Dissertation Discussion: Leah

Title

 My working title is La Mode revee and the New York World Fair, 1939

What prompted you to choose this subject? 

I can’t quite remember how, but somehow in the course of research I stumbled across Marcel L’Herbier’s short film La Mode revee (1939), which was produced to promote Parisian couture at the New York World Fair in 1939.

Not only does the film make for fun viewing (the plot involves figures from Antoine Watteau’s painting, Pilgrimage to Cythera (1717), coming to life, escaping from the Louvre and going shopping in the top Paris couturiers), but its themes chimed directly with my own interests. I plan to explore the film in relation to the 1939 New York World Fair and questions concerning the temporality of fashion. Marcel L’Herbier is a fascinating director and one who deserves much more critical exploration and recognition.

Photo Caption: Still from La Mode revee (1939) by Marcel L’Herbier. Watteau’s painted beauties escape from their frame to go shopping in Paris’ finest couture establishments!

Photo Caption: Still from La Mode revee (1939) by Marcel L’Herbier. Watteau’s painted beauties escape from their frame to go shopping in Paris’ finest couture establishments!

Most inspiring research find so far? 

A few weeks ago I took a short study trip to Paris. In the archives at the Bibliotheque nationale de France I found some of the documents relating to the production of La Mode revee. I haven’t seen them referred to anywhere else and I didn’t unearth them until a couple of days in, so it felt like a very satisfying find! Plus, exploring new libraries is always inspiring.

Favourite place to work? 

I can be found most days in the British Library. They have (nearly!) all the books and you don’t even have to look for them on the shelves. Once you’ve ordered the book you want online the kindly librarians do all the legwork for you, so all you have to do is pick it up from the counter. That’s a win win in my opinion.

Reflections on History of Dress Essay Writing

I’m currently supervising five of my second-year students through the research, writing and editing stages of their 4,000 word dissertations. They are writing on a variety of interesting topics, which include:

The complexity of dress reflecting complicated relationships in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954);

The representation of Japanese street-style in noughties American print media;

Dress as a traveller through time, space and place in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996);

A Freudian examination of British Punk fashion from 1975-85;

And, An analysis of Cecil Beaton’s dual identity in the American Vogue (March, 1951) fashion shoot, ‘The New Soft Look’.

It’s great to be helping my students tackle many of the problems I remember struggling with – structure, focus, linking the thread of the argument, avoiding colloquialisms, analysing quotations rather than simply dropping them into the text, pushing the analysis further still – and hopefully, emerging triumphant at the other end. I remember my own third-year assessed essay that I wrote in 2011, which addressed the representation of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto’s designs by the American and British fashion press in the early 1980s. I struggled with lots of aspects but thankfully had the help, not just of my supervisor Dr Rebecca Arnold, but also of the author and editor Virginia Rounding, the then Royal Literary Fellow, which is part of an amazing service the Courtauld provides for its students to help them improve their writing. For nostalgia’s sake, and because it’s fun to look back as well as ahead, I’ve included a pdf of my essay here, entitled ‘The American and British Reception and Representation of Japanese Fashion Designers in the Early 1980s’.

The American and British reception and representation of Japanese fashion designers in the early 1980s

The books of Liz's dissertation

The books of Liz’s dissertation!

Undressed at The V&A

by Aric Reviere

IMG_2138

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A Photo: Authors own

Last weekend, on my semi-regular sojourn to the V&A, I decided to attend the Fashion Department’s new exhibition “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear.” To my surprise the exhibition garnered quite a bit of attention the morning of my visit, with the exhibition space itself full of visitors and lines of spectators inching slowly past the glass displays of historic underwear and garments.

My initial expectation of the exhibition imagined the display to be a spattering of various undergarments from different eras, but with a noticeable emphasis on the corset and hoop skirt. To be fair, these elements were featured prominently in the display, and even though most of the visitors flocked to these body contorting contraptions, the rest of the exhibition presented a delightful overview of innovations in underwear from an impressive range of eras. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on the evolution of lingerie design toward the end of the exhibition, which traced developments in the industry from the 1920s to the 1930s. Compared to the hyperbolic manipulation of the body evident in the miniscule waists of the corsets on display, the body sculpting garments from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s seem tamed. Upon closer examination, however, the garments’ structures constrict the form and manipulate it into an ideal shape. From an academic perspective, the garments provide a perfect point from which to examine the power structures connected to standards of beauty. They enable the viewer to question what motivated a wearer (and still does) to physically transform their body via the adornment of garments that often use metal structures to manipulate the form? What gaze ultimately develops that definition of beauty and through networks disseminates and propagates an entire system of dress to elevate certain ideals? How do such beauty ideals limit the wearer’s agency within various social contexts, but also enhance his/her agency within others?

The second half of the exhibition attempted to blur the demarcation between under garments, lingerie, etc., and outerwear through the presentation a numerous outfits from the V&A’s permanent collection. Personally, I found this section disconnected from the first half of the exhibition with certain ensembles on display not particularly resonating with the exhibition’s theme. With that said, I must admit that the Ulyana Sergeenko couture pieces were to die for and on my list of most coveted items.

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Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A Photo: Authors own

 

Ulaan Sergeenko Couture, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A. Photo: Authors own

Ulyana Sergeenko Couture, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A. Photo: Authors own

Dissertation Discussion: Giovanna

What is your title?

Skin and Mirrors: The surface and self in the copyright albums of Madeline Vionnet.

What prompted you to choose this subject?

The subject of the first History of Dress Research Forum, Addressing Images event, was one the images from the photographic albums. After discussing the image, I went and did some research and realised that there was little writing about this rich collection of images, which were considered purely as a means of documentation for her designs and as copyright tools. My dissertation will consider how these photographs function both within and beyond the genre of ‘documentary’ and focus on how the visual tropes of skin and mirrors link to Lacanian ideas of the ‘self’.

Most inspiring research find so far?

I have just returned from a very exciting research trip to Paris! There I was able to see some actual Vionnet gowns at the Fashion Forward exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs. Unfortunately I was not able to see the actual photographic albums held in their archive collection, due to them being in conservation. However I was able to see digitised versions of all the 75 albums, which in hindsight was good thing as there were thousands of photos to get through. Seeing the unpublished album photographs was inspiring as there were shots that really surprised me, including some half body photographs that looks strangely like prison mugshots, showing shirts that look as if they were designed by Ann Demeulemeester or Yohji Yamamoto.

Favourite place to work?

I love to switch up my routine and make sure that I work at many different cafes and libraries to best use all the (caffeine and) resources available to me. Of all the London libraries my favourite one to work at is the beautiful V&A National Art Library (preferably in a window seat overlooking the John Madjeski garden), but I normally find myself working more often at the British Library because it is more local to me and open later.

Photograph from the Madeline Vionnet Copyright Album (1935)

Photograph from the Madeline Vionnet Copyright Album (1935)

Two Vionnet gowns and a Schiaparelli cape at the Fashion Forward exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

Two Vionnet gowns and a Schiaparelli cape at the Fashion Forward exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern: Dress & No Dress

Amalia Ulman, from Excellences and Perfections, 2014; Yves Klein, ‘Leap into the Void’ (Saut dans le Vide), Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1960.

Amalia Ulman, from Excellences and Perfections, 2014; Yves Klein, ‘Leap into the Void’ (Saut dans le Vide), Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1960.

Clad in his classic bourgeois suit, Yves Klein leaps into the void. Captured in a Christ-like posture, his silhouette hovers over a street, the deadly landing point of the Parisian bitume in view. It is perhaps the void that Amalia Ulman evokes too – a hollowed sense of identity left to exist solely through Instragram snapshots. Klein opens the Tate Modern’s Performing for the Camera, Amalia Ulman acts as an allusive conclusion.

As an additional shot reveals, a group of Klein’s friends holding the tarpaulin into which the French artist was meant to safely fall was erased through photomontage. The photograph was then printed on the front page of a spoof newspaper, disseminating the aura of Klein’s eerie figure to the masses. Ulman’s lingerie selfie is a shot from her instagram feed, blown up to museum proportions. It is taken from a three-part tale, in which the artist assumes the identity of a provincial girl with dreams of making it in LA, and acts out her downfall into drugs, surgery, and suggestive selfies. Finally, redemption – in the form of juices, yoga, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Klein’s image condenses many of the themes the exhibition sets to unpick: the camera as record of an art performance, the photographic image as the site for which the performance is conceived, and finally the photographic document as proof – conscious or unconscious – of a performed identity, whether part of the work itself as an intentional act of self promotion for instance (Koons’ magazine advertisements) or as an attempt to create a seemingly authentic (artistic) persona (Klein’s suit). This last aspect is not overtly addressed by the exhibition but lingers over it, as artists dress or undress for the camera.

Artistic authenticity comes in the form of nudity, or so it seems considering the vast number of images of naked performance on display. The subversive quality of nakedness seemingly ensures the authenticity of the performing artist, literally stripped bare of ‘superficial’ signifiers. Costume, as a sort of manifest addition to the body, appears to stand as another strategy used to subvert identities, highlighting their contingency, yet one that also retains or marks the distinction between the performed role and the ‘true’ identity of the performer.

It is precisely the boundaries of costumes and theater that allow Sarah Bernhardt to flaunt a more liberated body, both through dress (clad in male attire) and her comical poses. Nadar’s studio is made into an extension of the theater stage, in which actresses such as Bernhardt embodied a wide array of identities, yet upheld her image as ‘the eternal feminine’ in the eyes of critics. From Nadar, the exhibition takes us to an endless archive of images from big names (Andy Warhol, Hannah Wilke, Joseph Beuys, Cindy Sherman etc.) to a younger bunch, among them Romain Mader (featured on the show’s poster) and Amalia Ulman.

Jeff Koons advertisement in Art in America, 1988-9; Sarah Bernhardt in ‘Pierrot Assassin,’ 1883

Jeff Koons advertisement in Art in America, 1988-9; Sarah Bernhardt in ‘Pierrot Assassin,’ 1883

In Ulman’s shot, the distinction between artistic self and performance blend. In an interview, Ulman reveals that a gallery had concerns over her credibility before the artist revealed the spoof, namely that the shots of herself were part of a performance. ‘I was acting, it wasn’t me.’ The need to emphasize those boundaries exposes the necessity for an ‘authentic’ self to exist outside of what we are caught easily judging as inappropriate or superficial (as Simon Baker notes, the comments on her Instagram feed are as much part of the performance as the images). Perhaps more than confronting us with our daily selfie routines, Ulman’s performance draws attention to our own highbrow assumptions of what constitutes an ‘appropriate’ display of the self.

Performing for the Camera is on display at Tate Modern until June 12, 2016

 

Mary Louise Roberts, Disruptive Acts, The New Woman in Fin-de-siècle France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/performing-camera

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/photography/what-to-see/is-this-the-first-instagram-masterpiece/

Posing the Body: Stillness, Movement, and Representation (May 6 – 7)

We wanted to share the programme and information regarding a fascinating symposium partly organised by Rebecca. Do Book NowAdmission: £26 general admission £16 students, concessions (over 60) and Courtauld staff/students.

Posing has been central to art, dance, and sculpture for thousands of years. In recent years, the growing interest in fashion media and modelling has also focused attention on questions of pose and posing. Incorporating notions of movement and stillness, posing can be understood in terms of historical modes of representation, as well as contemporary media and rapidly evolving relationships between bodies, subjects, and technologies of representation. Posing incorporates symbolic and semiotic meaning alongside embodied action and feeling. Recent coverage of the work of choreographer Stephen Galloway in 032c magazine, and new publications such as Steven Sebring’s Study of Pose: 1000 Poses by Coco Rocha testify to the growing interest in the cultural significance of posing and the pose – yet both remain under-researched areas with little discussion of their significance.

This symposium will assert the importance of pose as both a creative practice and an emerging area of critical inquiry. It will bring together multi-disciplinary academics and practitioners to discuss and develop new ways of understanding pose and posing in a historical and contemporary context. We encourage proposals for papers that address pose from global and diverse perspectives.  This event represents a potentially fruitful and exciting moment to bring these strands together to the benefit of researchers within practice and theory-based media, historians of dress, photography, art and film and allied disciplines. The keynote lecture will be delivered by David Campany, internationally recognised writer and curator, and Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster.

Programme

Friday 6 May. University of Westminster, Regent Street Cinema, London W1B 2UW

17.15 – 17.50            Registration

18.00 – 19.00          Keynote address: Dr David Campany (University of Westminster) – Title TBC

19.00 – 19.15           Comfort Break

19.15 – 19.40           Performance choreographed by Christopher Spraggs

19.40 – 21.00          Reception

Saturday 7 May. The Courtauld Institute of Art, London WC2R 0RN

09.30 – 10.00            Registration

10.00 – 10.15            Welcome and Introduction Dr Rebecca Arnold (Oak Foundation Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles, CIA)

10.15 – 11.15            Session 1: Posing Directing Moving (Chair: TBC)

  • Dr Penelope Rook (independent Scholar): From Couture to Clochard:  Posing the body in Vu
  • Dr Peter K. Andersson (Lund University): Everyday Posing and Performativity in the Late Nineteenth-Century Street
  • Marketa Uhlirova (Senior Research Fellow, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London): Choreographing the body: early fashion film, 1909-1920

11.15 – 11.30            Discussion

11.30 – 12.00            TEA/COFFEE BREAK (provided, Seminar Room 1)

12.00 – 13.00            Session 2: Art Fashion Sculpture (Chair: Dr Katie Faulkner, Visiting Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

  • Dr Madeleine Newman (University of Leeds): Sculptural Fashion Shows? Pose, Parody and Performance 1968-1978
  • Nancy Troy (Victoria & Roger Sant Professor in Art, Stanford University): The Art of the Pose: Performing Saint Laurent Performing Mondrian
  • Dr Luisa Fink (Independent Scholar): Sculpture and Pose The Actor in the Work of Franz Erhard Walther

13.00 – 13.15            Discussion

13.15 – 14.15             LUNCH (provided for the speakers only)

14.15 – 15.15            Session 4: Movement and Dance (Chair: Katerina Pantelides, PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

  • Tiffany Boyle (PhD Candidate, Birkbeck University of London): Pausing the Performance: Artistic Gymnastics and the Statuesque
  • Dr MJ Thompson (Concordia University, Montreal): Posing and Concert Dance: Steve Paxtons Proxy
  • Elizabeth Welch (PhD Candidate, University of Texas at Austin): Deliberate Poses: George Platt LynesDance Photography and the Dancer as Sculpture

15.15 – 15.30             Discussion
15.30 – 16.00            TEA/COFFEE BREAK (provided, Seminar Room 1)

16.00 – 17.00            Session 4: Bodies Gender Politics (Chair: by Dr Eugenie Shinkle, Reader in Photography, Westminster University)

  • Lauren Downing Peters (PhD Candidate, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University): Fashion Plus: Pose and the Plus-size Body in Vogue, 1986-1988
  • Dr Sara Knelman (Assistant Professor, Ryerson University): Posing and Re-posing: Photography and the Politics of Posture
  • Felice McDowell (Associate Lecturer & PhD Candidate, London College of Fashion): Writing about Posing: myths and narratives of post-war fashion modelling

17.00 – 17.15                       Discussion

17.15 – 18.00            Panel Discussion (Chair: TBC)

  • Jan de Villeneuve (fashion model), Julian Marshall (fashion photographer)
  • Caroline Hamilton (dance and costume historian)

18.00                         Drinks Reception

Gazette du bon ton, 1921, History of Dress Collections, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Gazette du bon ton, 1921, History of Dress Collections, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Posing the Body Conference: Stillness, Movement & Representation

Please join us May 6 & 7, 2016 for Posing the Body, a conference on Stillness, Movement & Representation organised by The Courtauld Institute of Art and The University of Westminster.

Gazette-du-bon-ton

Gazette du bon ton, 1921, History of Dress Collection, Courtauld Institute of Art

Posing has been central to art, dance, and sculpture for thousands of years. In recent years, the growing interest in fashion media and modelling has also focused attention on questions of pose and posing. Incorporating notions of movement and stillness, posing can be understood in terms of historical modes of representation, as well as contemporary media and rapidly evolving relationships between bodies, subjects, and technologies of representation. Posing incorporates symbolic and semiotic meaning alongside embodied action and feeling. Recent coverage of the work of choreographer Stephen Galloway in 032c magazine, and new publications such as Steven Sebring’s Study of Pose: 1000 Poses by Coco Rocha testify to the growing interest in the cultural significance of posing and the pose – yet both remain under-researched areas with little discussion of their significance.

This symposium will assert the importance of pose as both a creative practice and an emerging area of critical inquiry. It will bring together multi-disciplinary academics and practitioners to discuss and develop new ways of understanding pose and posing in a historical and contemporary context. We encourage proposals for papers that address pose from global and diverse perspectives.  This event represents a potentially fruitful and exciting moment to bring these strands together to the benefit of researchers within practice and theory-based media, historians of dress, photography, art and film and allied disciplines.

The keynote lecture will be delivered by David Campany, internationally recognised writer and curator, and Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster.

Please click through to the conference programme to find details of speakers and papers being presented, and follow this link to book your place! We hope to see you there.

Documenting Fashion: History of Dress MA Dissertations since 2010

As the summer term starts, all thoughts turn to dissertations. While this year’s students focus on their writing, let’s take a look at the wonderful array of subjects covered so far.

All dissertations are available on request at The Courtauld Book Library – click here for details: http://courtauld.ac.uk/study/resources/book-library/collections-services/dissertations-theses

Processed with MOLDIV

2010/11

Rachel Boddington – ‘Feminine identity and the consumption of synthetic fabrics: the projection of social judgment onto synthetic fabrics, and its ramifications for female identity in the 1930s’

Harriet Hall – ‘Nostalgia, innocence and subversion: Kawaii and the Lolita fashion subculture in Japan’

Hannah Jackson – ‘Representing femininity: Madame Yevonde’s Goddess series, 1935’

Jemima Klenk – ‘A process of reorganisation: the construction of modern classicism as a social, fashionable and political response to modernity 1930-1939’

Lily Le Brun – ‘”Life lived on a plane of poetry”: images of Siegfried Sassoon in the Lady Otteline Morrell album collection’

Uthra Rajgopal – ‘The release of fancy dress in interwar Britain: a closer look’

Emma McClendon – ‘”First Paris fashions out of the sky”: an examination into the effect of the 1962 Telstar satellite on the dynamic of the transatlantic fashion industry’

Katy Wan – ‘Photographic and bodily exposures in Garry Winogrand’s “Women Are Beautiful”’

2011/12

Alexandra Dives – ‘Swimwear in aspirations of modernity and identity: the healthy ’mindful body’ in politics, class and gender in 1930s Britain’

Elizabeth Kutesko – ‘Representation of Moroccan women’s dress in National Geographic, 1912-2012’

Lucy Moyse – ‘”A seductive weapon… a necessary luxury”: the fragrance ventures of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli during the interwar period’

Amanda Pajak – ‘Low: a psychogeographic analysis of the American and German influences on David Bowie’s image during the 1970s’

Natalia Ramirez – ‘Blogging and the reinvention of the fashion industry in the early 21st century’

Rebecca Straub – ‘Man-made: gender performativity in the costume and practice of rehabilitation at Walter Reed General Hospital’

2012/13

Sarah Heather Brown – ‘The look of citizenship: subjecthood in Humphrey Spender’s ’Worktown’ photographs’

Emily Collyer – ‘Selling with sex: underwear advertising in women’s magazines, Britain 1946 – 1955’

Katherine Gruder – ‘Modernity, vitality and freedom : the factors behind the founding of the men’s dress reform party’

Michele Levbarg-Klein – ‘Styling identity: character construction and contemporary culture in the fashion editorial imagery of American, British, French and Italian Vogue 1990-1999’

Madeleine Piggot – ‘Alexander McQueen: a construction of Britishness in the media, 1994-2010’

Charlotte Smart – ‘Constructing identity through adornment: the jewellery of Wallis Simpson and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, 1919-1939’

Antonia Their – ‘Undressing Scorsese : theorising film costume as text and subtext’

Nadya Wang – ‘Fashioning multiracialism: (ad)dressing the modern Singapore woman in “her world” in the 1960s’

2013/14

Fruzsina Bekefi – ‘Fashioning the future: High treason (1929) and the wardrobe of tomorrow’

Elisa de Wyngaert – ‘Inhabiting art and fashion: the case of designer and artist Helmut Lang’

Jessica Draper – ‘The space between a uniform and a utopia: an exploration of how Sophie Hicks’s style wields power’

Jennifer Potter – ‘Consuming fashion and selling social dance: Irene Castle’s performances in early twentieth century consumer culture, 1912-1915’

Julia Rea – ‘Adorned in myth: the significance of mythology in Chanel jewellery, 1932-2012’

2014/15

Brianna Carr – ‘Motif as motive: representations of Helena Rubinstein’s brand of beauty in America, 1915-1930’

Lauren Dobrin – ‘Embodying the nation: dress, image and performativity in the Miss America pageant and protest of 1968’

Lisa Osborne – ‘Pleats and folds: modernity, technology and atemporality in the designs of Mariano Fortuny and Issey Miyake’

Emma Parnis England – ‘”Between two lives”: fashioning T. S. Eliot’s fragmented self in modernist portraiture, 1925-56’

Nicole Prattis – ‘Lee Miller’s war photography: the boundaries between civilisation and demise (as seen in Vogue)’

Rosily Roberts – ‘Performances of Mexicanidad: displaying nationalism in representations of Mexican dress after the Mexican Revolution’

Halston– Fashioning the American 1970s

Dissertation research for my topic, Diane Von Furstenberg, has taken me on a colorful journey of the American fashion industry in the 1970s. With many thanks to Rebecca for lending me several books on the period, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter the gregarious and charming Roy Halston Frowick (April 23, 1932 – March 26, 1990). Halston (pronounced Hal-stone), as he became widely known when he rose to international fame in the 70s, is recognized as the creator of luxury American fashion, whose groundbreaking designs have influenced the aesthetic of the modern “American Look.” First known for his innovation in millinery (his hats graced the covers of Vogue), Halston used his signature materials of jersey, cashmere, and suede to reinvent the jumpsuit, the shirtdress, and the classic caftan.

Four Vogue covers featuring Halston's hats. Image: Screenshot.

Four Vogue covers featuring Halston’s hats. Image: Screenshot.

Although he is constantly associated with the Studio 54 crowd and glamorous women of the era, his business ventures as a leading designer of made-to-measure and ready-to-wear clothing are what fascinate me, providing one of the first case studies of mass-market fashion.

Halston, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli at Studio 54. Image: screenshot

Halston, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli at Studio 54. Image: screenshot

Halston was born in the mid-west (De Moines, Iowa) to a humble family. After a somewhat difficult childhood, and a brief flirtation with higher education (he only completed one semester at Indiana University), he moved to Chicago in 1952 where he opened a small business in the preeminent Ambassador hotel as a milliner. Not long afterwards, in 1957 Halston moved to New York City where he worked his way up to become head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman. This opportunity provided an introduction him to society’s most well known and powerful, including none other than Jackie Kennedy, for whom Halston famously designed the pillbox hat.

Jackie Kennedy sporting the Halston designed pillbox hat at John F. Kennedy's inauguration January 20, 1961.

Jackie Kennedy sporting the Halston designed pillbox hat at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration January 20, 1961. Image: screenshot

After he left Bergdorf’s in 1968 to start his own business, he continued with millinery, reluctant to transition into ready-to-wear immediately. Interestingly, Halston designed two separate lines: Halston USA, a lower-priced mass-market line, then Halston Ltd a higher-priced collection to be made in his custom workroom and sold at the high end department stores of the day, Neiman-Marcus and Bonwit Teller. When Halston USA sold over $200,000 in 1968 dollars wholesale in its first six weeks alone, Halston said, “And when you consider that the millinery market is dying on the vine, [that] said something to me.”

In September of ‘68 Halston announced the formation of his on ready-to-wear business with dresses priced at about $150, coats and suits, $200; officially cementing his transition from milliner to dress-maker (not unlike Chanel). His plan was to keep the line exclusive by restricting his sales to one store in each major city, but to keep it current in by sending new merchandise every six to eight weeks, perhaps an overly ambitious plan. Halston used the mass-market model to sustain his custom order business throughout the 70s– his ultimate aspiration was to become America’s couturier and open his own “house”. However, sadly, the tensions of balancing his brand’s exclusivity and profits ultimately overwhelmed the business itself.

In the upper left corner: Marisa Berenson models hat and shift dress from Halston's first ready-to-wear collection. In the Upper right: Pat Cleveland models Halston. Forefront: 1970s Halston designs.

In the upper left corner: Marisa Berenson models hat and shift dress from Halston’s first ready-to-wear collection. In the Upper right: Pat Cleveland models Halston. Forefront: 1970s Halston designs.

In 1983, Halston signed a six-year licensing deal, worth a reported $1 billion, with J. C. Penney. The line, called Halston III, consisted of affordable clothing, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes ranging from $24 to $200. However, the move was extraordinarily controversial at the time, as no other high end designer had ever licensed their designs to a mid-priced chain retail store. Bergdorf Goodman wasted no time dropping his Halston Limited line from their store shortly after plans for Halston III were announced. While Halston felt that the deal would only expand his brand, it in fact had damaged his image with retailers who felt that his name had been “cheapened”. As modern retailers such as Michael Kors struggle with the exact same issue, it is fascinating to see how in fashion history repeats itself.

Interview with Edie Locke – A career in fashion media

Image 1 Edie Locke today

Edie Locke, March 2016

One of the many things I love about being a dress historian is meeting inspiring women through my research. Women who have pioneered aspects of our industry, worked to connect with female readerships and to forge successful careers. Edie Locke is one such woman. I was introduced to her via email by model turned photographer Pam Barkentin (my interview with her will follow soon).

Locke has had a fascinating life. Born in Vienna in 1921, she went to New York alone in 1939, as the situation in Europe worsened.  She attended school in Brooklyn – where she learnt to speak English, and then embarked on series of jobs in fashion. Locke generously agreed to answer some questions via email in fashion media:

What was it like working at Junior Bazaar? And with Lillian Bassman? Did your experiences there impact your approach at Mademoiselle?

[In 1945-46] I was working as an assistant to the Ad Manager of Harpers Bazaar, when Hearst Magazines launched Junior Bazaar, as a ” competition” to Mademoiselle.  A short-lived, futile idea! But knowing how much I had hoped to be on the editorial side of the magazine, my then-boss arranged for a transfer to the merchandising department of Junior Bazaar [1946-47] consisting of my covering the very minor dress manufacturers (largely out of St.Louis) and occasional weekend photo shoots, no other editor wanted to go on.

[I] never worked with Lillian Bassman! But did get to know and work with Pammie’s father, [photographer] George Barkentin! When Junior Bazaar gave up its ghost, I followed its then Editor, Kay Long, to the very well-known fashion advertising agency, Abbott Kimball.  [From 1947-49] I became its fashion ” guru” –  [I] wrote the Newsletter the agency sent to clients and business friends and went on all fashion shoots.

[In 1947] one of the Newsletters reached Betsey Blackwell, Editor in Chief of Mademoiselle and prompted a phone call from her office to arrange a private meeting with her and a job offer to join the magazine as an Assistant Fashion Editor, covering the dress “market”. (My ex-boss offered a huge salary raise… trips to Europe…etc to keep me from jumping to Mademoiselle, but after some excruciating evaluations of my options, I happily phoned [Betsey Blackwell] with an enthusiastic YES).

Fashion magazines are so collaborative – how did you organise and manage the various interconnecting fashion and beauty stories for any one edition?

I do believe that you’re only as good in what you do, as the people who work with and for you. Having the right individual editors in place to head the different departments of any magazine is key. And then trust their expertise and opinions and ideas and judgements. When I became Editor in Chief of Mlle, I was blessed with a great editorial staff – Fashion Editor, Features Editor, Beauty Editor, College and Career Editor and Art Director. And a Publisher who respected editorial content, direction and use[d] it all well to “sell” the magazine to potential advertisers. Two things that are crucial: strong circulation and demographics ( 18-35 at Mlle )  and a readership that is financially compatible with the price range of the products you feature, clothes etc etc – whether self-earned or “parental” income.

Several meetings with all editors come first – each Editor presenting her ideas for the upcoming issue. Discussions, more meetings, until the whole content gels and is one-of-a-piece …. hangs together!

How did the nature of fashion photography included connect to your readership? It’s so interesting that college girls formed such a major part of your target audience, how did you feel about the annual college edition and the college competition?

Mlle‘s annual big College issue (August) would be very much directed to that reader, September more geared toward a “working’- career – readership.

Mlle always leaned more toward lively … location photography, than more formal in-studio shots. Moving, rather than “still”.

The college issue was photographed totally on “real” college students, not professional models! Associate Fashion Editors and photographers traveled to campuses all over the US to do this – with a wardrobe of appropriate fashions. The PR department of each school would sometimes pre-select  who they deemed suitable or leave it up to hordes of  volunteers who’d assemble for try-outs and fittings in conference rooms on campus. The toughest job: the gentlest rejections… that would not bruise egos !!!!!!

The college competition – which was NOT based on anything but accomplishment  – be it in writing, illustrating, or fashion – spawned many extraordinary talents, who went on to major careers.

As attending college became more and more the norm, no longer an elitist group, and definitive target audience, Mlle‘s emphasis had to broaden as well. A move strongly demanded by CNP management.

What was your favourite aspect of working on fashion magazines?

My favorite aspect of working on a fashion magazine???  Making it more inclusive, by diligently balancing content between fashion-beauty, how-to features, and intellectually stimulating articles. Feeding the brain!

The rest is history. I went from Assistant to Associate to Fashion Editor and in 1970 to Editor in Chief, when Betsey Blackwell retired. Til 1980 when Publisher Si Newhouse terminated  (fired !) me. Reason : I had firmly kept Mlle‘s intellectual stance … and not made it into a sexier ( [like] Cosmo ?) publication.

A year later, I was on TV with my own version of a fashion/beauty/relevant articles half-hour weekly program called YOU! Magazine. Originally airing on USA CABLE, and eventually LIFETIME, it was on-air til ’86, when Lifetime launched its daily ATTITUDES and I joined as fashion producer and on-air fashion pro until the early 90s. We moved from NY to LA in ’94 to be near our daughter and eventual granddaughters (3) …. and I again worked on fashion TV.

Interview edited and condensed.