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.
This issue's Dress section is devoted to vintage clothing.
Heike JenB contributes Dressed in History: Retro Styles and the Construction of Authenticity in Youth Culture. Based on ethnographic research among members of the Sixties scene in Germany, the article investigates dress practices involved in the construction of an authentic retro style. The key questions posed are: in what ways are body and dress charged with the meaning of authenticity, and how does authenticity in the world of objects relate to the subject? This analysis of the Sixties scene and of the commercialization of authenticity among the brands Retro-fame and Adidas shows that authenticity is not an immanent feature of objects or of identity, but a matter of negotiation among cultural actors.
Marilyn DeLong, Barbara Heinemann and Kathryn Reiley present Hooked on Vintage! This article was inspired by the craze for vintage seen in recent years. Vintage clothing became extremely popular in the 1980s: the trend was not caused by shoppers' need to buy secondhand clothing or to shop at special sales. The authors began to study the secondhand clothing market in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. With virtually all types of vintage represented, the researchers strove to establish what sets vintage items apart from other secondhand dress and from the clothing sold in bulk at sales. In order to clarify what stands behind consumer interest in this area and to gain more insight into shoppers' behavior, the authors compiled a questionnaire and spoke to five very different women. All five had for at least a decade worked at creating a clearly recognizable and striking individual style through the use of quality vintage clothing.
Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett offer The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer. Amongst other effects, particularly with young consumers the current economic climate appears to have contributed to the trend of acquiring and reusing vintage clothing, accessories, and homeware products. The popularity of vintage has also been linked to a change in consumer attitudes towards wearing and utilizing secondhand goods. In addition to this change in attitudes, other factors that contribute to the growth of the vintage trend include a change in values, the inclusion of vintage inspirations in current designs by fashion designers, and in the trends marketed by the forecasting sector, eco-sustainability, the media, and technology. Vintage consumers and vintage retailers also appear to share the viewpoint of the movement towards vintage fashion that has been assisted by a reaction against mass-produced fast fashion, as consumers strive for more individuality in their styling and garments. Eco-fashion and sustainable fashion ideals have emerged as solutions to the environmental issues currently inherent in the industry's manufacturing processes. They have government and pressure group support. This ideal and practice complement the vintage trend phenomenon. The article explores the principal issues, habits and demographics behind vintage consumption in the UK in order better to understand the appeal and scope of this growing trend.
In this issue's Body section we return to the topic of boundaries of the body.
In her short essay On the Origins of the Art of Reflection, philosopher and cultural expertElena Melnikova-Grigorieva claims that the art of reflection begins with recognizing the boundaries of the body, or skin. Considering a wide range of definitions of the art, Melnikova-Grigorieva focuses on those that speak of conscious creative simulatory activity. Her main interest lies in the origin and development of self-consciousness.
In Dress and the Garden: The Japanese Body's Two Lines of Defense, the well-known historian and Japan specialist Alexander Meshcheryakov examines the Japanese practice of protecting body and soul from the various perils of this world. The issue of protection was enormously present in everyday Japanese culture, be it safeguarding from dangerous deities or spirits, living people, wild untamed nature or other creatures and phenomena that threaten one's health or very life. Various methods of protection were employed: armed protection, medical techniques, prayers and rituals to ward off danger. In this article, the author focuses on two lines of defense that were set up by Japanese in their daily lives in order to prevent intrusion in their body's 'force field'. Dress and the garden were used as protective 'shells', encasing the body to keep it safe from harm.
Changing Bodies: Demons as Illusionists by Dmitry Antonov looks at demons, the most changeable characters in medieval texts and illustrations. Constantly changing masks and images, appearing under different guises, the demons would finally melt away like smoke upon being unmasked and banished. The devil's many faces are a consequence of his flawed nature. Fallen spirits exist at the limits of being merely thanks to the will of God, their inadequacy manifested in the absence of a permanent image. Incapable of assuming any lasting form, they are many-faced and 'gaudy'. They contain no light, so are completely dark. Demons are callous liars constantly bent on one thing — tempting people and leading them astray. To achieve their aim, devils can take on the form of humans, angels, animals and monsters. Forever shifting shape, they attack saints or deceive them into committing sins. In texts and illustrations, demons are constantly moving outside the boundaries of their own bodies — whatever these may be. They don illusory bodies — those of humans, angels or beasts — as people put on new clothes each time they go out. Antonov looks at the guises most commonly assumed by demons in old Russian texts and examines how medieval artists depicted these ghostly body-masks.
Elena Yarskaya-Smirnova and Pavel Romanov contribute Boundaries of the Body: The Biopower of Public Anatomy. The article was prompted by the exhibition 'Mysteries of the Body. The Universe Within', which was held in Moscow in the spring and summer of 2013. The exhibit is the brainchild of cooperation between The Universe Within Project, Orlando Science Center and the Hong Kong Anatomical Sciences and Technologies Foundation in 2007. It showcases real human bodies that have been through a process of plastination, whereby body fluids are replaced with liquid plastic. The handling of dead bodies has always been associated with various ethical norms, regulations, taboos and prejudices. Yet the boundaries between the kingdoms of the dead and of the living are constantly being redrawn. The authors of this article examine the place of the exhibit in the political history of anatomy and in contemporary 'body politics'. What boundaries does this anatomical spectacle cross? What new boundaries to the body does it set? What sort of identity is offered to visitors in the exhibition's special organization and through the positioning of dead bodies? Starting with the lay traditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the authors look at the political role of anatomy in constituting the boundaries of the body. They then turn to the phenomenon of exhibiting the human body, where science, art and consumerism come together, and where the boundaries of meaning of the prepared body are reproduced and reinterpreted, stimulating the imagination and reflection on ethical matters.
This issue's Culture section looks at fashion and the cult of celebrity.
In The Muff Affair: Fashioning Celebrity in the Portraits of Late Eighteenth-Century British Actresses, Laura Engel argues that images of muffs in several portraits of actresses from the 1780s and 1790s can be read as ambiguous cultural signs analogous to the ambivalent position of actresses as female celebrities in the late eighteenth century. Muffs in portraits of actresses draw attention to the complex boundary between fame and notoriety for eighteenth-century women: in certain images muffs function as signs of aristocracy and glamour, in others of crass accumulation and overt sexuality. At the same time that these portraits were being painted, a number of satiric prints appeared, featuring female bodies engulfed by enormous muffs. Muffs function in these caricatures as ambiguous signs of gender and sexuality, which may have been directly related to anxieties about actresses acting as consumers, fashion plates, and urban professionals. The dual nature of the muff represents the complexities of fashioning celebrity for eighteenth-century female performers.
Olga Khoroshilova's 'Half-Russian, Half-French': Costume and Fashion in the Life of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. On the 120th Anniversary of the Composer's Death looks at Tchaikovsky's wardrobe. The author examines how the bushy-haired Russian composer became an elegant dandy with refined manners a la Frangaise, what clothes he wore and how he influenced the appearance and manners of contemporary admirers. Tchaikovsky was often photographed. Around 130 photos of the composer have survived, the first dating back to 1848. Flaunting both Soviet authors' tradition of portraying Tchaikovsky as an ascetic recluse, and the tendency of certain researchers to focus excessively on the composer's private life, Khoroshilova presents a different image: that of the Rusophile, Parisian dandy and big spender with a fine sense of style and shortcomings which, for a genius, were surely permissible.
Maria Golovnya's The Face on the Cover, or Russian 'Glossies' in the 1920s and 1930s: An Illusion of the Beautiful Life looks at Russian emigre 'glossies' of the 1920s and 1930s as a special form of journalism, as well as a unique approach in advertising and a new aesthetic. Golovnya examines how Russian emigre celebrities influenced the portrayal of the 'beautiful life' in the popular press. While the only thing Soviet citizens were in a position to dream of was building communism, their compatriots in other countries could aspire to more worldly goods: comfort, luxury, beauty, pleasant pastimes and the other joys of consumer society. Certain 'stars' of the Russian emigre milieu became firmly associated with a frivolous lifestyle full of carefree pleasure, parties and social gatherings. The popular Russian-language press that appeared in Paris, Berlin, Prague, Riga, New York, Harbin and other centers of first-wave Russian emigration formed a single Russian emigre information space. Serving as a moral and aesthetic guide for Russians abroad, it painted a picture of the tastes and preferences of everyday life. In studying these articles and advertisements, the authors shift the focus of research from the ideas and philosophical trends of Russian emigre life to the history of everyday living.
Lee Barron presents The Habitus of Elizabeth Hurley: Celebrity, Fashion, and Identity Branding. In 2005, just as a decade earlier in 1994, Elizabeth Hurley found herself the focus of mass media attention: both times, the media frenzy was exclusively down to the model's ability to turn an item of clothing into a major news item. If in 1994 the culprit was that famous black Versace dress, in 2005 it was the bikini worn by Hurley to announce the launch of her own beachwear collection. Most news items and articles on Liz Hurley that appeared in the press said nothing of her professional activity, focussing instead on the 'professional celebrity's' way of life. This article looks at the manner in which Elizabeth Hurley's career is now centrally located within the world of fashion; not merely as a model advertising the wares of other producers, but as a designer creating and advertising her own 'look'. The article explores the ways in which she represents a potent contemporary purveyor of a specific 'habitus' via her own clothing range and accessories: Elizabeth Hurley Beach. The article argues that with the establishment of Elizabeth Hurley Beach, Elizabeth Hurley has created a marketable and identifiable 'brand' that is built entirely on her persona, image, and upon the cen- trality of her body within the promotion of the range. Thus, Elizabeth Hurley illustrates the potency of a fashion habitus, of which she is both transmitter and subject, having herself to engage in a disciplined regime required to attain and maintain her 'fashionable body'. The article argues that Elizabeth Hurley Beach not only represents a range of glamorous clothing and accessories to wear, but through marketing and media coverage it also represents a set of instructions on how to wear her garments, and essentially how to replicate, albeit imaginatively, the essence of being Elizabeth Hurley.
Theresa M. Winge offers 'Green Is the New Black': Celebrity Chic and the 'Green' Commodity Fetish. In the April 2006 'Green' issue of Vanity Fair, the editor, Graydon Carter, declared that 'green is the new black'. Fashion designers are creating eco fashions for the runways, boutiques, mass markets, and especially for celebrities. Current eco-conscious designers create eco fashions very different to the stereotypical images of 'eco-dress'. Rope sandals, tie-dye T-shirts and the hemp cargo pants established in the 1960s were often associated with the Hippie subculture that represented anti-fashion and associated the wearer visually with his or her sociopolitical ideals and values concerning animal and human rights, and environmental issues. As a result, stereotypical eco-dress functioned as a 'green' commodity fetish imbued with 'magical' value that reflected the eco-conscious lifestyle. The introduction of current eco fashions challenges these understood stereotypical images and identities, especially among celebrities. Eco-conscious celebrities actively seek out eco fashions that are consistent with their 'green' lifestyles, while non- verbally communicating their cultivated tastes and style. Although sharing many of the same eco-conscious ideals, these new eco fashions are not capable of the same non-verbal communication as the garments worn in previous decades. By donning these 'green' or eco fashions, celebrities have depoliticized highly charged sociopolitical issues, and as a result, eco fashion communicates only the aesthetic of the wearer. This article unpacks past eco-dress choices by deconstructing how the stereotypical eco-dress functioned as a commodity fetish within Western industrial capitalist society. It also analyzes the changing 'magical' meanings and values of the commodity fetishism associated with current eco fashions, giving particular attention to the new non-verbal communication and identities associated with eco fashions.
Alena Andreeva and Yulia Malenkaya contribute Fashion Brands at the Top of the Charts: Texts and Contexts. The authors investigate the use of fashionable brand names in popular music. Indeed, fashion and music have a lot in common. People's choice of dress style, like their choice of musical genre divides them into groups, uniting those with a shared lifestyle and similar aesthetic preferences. First and foremost, fashion brands are represented by particular goods: smart dresses, stylish accessories, shoes and jewellery. Yet brands also have a story: the history of houses of fashion and their charismatic heads, the stories behind the creation of legendary silhouettes, trends and styles, the legends and myths that form an identity, creating unique images and complementing the nature of the items themselves. Be they true or imagined, it is these stories and the meaning they convey that are meant to entrance us, forming our perception of the brand, drawing our attention, influencing our preferences and desires until we are seized with an all-consuming desire to possess. Yet meanings and ideas have a habit of changing, evolving, and, sometimes, becoming totally transformed. In this article, the authors examine the world of popular lyrics, noting the changes that fashion brands undergo in this unpredictable environment.
In our Museum Business column, we present Christine Delhaye and Ellinoor Bergvelt's piece Fashion Exhibitions in the Netherlands: Between Visual Spectacles and Community Outreach. Fashion exhibitions have been blossoming in Dutch museums of late, to the extent that they verge on becoming a trendy phenomenon. Because of this upsurge in popularity the authors, as academic scholars, decided to devote a seminar to this subject on the Museum Studies Masters course at the University of Amsterdam. The purpose of the seminar was to find out whether the popularity of museum fashion exhibitions has influenced the fashion collecting and presentation policies of museums in recent years. The museums studied had staged a whole gamut of fashion exhibitions ranging from visual spectacles to community outreach projects. Although these diverse fashion exhibitions catered to an increasingly diverse audience, they were all attuned to the overall cultural environment in which audiences live, which is predominantly a visual culture of which the spectacular, the sensorial, and the participatory are key constituents. Dutch museums are very much in line with, even at the forefront of, museological movements that try to meet the challenges of the future. This is mainly due to the ever-growing influence of neoliberal cultural policy, and to the open and experimental climate present in the Dutch museum world since the 1950s.
In the Practice of Fashion column, we offer readers an interview with German fashion designer Nadine Goepfert. Besides Berlin's Weissensee Art Academy, the young textile designer from Berlin also honed her skills at Amsterdam's Rietveld Academy.
In the Events section, Jana Melkumova-Reynolds contributes Alaia. Nothing Superfluous — a review of 'Alaia' at the Galliera Museum, Paris (28 September 2013 — 26 January 2014).
Elena Igumnova offers The Delayed Action Revolution, her take on the 'Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde' exhibition at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow (10 June — 13 October 2013).
The 175 Cinderellas of Roger Vivier presents Ksenia Boderiu's impressions of 'Virgule, etc. Dans les Pas de Roger Vivier' at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2 October — 18 November 2013).
Ian Wilson offers The Man Who Dressed Marilyn, a review of 'Travilla — the Man Who Dressed Marilyn Monroe' at Bath's Fashion Museum (29 July — 22 August 2008).
In this issue's Books section, Hans Rindisbacher reviews Michel Pastoureau's Les Couleurs de Nos Souvenirs (2010) in his piece What Colour Is Velocity?
In Revolutionary Fibers, Regina Lee Blaschik gives her take on Beverly Lemire'sCotton (Textiles That Changed the World) (2011).
Zanda Miller's Looking Beauty in the Face reviews Aileen Ribeiro's Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art (2011).