Judith Clark: Fashion Redefined – The Vulgar and The Proust Questionnaire

 

Judith Clark, photograph by Hyea W Kang, 2016

Judith Clark, photograph by Hyea W Kang, 2016

How do you rethink an idea, or a word, or a dress? Or question what a fashion exhibition is, while at the same time creating an exhibition about fashion?

Visit Judith Clark’s show The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined at the Barbican Art Gallery and you will find out.

Bold, ambitious, yet subtle and witty, the exhibition is a tour de force, and makes you engage and reconsider your own attitudes to this very slippery term from the start. Adam Phillips definitions of ‘vulgar’ tease out its meanings, and the range of objects, as well as the exhibition’s design suggest ways to redefine …

To give some insight into Judith Clark’s way of thinking, I asked her to fill in a Proust Questionnaire – a 19th century parlour game popularised by Marcel Proust, which is designed to reveal the respondent’s personality.

 

Proust Questionnaire

__1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness? Being with my family.

__2.__What is your greatest fear? Snakes on a plane.

__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Wanting to be liked. It means drowning out other more interesting thoughts about people and situations.

__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others? False allegiance.

__5.__Which living person do you most admire? Mr Rob Crossley, Mr Matt Jones

__6.__What is your greatest extravagance?  Other than clothes?

__7.__What is your current state of mind?

__8.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Academic intelligence.

__9.__On what occasion do you lie? To make others feel better about themselves.

__10.__What do you most dislike about your appearance? Different parts at different times.

__11.__Which living person do you most despise? Today, anyone voting for the far right.

__12.__What is the quality you most like in a man? It is something to do with how the difference is negotiated rather than denied.

__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman? Loyalty

__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse? No (to my children); Props and Attributes (to my students).

__15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life? The father of my children.

__16.__When and where were you happiest? Walking from Carbis Bay to St Ives, 2013.

__17.__Which talent would you most like to have?   Anything and everything to do with craftsmanship.

__18.__If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would be much more courageous.

__19.__What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having had the courage to have a family.

__20.__If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Someone born in the countryside and not a major city.

__21.__Where would you most like to live? My current home in London only with more room, or Rome.

__22.__What is your most treasured possession?  My sketchbook at any given time.

__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Stubborn loneliness.

__24.__What is your favorite occupation? Exactly my occupation, making exhibitions of dress with the people I build them with.

__25.__What is your most marked characteristic? I don’t know, you would have to ask other people.

__26.__What do you most value in your friends? Their memory.

__27.__Who are your favorite writers? Those who have made dress sound interesting, valuable, serious. Those who have resisted the temptation to be snide, or apologise for their interest in it. Many years ago Elizabeth Wilson made it more possible for me to become interested in fashion. And Adam Phillips.

__28.__Who is your hero of fiction? Mrs Moore, in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Like her, I don’t like muddles, and I don’t like racism.

__29.__Which historical figure do you most identify with? I would always like to identify with a female artist who had a studio. If she had a studio it meant that she was taking her work seriously and maybe was herself taken seriously.

__30.__Who are your heroes in real life? People who really manage to be kind to other people.

__31.__What are your favorite names? Marianne and Seth, and Jacob.

__32.__What is it that you most dislike? I’m not sure.

__33.__What is your greatest regret? That my mother did not live long enough to know my children better.

__34.__How would you like to die? In a way that would not make my children feel guilty.

__35.__What is your motto?    ‘All experiments are good’.

 

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined is at Barbican Art Gallery until 5 February 2017

The Winter Palace, run by the Belvedere Museum - where the exhibition travels to in 2017

The Winter Palace, run by the Belvedere Museum – where the exhibition travels to in 2017

Installing the Gucci Ad in the exhibition

Installing the Gucci Ad in the exhibition

500 Years of Dress Historiography Display

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June is Fashion Book Month! Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in June we will be posting the MA and PhD Dress History students’ responses to their chosen texts that constitute our ‘500 Years of Dress Historiography’ display, which is currently on show in the Courtauld Institute of Art. Today we are starting with the text panels, written by Dr Rebecca Arnold, which feature at the beginning and end of the display.

Text Panel 1

As part our celebrations of 50 years of the History of Dress at The Courtauld Institute, this display explores the subject’s historiography through items from the Book Library’s Special Collections. Collected by Stella Mary Newton, who originated the Institute’s first course on the subject, the books represent varied perspectives on dress and fashion.

Each book has been chosen by a current History of Dress student, as an example of a key moment in the subject’s articulation in text and image. The display begins with the earliest book in the collection, Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi, Moderni di tutto il mondo… published in 1598, which seeks to catalogue dress in all its variety, and ends with Genevieve Dariaux’s Elegance… of 1964, a guide for modern women on how to dress successfully. It thus encompasses the myriad ways dress had been written about up to the point that the History of Dress department opened in 1965.

Vitrine 1 displays books that record existing dress, seeking to understand its history, diversity and manufacture through an encyclopedic approach to the subject. Vitrine 2 focuses on books that are more thematic in approach. These texts explore fashion and dress’ meanings and significance in relation to the period in which they were published.

Conceived as a dialogue between The Courtauld’s current History of Dress staff and students, and their counterparts in Fashion Museology at London College of Fashion, the display represents interplay between the objects themselves and our responses to them.

Text Panel 2

In 1965, when The Courtauld Institute’s then director, Anthony Blunt, incorporated History of Dress into its list of courses, it marked the subject’s formal entry into academia, and an intervention into its historiography to date. From this point, History of Dress became a discrete area of study within the university, allied to Art History, and therefore to the ways dress resonates within imagery. Stella Mary Newton, Head of Department in its early years, sought to establish the subject’s significance through close analysis of types of dress as seen in art, and in relation to extant examples. Her own writing, and that of many of her students, most notably, her successor, Aileen Ribeiro, encouraged a style of visual analysis that has become distinct to The Courtauld. Since 2009, under Rebecca Arnold’s direction, this specialism has evolved further to integrate into The Courtauld’s contemporary approach to Art History, and to develop its interdisciplinary methodologies and international scope.

As seen in the students’ choice of texts, and their own writing on each book, we espouse a rich and analytical approach to writing on dress. We aim to push the discipline’s boundaries and consider dress as image, object, text and idea. Our publications attest to this, and to our status as the only History of Dress department with such a long and illustrious history. We want to show why good writing matters to thinking about and understanding dress.

Women Make Fashion/ Fashion Makes Women Conference

Fashion Show, Barrett Street School, 1958. (Courtesy of the London College of Fashion Archives © (1958) The London College of Fashion)

Fashion Show, Barrett Street School, 1958. (Courtesy of the London College of Fashion Archives © (1958) The London College of Fashion)

Our conference celebrating 50 years of dress history at the Courtauld is drawing closer, and we can now reveal the programme for the event, which will be taking place on Saturday 16 May.

Speakers will explore the relationship and significance of women in designing, wearing, promoting, curating and writing about dress, from both the perspective of those working in the field and those who wear, consume and document fashion. The conference will provide the opportunity to question how changes in dress, and its representation and exploration through the media, academia, and exhibiting have impacted upon relationships between women and fashion, since 1965.

Women, including Stella Mary Newton, who set up the first Courtauld course in the History of Dress, have been central to developing the discipline and exploring dress’ multifaceted meanings. They have also been important in the design and dissemination of fashion as a product and as an idea. This conference celebrates and critiques the role women have taken in making fashion, and, by extension, the role fashion plays in making women – by defining and constructing notions of gender, sexuality, beauty and ethnicity. We will take a global, interdisciplinary perspective to seek an overview of women’s significance to fashion and dress and vice versa.

PROGRAMME

09.30 – 10.00      Registration

10.00 – 10.15      Introduction: Lucy Moyse (PhD Candidate, The Courtauld)

10.15 – 10.45      Lecture: ‘Dress & History since 1965,’ Dr Rebecca Arnold (Oak Foundation Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles, The Courtauld)

10.45 – 11.00      Discussion

11.00 – 11.30      TEA/COFFEE BREAK (provided – Seminar room 1)

Fashion Media

(Chair: Dr Sarah Cheang, Senior Tutor Modern Specialism, History of Design, RCA)

11.30 – 12.00      Clip: People in the Street, Pathé (1968) followed by discussion led by Katerina Pantelides (PhD candidate, The Courtauld)

12.00 – 12.30      Panel: ‘Zuzu Angel: Fashioning Resistance to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship, 1971-76’, Elizabeth Kutesko (PhD candidate, The Courtauld) & ‘The Feminine Awkward,’ Dr Eugenie Shinkle (Senior Lecturer in Photographic Theory & Criticism, University of Westminster)

12.30 – 12.45      Discussion

12.45 – 14.00      LUNCH (provided for the speakers only – Seminar room 1)

Fashion History

(Chair: Dr Robin Schuldenfrei, Lecturer in European Modernisms, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

14.00 – 14.40      Keynote lecture: ‘Designing Women,’ Cheryl Buckley (Professor of Fashion & Design History, University of Brighton)

14.40 – 15.00      Discussion

15.00 – 15.30      Panel: ‘Interpreting Memory and Image: Women, Spaces, and Dress in 1960s France,’ Alexis Romano (PhD candidate, The Courtauld), & ‘Misfit: Aspirational Fashion Practice and the Female Body,’ Kathryn Brownbridge (Senior Lecturer in Clothing Design Technology, Manchester Metropolitan University)

15.30 – 15.45      Discussion

15.45 – 16.15     TEA/COFFEE BREAK (provided – Seminar room 1)

Fashion Curation

(Sonnet Stanfill, Curator of 20th Century & Contemporary Fashion, V&A Museum)

16.15 – 16.25      Clip: Ancient Models, featuring Doris Langley Moore, Pathé (1955)

16.25 – 16.45      Lecture: ‘Women and the Fashion Museum,’ Rosemary Harden (Manager, Fashion Museum, Bath)

16.45 – 17.00      Discussion

17.00 – 17.40      Keynote lecture: ‘Feminine Attributes,’ Judith Clark, (Professor of Fashion & Museology, London College of Fashion)

17.40 – 18.00      Discussion

Organised by Dr Rebecca Arnold (Oak Foundation Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles, The Courtauld), and Elizabeth Kutesko and Lucy Moyse (PhD candidates, The Courtauld)

Ticket/entry details: £16 (£11 students, Courtauld staff/students and concessions)

BOOK ONLINE  Or send a cheque made payable to ‘The Courtauld Institute of Art’ to: Research Forum Events Co-ordinator, Research Forum, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, stating ‘women make fashion conference’. For further information, email ResearchForum@courtauld.ac.uk

In Conversation With…

Our History of Dress MA class in conversation with Dr. Olga Vainshtein and Ksenia Gusarova via Skype

Our History of Dress MA class in conversation with Dr. Olga Vainshtein and Ksenia Gusarova via Skype

On the 3rd December last year, Dr. Olga Vainshtein, a Senior Researcher, and Ksenia Gusarova, a Ph.D. student and fellow lecturer from the Russian State University for the Humanities, joined our History of Dress MA class via Skype for our very first international conference. Taking advantage of modern technology, we were able to overcome geographic location and difference in time to take part in an in-depth discussion with fellow fashion historians.

Having set up the first Fashion Studies Centre in Russia, Dr. Vainshtein and Ksenia brought many thought-provoking points of discussion; presenting themes of photography, image and media to our class. With discussion of the role of image in fashion, what truly constitutes and image, and how this can then applied to the history of dress, amongst other academic topics, the discussion proved to be a challenge to us students new to voicing our opinions so directly.

Despite our initial nervousness, it was a fascinating experience and exciting opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with our fellow fashion historians, and is hopefully the first of many exchanges with the International History of Dress community.

***

Having set the bar high with our International Fashion Conference, we continued our precedent for eminent guests by being joined by celebrated curator of dress and exhibition-maker Judith Clark. Judith is also a Professor in Fashion and museology at the London College of Fashion, and Director of the Fashion Curation MA, so we were lucky enough to turn to an expert for advice for our upcoming Virtual Exhibitions. She also kindly listened to our areas of interest, promoting discussion, advice and possible avenues for further research, something we were all very grateful for.

Once she had listened to our ideas, we were then able to listen to Judith discuss her awe-inspiring career, past exhibitions and future projects. As aspiring fashion historians with limited experience in curating, it was fascinating to hear Judith’s methodology to fashion curating, her unique approach to representing dress in an exhibition format, and her past exhibitions that are celebrated for their distinct style and aesthetic. Having organised major exhibitions at the V&A, MoMU in Antwerp, and the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, we could only listen in awe as she told us about her past and present projects. To say we were inspired by her visit was an understatement, and we definitely all took her advice on board for our research projects.