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Chanel No.5 and Christmas

‘Christmas and Chanel Perfumes go Together’ reads the tag line of a Chanel No.5 advert in Harper’s Bazaar, 1937 New York, December issue. The world-renowned scent is perhaps the most recognizable perfume name of the 20th century, since its debut to select clients on May 5th, 1921. The release of the perfume of the fifth day of the fifth month was no coincidence, but rather an homage to Chanel’s favorite number- five. Her affiliation for the number five stemmed during her time spent at the care of nuns in Aubazine, where the pathways leading to the Cathedral were laid out in patterns of five extending into the abbey gardens. When sampling glass vials of scents numbered one to twenty for her first perfume, she of course chose the vial presented to her with the label ‘five’ on it, and thus the iconic name was born.

Chanel No.5 became a cult like fragrance, presented in a classic glass bottle, it disregarded any frivolity and fussiness of perfume bottles preceding it. The clean lines and invisible quality to the bottle design further highlights the simple, square label on the front reading ‘No.5, Chanel, Paris, Parfum’, as well as allowing focus to remain on the golden, honey coloured liquid inside. The popularity of the perfume continued decades later. In 1952 actress Marilyn Monroe claimed she wore nothing else to bed except ‘5 drops of Chanel No.5’, this statement further cemented the perfumes iconic scent status.

With such desire surrounding the perfume it is natural to see its correlation with Christmas, as a gift which is more than a perfume, but a lifestyle. Adverts in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue from the 1920’s up until 2019 have continued to advertise Chanel No.5 as the perfect Christmas gift, emphasisng it’s timelessness, as well as revealing its modernity as the scent stands the test of time. The advert first mentioned from 1937 shows a model looking up towards the light with a flower crown on her head, evoking an aura of a Grecian Goddess, in her hands she casually holds a cigarette, placing her back into the modern world. The advert states, ‘It is only natural, then, that at Christmas, feminine thoughts turn to the perfumes of Chanel’. This idea is repeated in Harper’s Bazaar, 1985 New York, December issue, in an article titled ‘The Scents of Christmas’, illustrated with different gift boxes of Chanel No.5 containing bath oils, soaps and of course, the fragrance itself.

Harper’s Bazaar, 1937 London, December issue also featured a Chanel No.5 advert detailing the various other products you can buy to further layer your “Christmas” scent, including a cologne for men, the tag line reads ‘The Gift of Good Taste’, expressing how men and women can gift each other something synonymous with fashion. This idea is reflected in an advert from 1976 in which the various perfume products are detailed with the words, ‘You don’t have to ask for it. He knows what you want. Chanel No.5’, concluding how the fragrance has become intrinsic with gifting, lifestyle and status. Now, in 2019, the Chanel No.5 advert is the embodiment of Christmas, as snow falls around the bottle in a Chanel Christmas snow globe, complete with limited edition Christmas packaging. It is safe to say that for nearly a century now, Chanel No.5 and Christmas really has gone hand in hand.

Saul Leiter: Abstracting the Ordinary

There is a man standing outside a deli in New York. His long khaki raincoat is drenched by the mushy snow, and a yellow truck rushes behind him. He seems to be occupied counting pennies, hoping perhaps to be able to afford his morning coffee. Pedestrians pass him by. He is just an ordinary working man. Rendered beautiful by Saul Leiter.

Man through frosted window with writing on it

Snow, 1960, by Saul Leiter. source: Foundation/Gallery Fifty On

Saul Leiter had an eye for making the ordinary extraordinary. His coloured street photographs, normally captured with a cheap 35mm, are devoid of superficiality as he captures common New Yorkers’ routine in the city.

As a young Jewish boy from Pittsburgh expected to become a rabbi, he fled his family in order to pursue a career as a painter in New York. Once in the city, he was introduced to the New York School of Photographers, which included the likes of Richard Avedon and Diane Arbu and encouraged him to take up photography.

He then spent most of his life in New York’s East Village, where he would go on to become a true pioneer of colour photography. In a world that was defined by black and white, his refreshing outlook on perspectives and colours created unique images.

Men walking in city in snow

Postmen, 1952, by Saul Leiter. source: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York.

Image through dark boards with red on top

Through Boards, 1957, by Saul Leiter. source: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

His training as a painter was clearly visible in his wonderful compositions of daily life as the influence of Japanese ukiyo-e and Expressionism clearly altered his shapes and colours. The dramatic cropping of the frame, the blurred focal points, the odd layering of multiple depths, … His photographs were pre-emptively moulded by his painterly vision.

Saul Leiter shaped an alternate reality which establishes a sense of intimacy between the subject and the onlooker by capturing pictures through mirrors, glasses and windows, in rain, snow or shine. As one of the first public consumers of Kodachrome film in the 50s and 60s, he would opt for out-of-date film in order to keep the cost of his hobby reasonable. This would embed his films with a muted and soft effect, which would only enhance the mysticality of everyday life.

Back of man in snow with hat and coat under shelter

Newspaper Kiosk, 1955, by Saul Leiter. source: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

The common scene is made ambiguous through his photographs, which not only heightens the senses of the viewer but transforms it into something wonderful and mysterious. Somehow, his photographic skills transposes the anonymity of the city onto the people of New York.

Saul Leiter’s coloured street works were however not displayed or recognised until well into the 90s. He was mostly known for dominating the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Vogue in the 60s as a fashion photographer, and for introducing colour into the mundane black and white world of Haute Couture.

His career as a fashion photographer was nevertheless short-lived as it never truly brought him satisfaction – influenced by what he called a ‘Zen lifestyle’ he never sought out fame and even claimed that “in some secret place in my being was a desire to avoid success”.

Blurred woman holding hand with ring behind floral pattern

Soames Bantry, Nova, 1960, by Saul Leiter. source: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Woman in gown stands before large painting of man

Photograph by Saul Leiter source: Saul Leiter Foundation

It was ultimately his own wish for anonymity behind the camera that allowed him to create fugitive and cryptic renditions of the common New Yorker’s daily life. By using a new fashionable and commercial medium such as colour photography to render modernity and anonymity in his city, he renews Baudelaire’s own vision of modernity.

It is therefore only fair to suppose that, through his abstraction of the ordinaire and visions of the fleeting moment, Saul Leiter can allegedly be considered as New York’s own “contemporary flâneur”, equipped with a lens.

Saying ‘au revoir’ to Class of 2019

As another academic year draws to a close, I want to reflect on the wonderful time I have had teaching my Class of 2019 MA Documenting Fashion students…

The autumn term started with a breakfast to greet my new students—and it was clear what an interesting and sparky group they would be.  During the initial thematic classes, we discussed what the terms ‘dress’, ‘fashion,’ ‘costume’, etc. meant and looked at a range of books in our Special Collections—from a 1598 edition of Vecellio’s Habiti antichi, et moderni di tutto il mondo to Paul Iribe’s beautifully illustrated Les robes de Paul Poiret of 1908, to consider the ways fashion has been documented and represented through history.  

Jeordy and Lacey

We talked about our sensory experiences of fashion, fashion’s relationship to memory—personal and historical—and visited archives to develop our ideas. This included a trip to see Beatrice Behlen, Head of Fashion and Decorative Art at the Museum of London, where she showed us several people’s wardrobes; there, the group was entranced by the ways individual style can be recognised and analysed in any era.

Marielle and Daisy

And this was just the opening section of the course and of the students’ entry into the world of Dress History.  It has been so rewarding to see all of you develop from this point—increasing your already considerable skills and finding exciting lines of enquiry as you developed your dissertation topics.  

So, thank you Daisy, Ellen, Fran, Imogene, Jeordy, Lacey, Lily and Marielle—you have all been a complete joy to teach, and I am really looking forward to seeing what you do next. Enjoy the summer—get some well-deserved rest and relish your success at The Courtauld.


The Year Distilled


Tomorrow the Documenting Fashion class of 2019 graduates. Here, as a farewell, we reflect on the past year through items of clothing which we feel summarise our learning and experiences at the Courtauld.



You’ve heard of wearing your heart on your sleeve…

I found this photograph an annoying couple of weeks after submitting the plans for my virtual exhibition, Eyes on Me: The Spectacle of the Worn Gaze. Archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1922, a moment that not only made its mark upon history and the collective imagination, but also manifested itself in art and fashion and upon women’s bodies …

Neither brevity nor synthesis is my forte, but were I to distill this year into a dress, it would be this ‘Egyptomanic’ mousseline Chanel shift. It represents a piece in history I am now equipped to trace and that maxim of ‘eyes wide open’ that has now both inspired and troubled me for years.



This is a sketch by Bonnie Cashin that we viewed during our visit to the FIT archives in New York. Here, the details of the outfit itself are rendered loosely and it’s not quite clear what the finished garments would have looked like. What I love about this sketch, and others by Cashin, is the levity with which she fashions her image of woman. There is a playfulness in the words written at the top of the page: ‘I’m a career girl — I keep it all in two attaches!’ I don’t know the exact date of this sketch, but I imagine it corresponds with her time designing for Coach in the 1960s, during which she created some of their most iconic designs.

The caption, while playful and charming, also touches on something much greater. It relates to the sociocultural shift of women entering the workforce in the postwar period, and how these changes were mediated by fashion, consumption and played out on the body. For me, this sketch captures many of the relevant discussions in our course throughout the year, situating the (stylishly) fashioned body among its social and historical context, all the while maintaining a fun and light tone which made our year deeply engaging and enormously enjoyable.



Azzedine Alaïa ensemble, Winter 1986, ‘Adrian and Alaïa: The Art of Tailoring,’ Association Azzedine Alaïa, Paris, photograph taken by the author.

Fashion is Timelessly Relevant.

If I were to distill this year into an outfit, it would be this look by Azzedine Alaïa from his winter 1986 collection. This ensemble, although designed in the 80s, is something you would see on the street today. It symbolizes the fact that fashion and ideas about fashion can transcend time, which was the conclusion I drew from my MA course. The course was tremendously enriching, and I learned so much about the history of fashion between 1920-1960 through image and film. Most satisfying of all was the realization that everything that I learned is entirely pertinent to my contemporary fashion interests. We were taught to ascertain relevant overarching themes and think critically about issues pertaining to the crucial role dress plays in society and culture.

This look in particular epitomizes for me the way in which Alaïa’s designs are timeless – as are the ideas to which I was exposed this year. This outfit, created almost 40 years ago, is one I would and in fact do, in a way, wear today. While our relationship to dress may differ with time, the vital role fashion plays in reflecting and yes, also in constructing the air du temps, has remained a constant, which demonstrates just how communicative dress can be. I am confident that I can now charge ahead to seek a career in the fashion industry, given the foundation of knowledge I have obtained. In the meantime I will be dreaming about someday being able to afford this outfit …



Alice Moll of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies, ca. early-1920s, postcard, National Football Musuem Archive, Preston (Photo: National Football Museum).

The outfit which sums up the year for me is the women’s football kit from the late-1910s and early-1920s. For me personally, it reflects how I discovered a love of sport history since starting the course. But it also reflects many of the the themes which we learned about and discussed during our MA. We have looked closely at the significance of clothing in relation to constructions of gender, learning how clothes can both reflect ideologies surrounding gender but also reinforce them through the lived experience of wearing certain clothes. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries women were expected to wear very specific types of clothing that reflected notions of ‘femininity’. This clothing was often very restrictive, including corsets and large, unwieldy skirts. So the football kit, traditionally worn by men, posed a huge threat to traditional values – changing both the outward expression of what women were and could be and also the lived experience of the women wearing this loose, comfortable outfit.

The outfit also highlights the importance of movement and gesture in our understandings of dress. Joanne Eicher defines ‘dress’ as including not just clothing itself but also body-modification, personal hygiene and stance. The football kit is fascinating because it changes the way the players’ present themselves in photographs compared to earlier images of women. Furthermore, watching film footage of women playing football in this period brings the outfit to life, showing the changing movements of women and highlighting the importance of sports clothing to this. Ultimately, to me, the female football kit represents my dissertation – the culmination of an intense but fascinating and growthful year!



Costume worn by Emma Stone in The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, costume designer, Sandy Powell. Photo, authors’ own, taken at Hatfield House.

This outfit represents the latter part of the MA year for me. I wrote about the anachronistic costume in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, and out of all the monochrome madness that was going on with the costumes, this is one of my top picks.

It comes at a moment of peak excess in the film for Emma Stone’s character, Abigail, as she ascends from servant to Queen Anne’s favourite. I love the way the film’s costume designer, Sandy Powell, uses the correct silhouette for the mantua style of the time, but experiments with her limited palette and produces this striped bonanza of a dress.

This costume is representative of the year for me, as the course has allowed me to combine my love of history of art, fashion history and film costume, and my enthusiasm for my dissertation consequently knew no bounds! Thank you to Rebecca and congrats to my fellow MAs! X



This year it very much feels like everything I have worked on, been fascinated with, motivated by; has revolved around time – its linearity, its contradictions when explored through a fashion historical lens, its kinks, apertures, and its tendency to double ‘back on itself’ [1]. For my Virtual Exhibition assessment, I looked at what it would mean to encourage a conversation within the walls of a historic space that is known to have inspired a multitude of groundbreaking fashion designs. The @wallacemuseum was the setting, the mid-to-late 1990s work of Vivienne Westwood and the emerging, NewGen London artists of today – including @dilarafindikoglu, @_charlesjeffrey, @yuhanwangyuhan, etc. – were the players.

So when I saw that The Wallace Collection were holding an exhibition this summer that placed legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahník’s (@manoloblahnikhq) works from his private archives, against some of the collection’s most priced masterpieces, I was enthralled. It felt like a real life working out of an assignment I had poured over (though of course the stimuli are wholly different, and a lot pointier), and it made me smile to consider how ideas that we grab at and strive to thoughtfully construct in our seminars, assessments and lunch time debates; could truly find a realised place in contemporary, fashion historical spaces.

I pinched this image from a personal (professional) hero of mine – Naomi Smart (@naomismartuk), British Vogue’s Shopping Editor – from when she visited the exhibition’s opening. The miniature circled is (funnily enough) an artwork that also featured in my Virtual Exhibition – great minds and all that 😉 …

[1] Caroline Evans, ‘history’ in Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, modernity and deathliness (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), p.22



For me the last 9 months have been a whirlwind of learning, growing and delving ever deeper into the world of historical fashion. Throughout the year, I attempted to model my personal style on what my research revealed as a typical ‘college girl wardrobe’ of the 1940s. By dressing the part, I felt like I was not only embodying the idealized student but also connecting to the individual items, designers and dressed individuals I studied and wrote about.

This outfit serves as an excellent example of 1940s college girl attire and symbolises how, throughout the course, the entirety of my life was focused on the pursuit of knowledge. The variety of textures within the outfit —the crisp cotton dress, the scratchy wool jumper, the soft cashmere beret and the worn leather of the shoes— replicate the myriad concepts and approaches to fashion and dress history that the Documenting Fashion unveiled.

The calm earth tones of this ensemble are misleading however, as the year was vibrant, like a textile woven from multicolored threads of knowledge.

How The Jonas Brothers Paid Homage to The Favourite in their Sucker Music Video

In the middle of research for my dissertation, I procrastinated by watching the Jonas Brother’s music video for their single ‘Sucker’. I can’t say I’m a close follower of the band but I was drawn in by their reunion and I feel that they are genuinely hilarious, indicated by this Paper cover.

Pls be my friends.

I’ve since become hooked on the song, but the most significant part of the video for me was the location: the stately home, Hatfield House. This is because a key part of my dissertation was based on the locations used in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, especially Hatfield, which was used for Queen Anne’s palace.
For the most part the music video matches the theme of the song, with the brothers literally falling at their wives’ feet. There was also a chaotic atmosphere, which I felt resembled a mad hatter’s tea party through the exuberant outfits and actual tea parties. In this sense, the grandeur of Hatfield suits the excess in the video; lounging in a bubble bath in a diamond hairnet should be an everyday ritual.

Sofie Turner in the ‘Sucker’ music video.

However, having obsessively looked at Hatfield onscreen and in person, there were some definite nods to The Favourite. I’ve narrowed it down to these three moments:
1. Rabbits

Sophie Turner and Danielle Jonas in ‘Sucker’.

Olivia Colman and Emma Stone as Queen Anne and Abigail Masham in The Favourite.

In The Favourite, Queen Anne has seventeen pet rabbits, which represent the real monarch’s number of miscarriages. They are a key visual motif throughout the film, communicating the Queen’s tragedy and eccentricity. In Sucker, Sophie Turner and Danielle Jonas lounge on deckchairs in the distinctive Marble Hall (think of the scene in the film with the dance mash-up of voguing and waltzing), while a herd of rabbits surround them.

2. The Long Gallery 

Priyanka Chopra in ‘Sucker’.

Emma Stone in The Favourite, with a wide angle lens used for this shot.

This expansive corridor is used many times throughout the film to convey the idea of isolated spaces, with the gallery often manipulated by the use of fisheye lenses to enhance the length and add a period look to the film. In the music video, Priyanka Chopra strides down the corridor, and there is the same gilded ceiling and wooden panelling which makes it so distinctive in The Favourite.

3. The Library 

Image 7: The gang’s all here.

Rachel Weisz and Mark Gatiss as Sarah and John, the Duchess and Duke of Marlborough.

The library is used as Sarah’s bedroom in the film, distinctive for its floor to ceiling bookshelves and ladders lining the walls (think of Sarah throwing books at Abigail, if the room isn’t coming to mind). In the final moments of the music video, the band and their wives pose in front of the shelves as their portraits are painted.
Hatfield House, with its distinctive Jacobean architecture, is a popular film location, and this could be the reason why the Jo Bros chose it for their music video. However, assuming those moments are references to The Favourite makes me enjoy the video and the film so much more, so I can only thank the band for some mid-dissertation distraction.
Watch ‘Sucker’ here.

The John Cole Fashion Photography Archive

As Andrew Bolton, Head Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute once said in a Vogue documentary, ‘Your memory of fashion is fashion photography.’

I love fashion photography. I have collected magazines ever since I was little, when my mother and I would spend hours looking at the pretty glossy pictures. It was my interest in fashion photography that led me to the Documenting Fashion course at The Courtauld. An entire course on fashion imagery? I knew immediately that this course was for me. Reflecting upon my year at The Courtauld as it is coming to a close, I believe that one of the most important things I have learned is to appreciate the depth of fashion photography, as a fashion photograph can be much more than a visually pleasing image. I have learned that fashion photography has the potential to shape our attitudes towards our identity, our society and our culture. But fashion photographs are not only expressions of our visual culture: they are first and foremost expressions of our desires. We can come to see the world through the knowing eye of the fashion photographer, who instinctively captures seminal moments and has the ability to immortalise certain fashion designs.

I was convinced until this year that Google Images and my stack of old magazines were my best bet when it came to looking at old fashion photographs. I have since discovered the existence of a plethora of rich fashion photography archives, many of which have greatly helped me with my research throughout the year. The most recent archive that I have discovered is that of fashion photographer John Cole (1923-1995).

John Cole at work at Studio Five.*

John Cole began his career as a fashion photographer in the 1940s and opened his first studio in Mayfair in 1956. The studio, called ‘Studio Five’, attracted photographers who would rise to great prominence in the fashion industry—one such photographer, David Bailey, would eventually work for British Vogue. 

John started taking fashion photographs in the early 1940s when working for Gee & Watson and Hugh White Studios. He took many photographs for the original Tatler & Bystander magazine which was owned by the Illustrated London News; he also took photographs for Britannia & Eve magazine.

John was a very prolific photographer whose photographs were used for many adverts in a wide range of publications. At Studio Five, he took photographs for Hairdressers Journal, Flair Magazine, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, The SUN, the Daily Express, Evening News, Evening Standard and The Guardian. Throughout the 1970s, Country Life ran a fashion section for which John was the main photographer. 

John’s many years of experience, both in the darkroom and on set watching other photographers at work, would eventually allow him to master his own techniques—such as lighting. As stated in an article from 1962, John was ‘someone at the top but always willing to learn.’ If he wasn’t using tungsten lighting, he was working with the natural daylight that poured in through the two roof windows at Studio Five.

This photograph was taken for Chemstrand tights, April 1966.* 

John asserted his creative agency in the original way he captured the cut and shape of the clothes in his images, demonstrating an utmost confidence in his own instincts. He seemed interested in capturing clothing from unexpected viewpoints. In shooting from quirky angles, his photographs change the way a particular garment is seen. They provide a fresh perspective on relatively standard items of dress that would make any woman want to purchase them. 

John Cole had a knack for showing the clothes off from unexpected angles.*

The pictures that have been collected and made available in his archive accessible via a website and an Instagram account give us a glimpse of the times in which he worked, particularly the 1960s—an era full of glamour and youthful fun. Included in this collection of stunning photographs are images of model-turned-editor Grace Coddington, along with some behind the scenes photographs that provide us with a flavour of the energetic ambiance of Studio Five. 

There was always music being played at the studio. Well, it was the 60s!*

John had a distinct ability to capture the energy of his subject. While there is a light and whimsical overtone to his photographs, the model in the picture always seems to be deeply engaged and present. We can see that each model is prepared to give everything she has, with the knowledge that John would capture her at the perfect moment. Each one of John’s models emanates a liveliness that reflects her desire to fully invest in playing her role for the camera. As John himself asserted, ‘There has to be complete affinity between photographer and model to take a really good picture.’

This image of Twiggy was taken for fashion brand Slimma in 1966. The clothes were designed by David Bond, whose trouser suit was the Bath Fashion Museum Dress of the Year in 1967, chosen by Felicity Green at the Daily Mirror.*

The John Cole website provides everything from bibliographic information, to video clips of him on set with 1960s icon Twiggy, to personal accounts written by individuals who worked alongside Cole at Studio Five. 

An archive such as this puts into question the ephemeral nature of fashion photography. It challenges common notions of fashion photography as images that we mindlessly flip through in a waiting room or on our morning commute: images that are quickly discarded, never to be looked at again once the next month’s issue is published. A fashion photography archive emphasises the commonly overlooked notion that fashion photography has the potential to capture the collective consciousness of a particular time, frozen in one glossy beautiful image. For those of us who cannot afford to wear the glamorous clothes featured in most fashion photographs, we can take solace in the thought that fashion photography nevertheless allows us to partake in this dream world. 

* All images taken from the John Cole Archive and subject to copyright.




‘Photography in Advertising: A self-contained service in an unusual backwater,’ John Heron, February, 1955

‘“The Only Way to Succeed…” Robert Sowter interviews top photographer John Cole,’ Robert Sowter, Time & Tide, November, 1962

In her image: the documentation of the Neue Frau in German Weimar-era lesbian magazines

I came across these magazines when researching the topic of my most recent written assessment. By now, I have carried an intense fascination with the sexual socio-political climate of the Weimar Republic for a couple of years. On the course ‘Reassembling Modernism: Artists’ Networks in Europe 1909-1960’ as an undergraduate, I was introduced to Weimar culture when we examined the Neue Frau in the Berlin of the 1920s. It was a text by Maria Makela entitled ‘New women, new men, new objectivity’, however, that truly peaked my interest in the subject. 

‘The Latest Acquisition of the Masculine Woman – the Tuxedo’, Das Magazin, August 1926, addition to image made by the author

This year, I revisited the Neue Frau and explored her myth and ideological potential whilst considering her as a phenomenon of cosmopolitanism—in relation to class, gender and violence in the city. Makela’s essay was my starting point, and these magazines gave me an example of how the Neue Frau’s multi-faceted identity was utilised to develop a progressive symbol of gender subversion. The Neue Frau/neue frauen is the German adaptation of the New Woman. The New Woman was a female figure, a new gender type, who emerged in modern society towards the end of the nineteenth century, becoming a popularised construct in the first half of the twentieth century. 

‘What do you say about Fräulein Mia?’, Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, November 1927, additions to image made by the author

The Neue Frau was a fashionable woman who adopted traditionally heteronormative, ‘masculine’ traits within her dress identity to disassociate herself from the pre-WWI woman. Her image epitomised modern femininity, but it also effectively mirrored how interwar Germany perceived itself to be under cultural threat from the masculinisation of a ‘New’ generation of emancipated women. In the pages of queer publications, however, the Neue Frau’s image was represented without ridicule or cynicism. It was interesting to reconfigure my own perception of her image after months of aligning it with the caricatured parody that male, Neue Sachlichkeit artists had painted her to be.

Otto Dix, Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden, 1926, oil and tempera on wood: 47¼ x 31½ in (120 × 80 cm), additions to image made by the author

In the case of the women depicted in Liebende Frauen (1927-1930), the tensions felt nationwide between opposing genders are made redundant. At the time of the1929/30 issue, Liebende Frauen was one of two lesbian magazines in Berlin; the other, the more widely-known Die Freundin (The Girlfriend: Journal for Ideal Friendship between Women) had been in circulation since 1924. Art historian Heike Schader notes that Liebende Frauen is most likely a reprint of the magazine Frauenliebe (Women Love); which in turn was renamed Garçonne in 1930.

Liebende Frauen: Wochenschrift des ‘Deutschen Freundschafts-Verbandes’ Vol. 4, no.13, (1929), Berlin, Spinnboden—Lesbenarchiv und Bibliothek, Berlin, additions to image made by the author

In the above image, a cover dated 1929, the female subject sports a bubikopf—a haircut strongly associated with the Neue Frau, which translates directly to ‘boy’s head’ and was reconfigured into numerous variations, such as the shortened and smoothed ‘Eton crop’, similar to that of Louise Brooks’ Lulu in Pandora’s Box. The overlapping strings of pearl necklaces that decorate her neck, the draped cut of her neckline and way in which her face is coquettishly turned from the camera’s gaze tells the reader that this Neue Frau, like Brooks’ Lulu—will not apologise for claiming her own sexuality. This cover presents allure and a conscious play on the provocation of desires, celebrating the figure of the New Woman by virtue of her dress and demeanour.

These covers are truly wonderful examples of how the New Woman, specifically the homosexual New Woman, found alternative means of how her image could be disseminated in popular culture via ways less damaging to her personhood. Each cover is a portal into an important history for women, and they each contribute to the Neue Frau as a social construct: one that was repeatedly well-documented until the Weimar Republic’s fall.  

To see more of these wonderful covers, go to the Spinnboden Lesbenarchiv und Bibliothek, Berlin’s online archives: www.meta-katalog.eu 

Additionally, there are lots of many interesting texts covering the Neue Frau’s image, such as: 

  • Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar Culture by Katherina von Ankum 
  • Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation by Ute Frevert
  • Women in Weimar Fashion: Discourses in German Culture, 1918-1933 by Mila Ganeva 
  • The New Woman International by Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco
  • Visions of the “Neue Frau”: Women and the Visual Arts in Weimar Germany by Marsha Meskimmon
  • The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany by Katie Sutton 

Maria Makela, “New Women, New Men, New Objectivity” in New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic 1919-1933
Heike Schader, ‘Liebende Frauen’
Katie Sutton, ‘The Masculinisation of Woman’ in The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany

Festive Fantasies

This is not a joke: last year, I made a Keynote presentation of things I wanted for the holidays. It was called ‘Lacey’s presentation-chic 22nd Christmas-cum-23rd birthday vision board’. It culminated with a a request for balloons, and I made it entirely for the pleasure of creating it—and presenting it to my mom.  

St. Vincent said something about how seduction occurs when the invitation to the party is actually better than the party. This is true about so many things, including the holidays. Who cares about one day when you get the build up of a month’s worth—at least!—of lights, fir trees, wreaths and baubles, roasted chestnuts, the Grinch and Charlie Brown music?  

I realise this isn’t universal. (For example, talking to my friend in Paris the other week, I learned that, despite having gone to college in New York and having two small children, she had never seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I quickly remedied that by showing her the best Christmas song  in American history.) But bear with me. I think we can all relate to the thrill of anticipation, a thrill that overshadows whatever it is that it’s building towards. There’s such unattached delight in knowing that state of affairs from the onset. 

This year for the holidays, we have turned to the timeless wish list—dress-related, of course! I had such fun reading about everyone’s desired objects, whether they be fantastic or grounded in reality, and hope you do as well. 

Happy holidays from the Class of 2018-2019!


Not coming from a Fashion or Art History background, the first time I saw Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work was at the V&A Shaping Fashion exhibition earlier this year. I absolutely fell in love with the vivid green colour and incredibly bold design of this dress. It is probably completely impractical and I have absolutely nowhere to wear it but I love it and I just want to have it so I can stare at it!

Installation view of V&A Balenciaga Shaping Fashion exhibition showing evening dress and cape, silk gazar, Cristóbal Balenciaga. Credit: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/style/balenciaga-va-7-reasons-should-see-fashion-exhibition-year/

For some reason I was watching the ‘Never Forget You’ (The Noisettes) video a few weeks ago and I thought Shingai Shoniwa’s punk-esque outfit was amazing, particularly the silver docs. My go to outfit for a night-out is a sequin dress with black patent docs but I would love to upgrade to a sequin dress with silver docs!


My dream present is this Giambattista Valli autumn/ winter 2015 haute couture skirt. I love this because of the bright ombré colour and the exaggerated size and volume of the skirt. I can only imagine how it would feel to wear this, and I love that it has next to no practicality. In essence, this fulfils my childhood dreams of a bona fide princess skirt.

I am ashamed to admit that I’ve avoided getting a sight test for 2 years and, furthermore, have had the same glasses for four years… So, I have decided to get a new pair. I love the idea of clear frames, but these are slightly tinted a blush pink. I wear my glasses all the time (I’m lazy and haven’t sorted contact lenses), so I aim for a mixture of something practical but also stylish.


So, the gift on my list that will never arrive (boo Saint Nick, you bore) is a Christopher Kane AW18 crystal-embellished black, twill blazer. I would dress this bejewelled number up with a black tailored flare-trouser and a classic Chanel-red lip. Maybe even a pair of huge, over-sized Oscar de la Renta crystal earrings—though that could be overkill. OR be a little less theatrical and wear it with pair of classic Hedi Slimane Saint Laurent leather trousers (maybe AW15?—I am still very much in the realm of fantasy here, in case you were confused.) Running with this theme, I would paint my face with some YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Fuschia Innocent and a dash of jet-black mascara (and most likely a splattering of glitter). 

I am desperate to sit by a log fire with an amaretto-infused mulled wine and read Emily Spivack’s Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City (2017).

Another (less dress/fashion themed) publication I am very interested in is Sarah McBride’s Tomorrow Will Be Different (2018). I listen to an amazing podcast called How to be a Girl by Marlo Mack, and the last episode (Episode XXVI, 6 November 2018) was dedicated to McBride’s inspirational career; she is an amazingly strong woman. Also, listen to this podcast NOW—it’s a whole thing.


I would want a front row ticket to a Chanel Haute Couture fashion show… that would be a fantasy in itself.

Left: Chanel Haute Couture Show Spring 2017
Right: Helmut Newton photo of Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Le Smoking’, ‘Rue Aubriot, Paris, 1975’, 1975, French Vogue

For my more realistic gift, I’d like to have an enlarged photograph of an iconic fashion image – a Helmut Newton photograph or a photograph of a Grace Coddington fashion editorial.


In the alternate reality where I have rich friends and family and have fashioned myself after Eartha Kitt, the ‘Victoire’ Clutch with Shell from Rocio (or literally any of their other clutches) would be on my wish-list.

Acacia and shell ‘Victoire’ clutch by Rocio. Photo taken from the author

Each stunning, limited-edition bag is handmade in the Philippines using native acacia wood. This clutch is acacia and shell, and features an 18k gold chain and clasp, and faux suede lining. It would look simply marvellous with a silk or velvet evening gown, don’t you think? It is available at Fortum and Masons, if anyone wants to be my Santa Baby this year!

Even realistically, buying clothes for your loved ones for Christmas is risky business, especially when they (I) wear mostly vintage clothing. For this reason, this year I have my eye on the novel and extraordinary bespoke creations at The Emperor’s Old Clothes, a vintage and one-of-a-kind clothing boutique in Brighton.

Cropped jacket and miniskirt sets from The Emperor’s Old Clothes. Photo courtesy of Instagram

Their unique sets—either a pencil or circle skirt and crop-top, or cropped jacket and miniskirt— are handmade with vintage fabrics, making them especially one-of-a-kind. The Emperor’s Old Clothes’ all-female team are paid a living wage, making their products ethical on top of being environmentally friendly and unique, all of my criteria for a great gift.

Top and skirt sets from The Emperor’s Old Clothes. Photo courtesy of Instagram


It’s not just that I want this dress: it’s that I want a reason to have this dress. If I were to dress up like the Sugar Plum Fairy, you better believe I’d have the social connections and sparkly evening plans to go with it. I’m already worried about how to get my hair to behave…

Lately, my friends and I have talked about having patrons and sponsors—people to magically offer us jobs and provide goods like above. Until that happens, I ran out of my Atelier Cologne clementine perfume last year and am dying for more…


I dream of an opportunity to wear this Yohji Yamamoto gown I saw at the Fashion and Lace Museum in Brussels, and of an occasion to wear it!

Photo by the author

But I could more realistically swing a skirt with reversible sequins, a trend I love for this year, and perfect for a holiday party (or any other day)!

Photo courtesy of Instagram

MA Documenting Fashion 2017-18 Farewell

Just like that our MA has flown by and the Documenting Fashion group of 2017-18 graduates with our Masters in the History of Art on Monday! Documenting Fashion blog co-runners Olivia and I wanted to say goodbye and thank you for following along! As we reflect on this wonderful year, we’re sharing some behind-the-scenes photos and our favorite memories. Below are some lists I’ve compiled from the group reminiscing about moments from our time in class, our trips, and of course, our best food moments.

Niall and Arielle admire Rebecca’s Kim Kardashian Selfie book

In class:

  • Viewing the Courtauld’s collection of fashion magazines such as the Gazette du Bon Ton
  •  Rebecca’s seminar on Vionnet and the big reveal of her favorite Vionnet dress
  •  Book time! – For each seminar Rebecca would collect books from her impressive collection which pertained to that weeks topic. It was endlessly exciting and I think we all have book wish-lists a mile long now
  • Dr. Adrian Garvey’s guest lecture on film and World War II
  • Our seminar on Gordon Parks
  • last but certainly not least, when we were fortunate to have been visited by our favorite dachshund, Koda

The group with Beatrice Behlen at The Museum of London

Nelleke at the Posturing exhibit

Field trips:

  • Our first visit to the Courtauld’s own prints and drawing collection
  • V&A Blythe house where we got to see some show-stoppers
  • Our multiple visits to the Museum of London – especially when we considered dress and biography
  • Visiting Autograph APB
  • The Mod New York exhibition in NYC where we collectively marveled at the beautiful exhibition design and danced to the groovy playlist

Spotted: Destinee, Olivia, Niall, and Grace on the steps of the Met in NYC – xoxo Documenting Fashion


  • Our weekly after seminar lunches in the Coutauld cafe
  • Tutorials at Federation Coffee in Brixton
  • When Evie brought us to Fish n Chips in Camberwell
  • Our lunch at by Chloe during dissertation work


For me, the best part of this year has been the friendship I’ve found in my Documenting Fashion classmates. As you can tell from our posts, we all approach dress differently but we are also extremely supportive and encouraging of each other’s thoughts and work. Our personalities meshed together so well since day one and we have had such fun together while also pushing each other to think differently, and ultimately, be better art historians. I am truly thankful to have gone through this experience with such a lovely group of people.

Thank you for reading. We are so looking forward to what the next MA Documenting Fashion group creates for you starting in September.

Abby Fogle

Live Podcast Recording: What Do We Want From Fashion Writing And Imagery Now?

Please join us Friday 29 June, 2018 at the Courtauld Institute of Art 10:30am-12:00pm for a live recording of The Conversations with Jason Campbell & Henrietta Gallina podcast, open to all free admission

Speakers include

  • Jason Campbell – journalist, personal stylist and forecaster
  • Henrietta Gallina – creative strategist

Organised by

  • Dr Rebecca Arnold – The Courtauld Institute of Art

Writers and critics represent a shrinking talent pool in the fashion industry, meanwhile fashion imagery has become a staple in our daily social media digest. With that, how we document fashion is shifting in an unprecedented way, so we will discuss how these changes are manifesting and put forward the question of what is needed and wanted today.  Join us for a live recording, with Q&A.

The Conversations With Jason Campbell & Henrietta Gallina is a weekly podcast hosted by two fashion professionals and enthusiasts. For years, Henrietta and Jason found that the conversations they were having about the fashion industry and culture were not ones being had in mainstream arenas, so in the summer of 2017, they decided document their ongoing discussions via their podcast which can be found on iTunes, Podbean and Stitcher.

Jason Campbell is a 25-year veteran of the fashion industry working as a journalist, personal stylist and forecaster. From 2002-2012, Jason published the seminal newsletter JC Report, covering trends, talents and movements from across the globe. In his role as consultant, brands such as the NFL, American Express Centurion, and Limited Brands depend on his fashion wisdom to inform their strategic marketing. Jason has also been a contributing writer to Style.com, New York Times Magazine and Surface Magazine.

Henrietta has over 12 years of experience working with a multitude of fashion, lifestyle and corporate companies across brand, creative and digital strategy and storytelling. Having worked with notable companies as Fred Perry, Topshop, Shinola, COS, Karla Otto, Nike, Parley For The Oceans, Universal Standard and many more, her focus is overall brand and cultural relevancy via bespoke strategic thinking, creative vision, content and special projects.