Speaker Bios and Abstracts

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Abigail Jubb

‘Female Middle Class Fashion and Crisis of Originality: Tracing the Shift from Tailor-Made to Ready-to-Wear in Victorian Britain in Yorkshire Collections’

Dr Faye Prior is Assistant Curator of Costume and Textiles at York Castle Museum. Her doctorate is in History of Art (University of York, 2008), and she has worked closely with the museum’s Costume and Textiles collection since 2013. She is fascinated by the stories that can be learned from the details of garments, and has an especial interest in the history of underwear and of working-class and poor clothing. She is currently researching clothing worn at York Castle Prison.

‘Local Perspectives: Learning from the Details of Dress’

Museum objects do not always come with the story of their making and use, and even those objects with provenance generally do not provide much in the way of detail. Recent conferences have highlighted the ongoing importance of first hand examination and close looking in the study of dress, and garments themselves remain a key source for their own histories.

This paper will present a small selection of provenanced and unprovenanced garments from York Castle Museum’s extensive collection of Costume and Textiles, revealing how a close study of these items can help build a richer picture about their adaptation and use, and help us tie them to wider themes in eighteenth and nineteenth-century fashion.

Elizabeth Kutesko (PhD, Courtauld Institute of Art) is a fashion historian, with a particular interest in Latin American bodily practices and the intersection between dress, cultural identity, representation and power. She is currently Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Central Saint Martins and the author of Fashioning Brazil: Globalization and the Representation of Brazilian Dress in National Geographic (Bloomsbury, 2018). She has published an article based upon her research in the Brazilian Fashion Special Edition of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture (November 2016).

‘Transnational Fashion Histories: Some Complexities in Fashioning Brazilianness’

Fashion is an inherently transnational phenomenon, despite repeatedly being used by individuals and governments to serve national agendas. In its numerous dimensions, fashion tells complex stories about local, regional, national and international identities, as well as their intersection with global networks of exchange. Looking beyond Western Europe and North America for examples of sartorial innovation constitutes a critical perspective from which to decentre the discipline of Fashion Studies. Yet in opening out a global field of Fashion Studies, scholars need revised methodologies that can reposition so-called ‘Western’ fashion as simply one system, which operates amongst numerous others. Shmuel N. Eisenstadt recognized that the experience of ‘modernity’ and its relationship to globalization is a complicated one; modernity is a discourse that can be redefined in numerous ways, and with multiple routes for modernization. The implication is that fashion can operate in different systems too, since dress innovations may take different forms and paces in expressing an individual or social group’s experience of the now.

Bethan Bide (Lecturer in Design and Cultural Theory, University of Leeds) link to Bibliography

‘One Dress, Multiple Stories: Understanding Fashion Objects as Processes’

We encounter clothes on a daily basis, but we rarely pause to really look at them and consider what they can tell us about the people who made, sold and wore them. Museum labels and online collection databases prioritise information about well-known brands, famous designers and celebrities, while the stories of the (primarily female, working class and immigrant) individuals who worked to stitch, fit, sell and mend fashion objects are forgotten. However, understanding material objects as processual—as things shaped by the hands they have passed through—makes it possible to read multiple and lost narratives in old clothes, since these extant objects contain evidence of the numerous different processes that transformed their materiality as they moved from sketch to workroom to body.

Through a case study of London fashion in the 1940s, this paper explores how the close study of material fashion objects can inform, disrupt and broaden the narratives we tell about the past. Moreover, it proposes that learning to identify material evidence of fashion processes in extant garments also encourages us to look at other sources differently—in particular, to consider how materiality is manifested in representational sources such as photographs and films. Drawing on more-than-representational research approaches, this paper discusses how foregrounding the importance of the small details in material objects that reveal the routines, expressions and embodied understandings which gave shape to individual experiences of fashion can be used to tell more comprehensive—and, at times, even experiential—fashion histories.