliefs persisted, brightly coloured, festive velvet was used in ancient semantically complex rites, and associated with solar and fertility motifs.
Elena Bespalova offers Baksts Textiles. The textile designs created by Leon Bakst have, sadly, today been largely forgotten, yet in his day, the artist known for his work with Diaghilev's famed Ballets Russes in Paris was highly acclaimed as a textile designer. The sketches for fabrics created by Bakst for the theatre and for everyday use reveal a remarkable wealth of motifs. The artist produced abstract, floral and themed designs, achieving particular virtuosity with his geometrical patterns. In her paper, Bespalova examines the surviving fabrics attributed to Bakst, and suggests that a large part of the artist's legacy as textile designer still awaits discovery.
The Body section deals with feet and legs and the way they have been adorned in different times and different cultural contexts — in other words we focus on shoes.
Paola Zamperini offers A Dream of Butterflies? Shoes in Chinese Culture. Perhaps due to the hypnotic effect that China's tradition of female foot-binding has exercised on outside observers, the different types of Chinese footwear and centuries-old traditions associated with it, have largely been neglected by European experts. The complex views on, and attitudes towards, footwear in China have likewise received little scholarly attention. In her paper, Zamperini demonstrates the wealth of sources available to researchers, focusing in particular on a description of one of the periods in China's long history of boot-making. Examining diverse material from archaeological findings in ancient tombs, to literary works, writings on etiquette, fashion magazines and websites, the author presents her views on the complex and broad semantics of footwear in Chinese culture over the ages and up until the present day.
Andrea Vianello offers Courtly Lady or Courtesan? The Venetian Chopine in the Renaissance. The chopine was a type of footwear worn in Europe by noblewomen and commoners alike between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. Made of cork or wood, the soles of chopines could be up to 50 centimetres thick. Not just an item of footwear or a fashion statement, the chopine was a special shoe, capable of imparting to passers-by quite precise information on the status and personality of its wearer. In the sixteenth century, the boundary between the admirable and the deplorable, model behaviour and disgraceful lifestyle could be drawn by a few crucial extra centimetres of platform sole on a woman's chopines.
Alison Matthews David presents War Wellingtons: Military Footwear in the Age of Empire. The nineteenth century was a time of European military imperialism. With frequent military campaigns, troops were constantly on the march, and the state of an army's feet could play an important role in the outcome of this or that venture. If, in the nineteenth century, the provision of footwear for simple soldiers was managed quite abominably, by the early twentieth the design of army boots had improved a great deal. The muddy trenches of the First World War were to become the bloody testing ground for such novelties as rubber Wellington boots. The author describes the short "Blucher" boots worn by humble infantrymen in the nineteenth century, and the Wellingtons sported by officers, demonstrating how class politics influenced the design, details and supply of army footwear between 1800 and 1918.
Valerie Steele's Shoes and the Erotic Imagination focuses on the fetish aspect of shoes, which prove to be highly sexualized objects in society.
Christopher Breward presents Fashioning Masculinity: Men's Footwe ar and Modernity. Contrary to the commonly held view that masculinity and shopping are incompatible, a trip to the shops to buy a good pair of shoes has long been accepted as an important item on the agenda of any self-respecting male. For most men, shopping for shoes is a commercial undertaking requiring at least some attention to matters of cost and comfort. The author attempts to prove that the attention accorded to men's footwear over the last two centuries is a clear illustration of the aesthetic principles governing taste and perceptions of modernity and gender structure, which go far beyond the simple notion of a "covering for the feet". Breward also notes that today, traditional men's footwear still retains a strong connection with early nineteenth-century discourse and rhetoric of dress.
Alison Gill's The Rhetoric of Sneakers takes a closer look at the iconic sports shoe, revered by millions of shopaholics. The passion it inspires is not merely consumer fever or irrational craving: in order better to understand the powerful attraction of trainers and the importance they assume for their proud owners, be they collectors or simply fans, the author carries out a thorough study. A symbol of excellent performance and aesthetics, this type of footwear combines fashion and functionality. Indeed, sports footwear has come to be associated with speed, power, endurance and prowess, as well as sporting history, style and outlook. For passionate lovers and avid collectors of trainers, the special rhetoric of sports shoes plays an important part in the creation of new categories of dress.
The Culture section this time around deals with new world fashion centres and opens with Marie Riegels Melchior's From Design Nations to Fashion Nations? Unpacking Contemporary Scandinavian Fashion Dreams. To many people, the link between Scandinavia and design is still a familiar story of functionalism and the social democratic welfare states of the twentieth century. But until recently the Scandinavian countries — Denmark, Norway, and Sweden — had not sought to connect themselves with fashion design. This, however, has changed since the turn of the millennium. Present-day government institutions, industry organizations, fashion media, and industry form partnerships that not only give the fashion industry a prominent status in de-industrialized economies, but also potentially change the image of the nations. In this article the author unfolds what she terms the fashion dreams of the Scandinavian countries in order to examine what their experiences tell us — on one hand, the role of fashion for the nation, and on the other hand, the contribution of national governments to the polycentrism of the fashion world.
Jo Teunissen contributes his paper Deconstructing Belgian and Dutch Fashion Dreams: From Global Trends to Local Crafts. Fashion design in Belgium and the Netherlands developed following radically different paths. Enjoying industry support, Belgian designers created new brands in order to achieve commercial success. In the Netherlands however, financing came from grants, and a greater degree of experimentation prevailed. Keeping the Belgian scenario in mind, the author examines the less fully researched Dutch case. In their attempt to support and develop Dutch designer fashion, designers in the Netherlands increasingly turned to the country's art and cultural traditions. In their different historical situations and industrial conditions, the cultures of dress in Belgium and the Netherlands grew to adopt different concepts of national identity in fashion, the author concludes.
In the Museum Business column we offer Alexandra Palmer's Untouchable: Creating Desire and Knowledge in Museum Costume and Textile Exhibitions. The author examines various intellectual and physical challenges of exhibiting costumes and textiles in European and North American museum settings, where artifacts cannot be handled or physically experienced by visitors. The paper looks at museological and commercial solutions, suggesting reasons for the various approaches taken to collections and ongoing rotating displays. Palmer also describes her own experiences with costume and textile displays in a number of institutions in the USA and Canada since the 1980s.
In the Fashion Practice column we present a series of short interviews with Fashion Design graduates of the British Higher School of Art and Design. The interviews are accompanied by works from the budding designers' debut collections.
In Books section in The Beauty of Political Action, Ksenia Gussa- rova reviews Miller M.L. Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2009.
In Mutual Reflection: Fashion and Music, Vera Yudintseva reviews Janice Miller's Fashion and Music. Oxford; N.Y.: Berg, 2011.
Masafumi Monden's Significant Hairstyles looks at Galia Ofek's Representations of Hair in Victorian Literature and Culture. Ashgate, 2009.
Aesthetics above Politics by Alexander Siu examines Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style by Kathy Peiss. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
Alexander Markov in People, animals and saints in black reviews Michel Pastoureau's Noir: Histoire d'une couleur. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2008.
In Events section Bella Neyman presents The Conversation that Never Happened: a review of the "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, New York, 10 May — 19 August 2012.
In Aristocrats and the Stage, Ksenia Shcherbino reviews the "Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950" exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, 19 May 2012 — 6 January 2013.
On the Helmut Newton exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris (24 March — 17 June 2012), Maria Khachaturian presents Sexuality, Newton-Style.
In Field Research column Liuba Bakst in The reds start and lose? traces history behind colour red and its revolutionary connotations and the red ribbon in particular which just like white ribbon nowadays once served as a symbol of the protest movement.