Prof. Elizabeth Edwards to Speak at the Courtauld

Join us Monday 20 March in the Research Forum from 12:30 pm-1:30 pm for ‘Thoughts on historical pagents as photographs,’ an Ad/dressing History lecture with Professor Elizabeth Edwards!

Image: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The early twentieth century saw a craze for historical pageants – popular re-enactments of the history of a locality. In these the stress on authenticity of historical representation through words, scenes and costume was particularly important. Prof. Edwards will consider the role of photography in perpetuating these quasi-ritual processes, values and the social efficacy of the pageants. She argues that photographs of pageants were not merely records of pageants, but, through the temporal complexity and reality effect of photographs, created a subjunctive ‘as if’ of history which extended the reach of the ritual qualities of pageants. This paper is part of a larger ethnographic project on photography and the emergence of public histories 1850-1950.

Elizabeth Edwards is a visual and historical anthropologist. She has worked extensively on the relationships between photography, history and anthropology. She is Professor Emerita of Photographic History at De Montfort University, Honorary Professor in the Anthropology Department at UCL and will soon join the V&A Research Institute as Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor.  She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2015. Her current book projects are on photography and the emergence  concepts of the collective ownership of ancient monuments, and on photography and the apparatus and practice of history.

Alumni Interview: Katerina Pantelides and Alexis Romano – Part 2

On a rainy day in The Courtauld student café, Alexis Romano and Katerina Pantelidesboth of whom have recently completed their PhDs in dress history at The Courtauldgenerously agreed to tell me a bit about their work. Due to the length of the interview the first half was posted last Friday, it continues here: 

Katerina (L) & Alexis (R) presenting in class during their MA at The Courtauld

Alexis and Katerina presenting at a Courtauld conference together. 

Do you have any advice for people who might be thinking of doing a PhD? 

Alexis: I would say be as organised as you can and treat it as a nine-to-five job. I think if you professionalise it you will be more productive. 

Katerina: I would say that it’s really difficult to write and research things if you’re worried about money, so try and get that sorted. It’s a really practical thing but it helps so much with treating it like a job. I would also say make sure you have a topic that you are really passionate about. Be open minded. Make sure you have the supervision and support that you need, for example if you have a topic that bridges disciplines, try and get supervision from both

You’re both co-founders of the Fashion Research Network. Can you tell me a bit more about it?

Katerina: We are both co-founders with Nathaniel Beard and Ellen Sampson, who are from the Royal College of Art. It started off because we felt that there were lots of institutions in London with students who were doing research in fashion and dress but they all seemed like these separate little fiefdoms, and we thought why don’t we try and get them together, put on an event, and get people talking to each other. It started with a pilot event in summer 2013 and it was a really big success. Since then we have done quite a few events: museum tours, artists and designer talks, symposia and reading groups. We have had some interesting people involved and it’s been pretty interdisciplinary. 

Alexis: Yes, the interdisciplinary aspect is a central part of our mission, because the other co-founders are not historians; they work on fashion but they come from different fields. One of the obstacles for us in our own research was coming to terms with the fact that fashion is not just history and its not just image, its an industry, it involves so many different types of people, languages and disciplines – things that, as art historians, we might not understand without having conversations with people from other fields. Through the FRN, we wanted to get as broad a definition of fashion as possible to work with! 

What are your plans for the future now that you have both finished your PhDs?

Katerina: I’m writing my first novel, teaching English and am in the first stages of planning a small exhibition about fashion and the senses with Alexis.
Alexis: I am hoping to put together a proposal for a manuscript and some exhibitions, and a course from my research. So that’s the current project, but I am also looking for funding to make that happen. I am currently Exhibition Reviews Editor for Textile History Journal, am also starting a project making greetings cards, and of course, we are in the very early stages of curating an exhibition together about fashion and the senses. So stay tuned for more!

Alexis' research, Elle magazine, 1968.

Alexis’ research, Elle magazine, 1968.

A peek at Alexis' current projects: Elle, a greetings card prototype and Textile History journal.

A peek at Alexis’ current projects: Elle, a greetings card prototype and Textile History journal.

The Birth of Cool: A Research Forum Event

BOC-hi-res-jacket-for-Courtauld-e1464705512832-1024x672Please join us on Monday, 20 June for a Courtauld Institute Research Forum, The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora. The event is organised by our own Dr Rebecca Arnold with guest speaker Carol Tulloch, the Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism at the University of the Arts, London, based at the Chelsea College of Art. Carol Tulloch’s practice of research in dress studies has invariably been inspired by an image. This was the case for her recent publication The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora. In this informal illustrated talk Carol will discuss the role images have played in the writing of her book and why certain images had to be included.

Carol Tulloch is also the Chelsea College of Arts/V&A Fellow in Black Visual and Material Culture at the V&A Museum. As writer and curator, Carol’s recent work includes: the book and exhibition Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism (co-editor and co-curator 2015), the articles A Riot of Our OwnA Reflection on Agency (2014), Buffalo: Style with Intent’ (2011), ‘Style-Fashion-Dress: From Black to Post-black’ (2010); and the exhibitions ‘The Flat Cloth Cap’ in Cabinet Stories (2015),  International Fashion Showcase: Botswana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone,British Council (2012), Handmade Tales: Women and Domestic Crafts, Women’s Library London (2010-11), Black British Style (co-curator 2004).

http://professorcaroltulloch.com

Event Details:

Monday 20 June 2016

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Research Forum Seminar Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN

http://courtauld.ac.uk/event/the-birth-of-cool-style-narratives-of-the-african-diaspora


The Research Forum “Dress Talks” is a series of lunchtime events bringing together a roster of invited speakers to talk about their current research, and encourage discussion about dress history now. Each term academics, curators and dress and fashion industry professionals will share their insight and analysis of an aspect of dress and fashion history to provide a platform for new ideas and approaches to the subject.

Taking place over the lunch hour, these sessions are free and open to all.

 

Alumni Interview: Hannah Jackson

Hannah Jackson completed both her BA and MA at The Courtauld Institute, and is now Assistant Curator at the Bowes Museum in Durham. Here she discusses how 19th century dress construction lead to a photography-focused MA dissertation and the joys of the recent Bowes Museum exhibition “Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal”.

Yves Saint Laurent 'Mondrian Dress', at the Bowes Museum 2016

Yves Saint Laurent ‘Mondrian Dress’, at the Bowes Museum 2016

Having completed your BA at the Courtauld in the History of Art, what led you to decide to pursue your MA in the History of Dress at the Courtauld as well? 

I came to The Courtauld to study a BA straight after completing an art foundation at Falmouth University. During my foundation course I specialised in the construction of 19th century dress, taking my inspiration from textile collections in local museums across Cornwall. So during my BA I was always trying to squeeze in dress history into my various course options. In my third year I researched the depiction of drapery in 18thcentury French painting. Following this I knew I wanted to focus purely on dress history and the MA felt like a natural progression.

Reflecting on your experience during the MA, how did your research interests evolve throughout the year, and if so, how did these interests coalesce into your dissertation?  

Having spent the previous three years as an art historian I found it difficult initially to break away from that method of analysis. I was very image focused so most of my research leaned towards photography, looking at the works of Cecil Beaton and Eugene Atget. This informed my dissertation topic on Madame Yevonde’s Goddess Series. I examined several photographs from the Goddess series in detail, demonstrating the ways in which Yevonde seized the opportunities offered by neo-classical dress and the new technique of colour photography to explore deeper themes of female identity and representation.

What role did the Courtauld MA in the History of Dress play in defining your professional trajectory? 

My love of imagery combined with the stories behind objects in museums has always been a big part of my enjoyment in the subject. During the MA course Dr Rebecca Arnold organised some incredible trips to national and international museums including the American Folk Art Museum in New York and Museum of London and V&A. These trips ‘behind-the-scenes’ were so interesting and I knew this was a world I wanted to be part of.

Can you describe what your average day as an Assistant Curator at The Bowes Museum entails? 

It’s a combination of things… at the moment we are de-installing our permanent display of fashion and textiles to make room for our next exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain which opens in June. I also handle any enquires or offers of donation to our department. If new donations are accepted then I ensure they are catalogued and stored. The curators also work closely with the textile conservation team on exhibitions and loans. Earlier this year our team catalogued a very large collection of privately owned quilts, which will soon be divided between family members, with some pieces being sold. Last year I spent quite a bit of time on events relating to temporary exhibitions including a dance/costume performance with Fertile Ground, a Newcastle based dance company and a film symposium with Durham University which coincided with our Summer 2015 exhibition Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal.

How did The Bowes Museum’s “Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal” exhibition come about? 

A few years ago we loaned a Canaletto painting to the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. When the Canaletto was being installed, my colleague met a freelance curator working on the show and mentioned how similar The Bowes’ history was with the Jacquemart-André. My colleague mentioned the fashion and textile department here and how it has grown and developed, with past exhibitions such as Stephen Jones and Vivienne Westwood. The freelancer said that she had close affiliations with the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent and that she could put us in touch with them. My collegue Joanna Hashagen, Curator of Fashion and Textiles, established the working relationship with the Fondation from that moment. The Bowes Museum’s co-founder was a fashionable Parisian woman, and the building itself is in the style of a French château, so our French roots were integral to our partnership with the YSL Fondation.

Were there any particular theoretical and aesthetic approaches that informed your work on the exhibition? 

The show itself was co-curated by Joanna Hashagen (Curator of Fashion & Textiles at The Bowes) and Sandrine Tinturier (Responsable de la Conservation Textile et Arts Graphiques at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent) so this question is probably better aimed at them. They really wanted to celebrate Yves Saint Laurent’s love of women, art and fashion, as a designer notable for equality in fashion. The exhibition was split into five themes: Haute Couture, Masculin/Féminin, Transparence, Art and Spectaculaire. The pieces were carefully curated, making links to our own permanent display of fashion and textiles, which highlighted Yves Saint Laurent’s distinct relationship with history and art.

Did you learn anything particularly fascinating about Yves Saint Laurent or his maison while researching and preparing the exhibition?

The most fascinating thing I found out about Yves Saint Laurent was how truly dedicated he was to his subject. This may seem obvious but he started at such a young age. As a teenager he designed collections for a series of hand-made paper dolls by cutting out silhouettes from his mother’s favourite magazines such as Vogue, calling it ‘Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent Haute Couture Place Vendôme’. The paper-dolls were all named and he created model programmes for each collection and put on fashion shows for his siblings and mother.

What was your favorite piece from exhibition? 

The toiles were my favourite pieces in the show. I really like seeing the making process and the ‘before-hand’ pieces, they were essentially 3D sketches. The selection of toiles were displayed in a completely white space, so they really had their own voice in the exhibition. Even the toiles were effortless couture, every inch of the stitching and design was immaculate.

Are there any exciting curatorial or research projects you are working on at the moment?

Last April I was one of five to win the Art Fund’s New Collecting Award which encourages curators to pursue new avenues for collecting in their museums. We won a total of £60,000 to collect French haute couture. I aim to acquire key pieces of French fashion which reflect the Museum’s founder Joséphine Bowes. Joséphine was a shopaholic, purchasing garments from The House of Worth during the 1860s. The John and Joséphine Bowes Archive in our library holds a number of bills which relate to the establishment of the museum but also all of Joséphine’s shopping receipts which reveal a lot about the type of fabric she was buying, how much and from which establishments. Joséphine was extremely fashionable but unfortunately none of her wardrobe survives today, so I want to collect pieces which reflect her identity and shopping habits, using the extensive archive of bills as evidence. I have a year left on my contract at The Bowes Museum so I am also focusing my time on selecting garments for the gallery redisplay, planned for 2018.

Yves Saint Laurent toiles, Bowes Museum 2016

Yves Saint Laurent toiles, Bowes Museum 2016

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

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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’

A Day in the Life of a Courtauld Student – 18th November 2015

With a vast number of libraries to visit across London, and a variety of fascinating lectures to attend, no day as a student at the Courtauld is quite the same. On a Wednesday morning, I would usually attend the Foundations lecture series, however today I made my way to Brixton for a tutorial on our first marked essay. Rebecca and I had a productive discussion at the Ritzy café on my topic – how Alfred Hitchcock uses Dior’s New Look in his 1955 film Rear Window – then once everyone’s sessions wrapped up, the course gathered to discuss our quickly approaching field trip to New York (time does indeed fly on a nine month MA course!).

Brixton

However, we weren’t quite ready to head back to school and were keen to explore Brixton a bit more so Giovanna, Leah, Aric, Aude, Eleanor and I popped over to Brixton Village Market to energize ourselves with a quick coffee before heading back to Courtauld to resume work on our essays. We stopped at Federation, an Aussie-owned café, and treated ourselves to their famous Anzac biscuits and gluten-free brownies, which we enjoyed over quality flat whites and lattes.

Walking through Brixton Village Market. Christmas decorations are up already!

Federation

Enjoying some very needed coffee and treats.

Intense dress history discussion.

Flat White at Federation.

Afterwards, we took the tube back to the Courtauld and buried ourselves in the stacks! We settled in our cozy basement library for an afternoon of (hopefully) productive study. In search of 1950s contemporary commentary and images regarding femininity in America for my essay, I spent most of the afternoon immersed in the Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily archives at the Courtauld’s Book Library.

Everyone on the tube.

Secluded study spot in the Courtauld Library.

Some research materials.

In need of a bit of fresh air after an afternoon of study, I ventured up to the Somerset House courtyard, where the Fortnum and Mason’s SKATE rink, Christmas Arcade and Lodge have now been officially opened – indeed to much fan fair yesterday. Dodging enthusiastic skaters and passerby’s taking selfies, I walked over to the New Wing of Somerset House for the Law Society’s “Art Law” course in which I have enrolled. The certificate is essentially a crash course in copyright, intellectual property law and related themes, which will hopefully allow me to speak with a bit of confidence on the subject one day.

Somerset House and Christmas tree!

F&M Christmas tree decorations.

Tom’s Skate Lounge.

Skaters on the rink.

Tomorrow promises to be equally diverse and exciting with visits to the British Film Institute’s archive and the British Library planned. Perhaps I’ll wrap up the day with the yoga society’s weekly evening session. Namaste!

50 Years of History of Dress at the Courtauld Alumni Interviews Part Nine: Natalia Ramirez, MA (2012)

 Each month in 2015, we will post an interview with one of our alumni, as part of our celebrations of this year’s auspicious anniversary. The Courtauld’s History of Dress students have gone on to forge careers in a diverse and exciting range of areas.  We hope you enjoy reading about their work, and their memories of studying here.

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Natalia is a fellow 2012 alumna of The Courtauld History of Dress MA. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Natalia has lived in London for over five years. Since graduating from The Courtauld, she has worked in online marketing for luxury beauty brands such as Estée Lauder, and is now a Digital Marketing Manager at Music Sales, in addition to running a successful fashion blog, Natalia Ambrosia (link below).

You took your undergraduate degree at The University of California, Santa Barbara. What was it like? 

Going to University in Santa Barbara was like being on holiday, it was very surreal. The University is directly on the coast and I could wake up go for a run, and even take my reading to the beach.

What were the best parts of the History of Dress MA for you when we took it in 2011-2012? 

I really enjoyed visiting the archives of the Museum of London and analysing pieces of clothing. Going to New York on the group trip was also very cool. Dr. Arnold set up everything from private visits to the FIT to the most incredible vintage store in Brooklyn: everything we’d been reading about came to life.

Did you notice differences between your study experiences in the USA and the UK? 

The British University system trains you to be a lot more independent. In the US, you have at least 2-4 hours of lectures/discussion per day and have weekly assignments, whereas in the UK, apart from assigned readings, you have 3-4 assignments for the whole semester. It was definitely an adjustment at first, but it really gave me an opportunity to explore and evolve themes that I had been working on.

Can you tell us your favourite place hang out in London? 

For coffee there’s no place like the ‘villagey’ feel of Hampstead. To get inspired, I like to people watch on Oxford Street (not far from The Courtauld): it’s like the pulse of London; you get a feel for what people are actually wearing.

 You run an amazing blog, Natalia Ambrosia, and it’s given you some great opportunities, like attending London Fashion Week. What’s the experience like for you?

In many ways, my blog was the catalyst for deciding to pursue an MA in Dress History at The Courtauld. I had moved to Paris to teach English and was interning for a small menswear designer because I thought I wanted to design clothes. I started the blog as an outlet for everything I saw and wanted and became obsessed with fashion blogs. I quickly realised that I wasn’t suited to design but was very much interested in the relationship society has with fashion, and therefore the Courtauld programme was perfect.

You’ve had an exciting career in beauty and marketing since leaving The Courtauld. What are you up to at the moment, and how did the course help you? 

During the course I had the opportunity to explore the evolution of the fashion industry since the introduction of the ‘fashion blogger.’ For my research, I spent countless hours at the V&A going through the Vogue archives, reading articles and looking through advertisements. I knew when I started the course that I didn’t want to continue on to a PHD, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted or could do with my experience and interests. During the course, I realised that I really enjoyed dissecting the psychology of the customer and Digital Marketing seemed like a natural choice, as it marries my need to be creative and analytical with the fashion industry. Since the course, I’ve worked in the beauty/fashion industry, and I currently work for a music company, where I’m working on a rebranding project. The Courtauld History of Dress MA really helped me to develop my analytical skills and led me to my career, and now, to use marketing speak, it’s my USP (unique selling point).

Do you have any tips for History of Dress students? 

Go to as many exhibitions and museums as you can while in you’re in London. Make the course yours: explore all of the details that capture your interest; you never know where it might lead! Go out there and interview everyone; make use of your stance as a student, and reach out to industry leaders – network!

 What are you excited about in fashion this season? 

Chloé. Everything Chloé.

 

@nataliaambrosia

5 Minutes with… Michaela Zöschg

Michaela Zöschg is a fourth-year Ph.D. student at The Courtauld, and Research Assistant for the upcoming V&A exhibition Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery. Her thesis is titled ‘Rich Queens, Poor Clares: Art, Space and Audience of Royal Clarissan foundations in Late Medieval Europe’. She was born in Bolzano, Italy, and moved to London in 2011 from Vienna. She now spends her time between South London, Vienna and the Tyrolean Alps (and southern Italy and Spain for research). I recently spent five minutes with Michaela to discuss her experience of dress.

Can you recall an early fashion memory?

Dark red patent leather Mary Janes I got when I was about four. I still remember the excitement of trying them on in the shop, and how I insisted on having them in my bedroom, so that I could look at their shiny prettiness before falling asleep.

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Through your research, you are connected to people (women) who lived hundreds of years ago, so, in a way, you are dealing with many mysteries and interpreting silent voices. Do you feel like you must reconstruct their identities through the material evidence they left behind?

Absolutely. More often than not, material evidence – in the form of the stones of a palace or a church, in the form of an illumination or a scribble in a book, or in the form of a sculpture or a painting – is the only evidence I have, and the only means through which I can try and re-construct some of the stories of people who have lived in the past.

Can you share any comments on your everyday approach/method to getting dressed, and its connections to your own identity construction?
I think I put my everyday wardrobe together rather instinctively, without thinking about it in a methodological way. The most important thing is that I feel comfortable in my clothes and that I don’t have to think about them once I am wearing them; looking at it from this perspective, I think they are very much part of my identity, as they form some sort of second skin.

You are a passionate, talented knitter. How did you learn? What are you currently working on?

Thank you! Many members of my family are very good at making things – my mum is an amazing knitter, and my aunt was a professional seamstress, so I grew up in an environment full of fabric, yarn, wool, needles and buttons, and picked up knitting. These days, I unfortunately do not have that much time to knit, usually I end up making small gifts for baby arrivals among my friends. But I have a stash of a beautiful grey merino-alpaca blend that will hopefully soon be turned into a cosy winter layer for myself.

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Can you discuss a memorable clothing purchase from your past?

That would be a simple white cotton shirt I must have bought around the years 2000/01, which was quite expensive for my budget then. I remember going back to the store about three times before finally buying it. It was a good investment – I still wear it, and it still looks as crisp as it did when I bought it.

You are one of my favourite dressers. Your overall style seems extremely considered (but natural to you) and edited. Does the word ‘uniform’ resonate with your dressing?

Thank you! Yes, you probably could describe my clothes as ‘uniform’ – I always draw upon the same materials, shapes and colours. That I like clean shapes, high-quality materials and solid colours probably adds to this ‘uniformity’ – although I think I probably prefer the term ‘timelessness’.

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Fragments of denim, linen and wool garments

Where do you get your clothing from?

I like to go hunting in all kinds of places – from your average high street store to second-hand places and nice little independent shops. It is all about the process of finding a piece that can become a good and trusted wardrobe-friend.

You are my partner in black (and other dark colours)! Do you have any comments on wearing this colour?

It has a calming effect on me, I think.

Has your way of dressing changed over the years?

Very much so! I had quite a long and intense phase of wearing very colourful and ornamented clothes – bright reds, purples – with a lot of jewellery when I was younger. A favourite piece from that phase is this massive Indian mirror belt.

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Has living in London affected your dress? Does your relationship to others affect your dressing?

I think London is also visually such a buzzing place that it probably has made my clothing even more reduced and simple. I think I get a lot of inspiration from my friends, from the many creative ways how they are dressing and expressing themselves.

Can you recall any examples of difficulties in the daily process of dressing? And have you ever regretted wearing a certain outfit?

The only difficulties arise if I did not have time to do my laundry. I once possessed a pair of dungarees. Not a good idea.

Welcome New MAs!

We are so pleased to welcome the new MA group to The Courtauld! Look out for posts by Aric, Giovanna, Carolina, Emerald, Leah, Eleanor, Saskia and Aude in the coming weeks, as they start to settle into life at the Institute and share their thoughts on Dress History with you.

Here are some photos of their first week of studies – including looking at examples from our amazing collection of rare books and fashion journals on during the first class.  It’s always great to see Iribe’s Les Robes de Paul Poiret, Vecellio’s 1598 book on dress of the world, and Fish Annuals, showing 1920s Flapper style…

looking at rare fashion journals in our first class

looking at rare fashion journals in our first class

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50 Years of History of Dress at the Courtauld Alumni Interviews Part Eight: Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, MA (1997)

Each month in 2015, we will post an interview with one of our alumni, as part of our celebrations of this year’s auspicious anniversary. The Courtauld’s History of Dress students have gone on to forge careers in a diverse and exciting range of areas.  We hope you enjoy reading about their work, and their memories of studying here.

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Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is an art historian who specialises in European fashion and textiles, French and British painting, and the decorative arts of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. She graduated from the Courtauld MA in the History of Dress with Professor Aileen Ribeiro in 1997.  She works as a curator, consultant, and educator for museums and universities around the world, and has contributed to books, scholarly journals, and magazines.

What made you want to devote your career to fashion and textile history?

It’s something that always interested me from a very young age, but it was only in my senior year of college that I realised it could be a career instead of a quirky hobby. I vividly remember pulling Dress and Morality off the shelf in my university library, turning to the back flap, and reading “Dr. Aileen Ribeiro is head of the History of Dress Department at the Courtauld Institute.” I wrote to the Courtauld for an application the same day, because you couldn’t do anything useful online in 1994!

What was unique about your Courtauld MA, and how did this in particular enhance your career?

I consider myself lucky to have done the MA when it was still a two-year course. And our special period was the late eighteenth century, which was obviously hugely influential for me. At the time, there were not any similar programs in the US, so having that training set me apart in the museum field. It gave me membership in a very small, mostly female club. To this day, my colleagues are amazed to hear that I got to listen to Aileen lecture for hours every week. I still have every page of notes I took in her course and I refer to them all the time.

You specialise in eighteenth century dress and yet work on modern fashion too. Why is it important to have a cross period focus?

Unfortunately, there’s just not a tremendous demand for eighteenth-century dress historians, so it’s helpful to diversify if you want to make a living as a freelance scholar, curator, and journalist. I resisted modern fashion for a long time; I think it was the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition in Montreal that finally brought me around and got me thinking critically about contemporary designers.

What is your pet project at the moment?

I haven’t given up the eighteenth century, but my next book will be on American fashion in the 1960s. I’m fascinated by the intersection of dress and politics, and by periods of dramatic social and sartorial change. Working in museums with encyclopedic collections has exposed me to a lot of different avenues of research I would not necessarily have pursued on my own, but I’m glad I did.

How has dress history changed since your MA?

There are so many more options for people who want to study dress history, although there is still nothing comparable to the Courtauld. And museums are finally realising that fashion is important, both as an art form and as a cash cow. The internet has gone from a novelty to an essential research tool, with both positive and negative results. There seem to be a lot more dress history conferences, which is frustrating, because I want to go to all of them!

How would you like to see fashion history develop in the future?

I would love to see a fashion history program in the US that is based in art history rather than museum studies or fashion design. And I would like to see more serious books on fashion published, and fewer picture books, and more grant money for research that does not fit into traditional academic disciplines. There is fantastic work being done in our field, but very little of it is getting into print.

External Links

Twitter handle @HottyCouture

FIDM Museum blog at blog.fidmmuseum.org

http://kimberlychrismancampbell.com/

Kimberly’s latest book: Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) (find it here)