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, Nadezhda Musyankova contributes Art Nouveau Costume in the Works of Mikhail Nesterov. Much has been written on the art of Mikhail Nesterov, yet his work has never yet been researched in the context of the history of fashion. This article constitutes the first attempt to examine the meaning and visual impact of dress in Nesterov's paintings. From the artist's visual heritage Musyankova strives to select those works that made a real impact on the way his era was perceived. To interpret art nouveau costume today, picking out the invisible links between fashion and art in a stream of images and tracing the stages of the formation of the canons of fashion through its protagonist, folk dress, is to uncover the codes and sign systems that distinguish one era from another. In the early works of Nesterov, historical, pseudo-historical and Old Believers' costume acts as staffage serving to convey the emotional state of the subjects and any further meaning as needed. The painter's art nouveau portraits however are attempts to portray moods, born of a spontaneous sense of a 'beautiful moment'. In his later Soviet portraits, Nesterov once again painstakingly arranges the composition and costume of his subjects, seeing his work as an attempt to create historical images of contemporaries. In her study of Nesterov's work, Musyankova traces the changes in art nouveau costume from its national romantic days to everyday, democratic art deco styles and clothing. During that dynamic era, the function of female dress quickly changed from displaying social status to promoting total unification and erasing any significant visual meaning.
Tom Slevin's Sonia Delaunay's Robe Simultame: Modernity, Fashion, and Transmediality considers Sonia Delaunay's 'simultaneous dress' of 1913. With their contrasting colours and shapes, Delaunay's creations embodied the principle of 'simultaneity', under which different designs placed in close proximity affect each other. Delaunay's art and fashion are significant not only since they unfold from a context of radical fin-de-siecle thought relating to psychophysics and the fourth dimension, but crucially, she relocated the site of knowledge to the body. For Delaunay, this move restored emphasis to embodiment as the active producer of experience, and also as the condition from which subjectivity is issued. Delaunay refigured her body into something simultaneous and dynamic with its environment, and consequently refashioned her own conception of 'Self' as transient, relative, and inter-subjective. Indeed, Delaunay believed existing Western visual codes of linear perspective established models of space and time that could not articulate the dynamism and simultaneity of modern culture. Instead, she fashioned her autobiographical experiences through color, temporality, and rhythm. Delaunay's robe simultanee is a complex nexus, entwining her own biography, modern philosophies of color and reality, the relocation of the body as the site of knowledge and meaning, and the sensate, lived experience of Parisian modernity.
Nancy J. Troy's Paul Poiret's Minaret Style: Originality, Reproduction, and Art in Fashion examines the ways in which Poiret's self-construction as an artist and his theatrical strategies of display were affected by the circumstances he encountered when, in the early teens, he began seriously to cultivate the American market for couture clothing. Rather than waiting for women to seek him out in Paris, Poiret chose to go to the United States and present his clothing to women there. The designer's discovery that his work - like that of Callot Soeurs, Doucet, Paquin, the Maison Worth, and many other French couturiers - was being copied and his label counterfeited, evidently on a vast scale, exposed a serious challenge not only to the elite business of haute couture, but also to its construction of originality, on which its claim to elite status had always been based.
Frida Kahlo: The Aesthetic Reform and Aesthetic Revolution of a Suffering Goddessby Elina Voitsekhovskaya offers a tour around the artist's legendary residence, the Blue House. In this article, Voitsekhovskaya sets out to answer a question which is both practical and ambitious: why was Kahlo's wardrobe the way it was. Without doubt, this complex issue demands further research and cannot be fully dealt with in a piece of this length; so, Voitsekhovskaya offers a number of bullet points to be examined in greater depth and detail in the future. Following Kahlo's death in 1954, her husband, the artist Diego Rivera donated the Blue House to the government in order that it be turned into a museum. Kahlo's clothing, however, was not to be touched for fifty years. The artist's dresses, ornaments and orthopedic aids were placed in chests in a far room, which was unlocked only in 2004. In 2012, many of these joined the display in the Blue House. According to Rivera's instructions, these objects may never leave the Blue House. Inspired by a visit to the museum, Voitsekhovskaya's article not only voices some of her ideas on ethno-fashion and aesthetic philosophy, but also offers some fascinating insight into broader fashion theory.
Richard Martin offers A Note: Art & Fashion, Viktor & Rolf. Viktor & Rolf, the brilliant Dutch conceptualists, have always tried to put art and fashion back together. As their task only seems to get harder, so too do their efforts become more refined. They remain inexorably idealist about the nexus between art and fashion; they do not assume the bifurcated world, but choose to function on the axiom that art and fashion are similar, if not identical impulses. The underlying principle of consonance among the visual arts is evident in the work of Viktor & Rolf. In their pursuit, in concept and in practice, this creative team makes us believe, as it does, in an art without embarrassing hierarchies or demeaning classifications, but filled with contemporary visuality.
In this issue's Body section, we offer an excerpt from Susan J. Vincent's The Anatomy of Fashion: Dressing the Body from the Renaissance to Today (2009). The chapter in question deals with the Hips and Bottom. For centuries, a mind-boggling array of accessories geared to visually increasing the size of the wearer's hips and bottom, was used by women. From basic pads to complicated constructions, these included crinolines, underskirts and petticoats, as well as a whole host of more modest accessories. Whilst giving a less radical effect, the latter were similarly aimed at making the derriere appear larger. Between 1500 and 1900, indeed, there were few periods when women did not seek to enlarge the appearance of their behinds. Whilst mainly associated with female fashion, special clothing to accentuate the hips and buttocks was worn by men also, albeit to less extreme effect. The familiar downward- pointing triangle of the broad-shouldered male silhouette did not begin to appear until the early nineteenth century. Before that, the masculine image was very different indeed. Padded pantaloons and broad-fitting breeches visually increased the size of hips and buttocks, bringing the wearer closer to the perceived ideal. Thus decked out, men walked with a swagger, brimming with confident self-importance. Nevertheless, it was chiefly women's preoccupation with, and love of image-enhancing constructions that found its way into contemporary novels, paintings and magazines. Crinolines, underskirts and other special garments and accessories remained in fashion for centuries, simultaneously objects of desire and targets of jokes, derisory comments and caricatures. Their disproportionate size imbued these objects with an entire array of confusing and frequently contradictory meanings. At once attractive, aggressive and absurd, they both concealed and revealed; they were elegant, yet ugly and dangerous. The author attempts to show that underskirts — crinolines in particular — possessed all these qualities, or at least were lent them by those wearing these garments.
In this issue's Culture section, Pamela Flores contributes Fashion and Otherness: The Passionate Journey of Coppola's Marie Antoinette from a Semiotic Perspective. Louis XIV used his body as a political territory to strengthen the power of the State. Marie Antoinette, on the contrary, used her body as a subjective territory to recuperate her autonomy. Through fashion, Marie Antoinette created a narrative programme that expressed both her wish for recognition and her need for independence. This article reconstructs, from the perspective of the Semiotics of passion, Marie Antoinette's passionate journey as it is narrated by Sofia Coppola, showing how fashion expressed her subjectivity, allowing her to challenge the French court. By using the fashion system as a defensive strategy of legitimization, Marie Antoinette contributed to undermining the political structures that supported the aristocratic order. Simultaneously, she strengthened her individuality and confronted those who denied her recognition. From this perspective, Marie Antoinette appears as a contemporary character, as a subject Other, a teenager, a foreigner, a woman who, in an inhospitable space, seeks beauty to construct a public image that expresses her identity.
Suzanne Osmond offers 'Her Infinite Variety': Representations of Shakespeare's Cleopatra in Fashion, Film and Theatre. The 'Cleopatra look' has recurred regularly in fashion marketing, advertising, masquerade balls, fashion trends and in the salons and catwalk shows of haute couture since the beginning of the twentieth century. The 'look' embraces the kitsch spectacle of excessive opulence associated with the stereotypical Orientalist image of Ancient Egypt: palm trees, pyramids and odalisques. It also reflects the various cultural attitudes to female power and the seductive exotic 'Other' that have consistently pervaded Western societies in the last two centuries. This article extends on the contribution which feminist scholarship has made to the way in which the female body generates meaning in film, literature and fashion. It focuses on theatrical performance, as well as on representations of Cleopatra in film and fashion. The author presents an analysis of some of the most influential representations of Cleopatra, which, viewed together, begin to form a 'collective mythology' in which the shifting relationships between fashion, costume and feminine ideals are apparent.
Sarah Gilligan presents Heaving Cleavages and Fantastic Frock Coats: Gender Fluidity, Celebrity and Tactile Transmediality in Contemporary Costume Cinema. As contemporary cinema intersects with both celebrity and convergence culture, it is vital that the academic analysis of screen costuming move beyond the film text to consider the wider institutional processes and consumption practices connected to fashion and spectators. In examining the role of costume and fashion as sources of meaning and pleasure, this article forms part of a wider research project, which includes a forthcoming monograph and adopts both textually centred and interdisciplinary cross-media methodological approaches. The article reflects this methodological shift. The examination of 'Shakespeare in Love' (Madden, 1998) adopts a predominantly textually centred approach focusing on the cinematic representation of Viola/Thomas (Gwyneth Paltrow). The author argues that in the movie, costume functions both as a spectacular intervention, and as a visual narrative of gender transformation and sexual fluidity. Shifting to a cross-media approach, Gilligan discusses both Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley in relation to issues of fashion, femininity and celebrity culture. As contemporary popular cinema shifts from character-centred narratives to the formation of transmedia worlds existing over multiple media platforms, the text-spectator relationship is one grounded in a participatory convergence culture. The author argues that clothing creates a tactile platform in which the spatial distance between the text and the spectator can be bridged via adornment and touch. Thus, the processes of identity transformation and performativity can be played out in our everyday lives.
In the Museum Business column, we have Amy de la Haye's Vogue and the V&A Vitrine. Pristine new garments selected from the international catwalks, and on occasion period pieces and items from the high street, are styled by Vogue to entice, inspire, and assist readers' own fashion and style choices. Fashionable dress for the forthcoming season is presented in the context of consumption. To fuel our desire for the new, past fashions are dismissed as 'out'. But when the occasion calls, how does Vogue convey, textually and visually, the history and museological interpretations of its subject to the reader? This article focuses upon the museological significance of the images and text that have appeared in British Vogue in relation to fashion exhibitions staged at the V&A since 1971, and in particular upon 'Fashion: An Anthology' by Cecil Beaton, since this exhibition was a turning point in fashion museology.
In the Events section, Ellen McIntyre presents From Concept to Result: her review of 'Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith' at London's Design Museum (15 November 2013 - 9 March 2014).
Rachael Barron-Duncan offers Just Artists: her thoughts on 'Fashioning the Object: Bless, Boudicca, Sandra Backlund' at the Art Institute of Chicago (14 April — 13 September 2012).
From the Antipodes' Point of View reveals Sally Gray's impressions of 'Black in Fashion: Mourning to Night' at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV International and NGV Australia), Melbourne (8 February — 31 August 2008).
The Museum Shop as Epilogue presents Caroline Evans' review of 'Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design' at London's Victoria and Albert Museum (29 March - 22 July 2007), Rotterdam's Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (29 September 2007 - 6 January 2008) and Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum (3 March - 7 September 2008).
Liuba Popova offers In Search of Individuality: a look at 'Mode Par- cours #13' at the Brussels Centre for Fashion and Design (24 - 27 October 2013), 'Valentina Cortese. Uno Stile' at Milan's Palazzo Morando Museum of Costume (11 September - 10 November 2013) and 'Hat-ology', also at Milan's Palazzo Morando (22 September - 30 November 2013).
Anna Stepanova visits the 'New Life of Traditions' Fifth International Exhibition of Artistic Felt and Textile Art in St. Petersburg's Bolshoi Gostiny Dvor (26 October - 3 November 2013), which she reviews in Felt Closer to the Body.
The Exhibition Over, Questions Remain by Anya Kurennaya reviews 'A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk' at the Special Exhibitions Gallery of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (13 September 2013 - 4 January 2014).
Maria Khachaturian visits the 'Masculin/Masculin' exhibition at the Musee D'Orsay, Paris (24 September 2013 - 12 January 2014), and shares her impressions in Set Out to the D'Orsay, and Ended Up at Gay Pride.
In the Books section, Andrea Kollnitz presents An Entirely Feminine Look at Weimar Fashion — her review of Mila Ganeva's Women in Weimar Fashion: Discourses and Displays in German Culture, 1918-1933. Rochester: Camden House, 2008. 252 pp.
In Romantic Bloodsuckers, Olga Deryugina reviews Maria Mellins' Vampire Culture. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. 150 pp.
Sport and Fashion: Together on the Catwalk by Rhiannon Harris takes a look atFashion v Sport, Ligaya Salazar (ed.) London: V&A Publishing, 2008. 128 pp.