Dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of fashion from an academic perspective, the quarterly journal Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture views fashion as a cultural phenomenon, offering the reader a wide range of articles by leading Western and Russian specialists, as well as classical texts on fashion theory. From the history of dress and design to body practices; from the work of well-known designers to issues around consumption in fashion; from beauty and the fashionable figure through the ages to fashion journalism, fashion and PR, fashion and city life, art and fashion, fashion and photography — Fashion Theory covers it all.
Just as in Issue 43, the Dress section is devoted to fashion and constructions of national identity, and opens with From National Dress to ‘Ethno-Design’ — Fashion Trends in the Táncház Folk Movement in Late Socialist Hungary by Katalin Juhász. In modern-day Hungary there is a well-established engagement in the preservation and revival of folk music and dances, applied folk arts and other elements of national culture. The rediscovery, reinterpretation of peasant culture, and within it, separate folk genres (folk poetry, songs, music, dances, customs and ornamental folk art), and their inclusion into non-folk (first bourgeois, then socialist) culture from the first half of the 19th century onwards figured on the agenda of various kinds of national movements. Looking at a wide range of material, the author takes a look at the styles and trends in the clothes worn by the participants of the Táncház movement, which has its origins in the 1970s. In order to explore the context in which this folk movement appeared, the message it was trying to send to the world, its driving mechanisms, and the processes shaping it, the author turns to its origins, by placing these ethnically specific folk trends in clothing in the historical context of late socialist Hungary.
Yuliya Minina offers Russian Koreans and the Hanbok 150 Years On: Going Back to the Roots. Unlike the national cuisine, which as a rule, stands the test of time better and longer than other elements of material culture in folk diasporas, the traditional clothing worn by Koreans in the USSR had already been almost completely supplanted by functional analogues of Western garments by the mid-20th century. But around
Shu-chuan Yan’s ‘Politics and Petticoats’: Fashioning the Nation in Punch Magazine in the 1840s—1880s seeks to examine the role of fashion as a component of visual analysis of Britain’s national identity in Punch magazine from the 1840s to the 1880s. It aims to investigate how the comic weekly played on its ‘clothes philosophy’ about the female body to illuminate the role and function of fashion in formulating and circulating diverse perspectives on Victorian nationalist consciousness. Although Victorian women were prevented from being politically active within a male-dominated culture, Punch cartoons carved out a place for the representations of the byplay between woman and nation through the rhetoric of fashion. In this context, the iconic figure of Britannia, the female incarnation of Great Britain, becomes the very nucleus of national character and her dress functions as a microcosm of the British state. With a deeper understanding of the narrative practices of Punch, therefore, we can begin to comprehend the multiplicity of dress and bodily performance that may help the reader delve into the process of imagining and narrating the nation.
Yekaterina Zhiritskaya contributes Borovinka, Sklyanka, Skryzhapel: The Transformation of the National Sensorium Based on the Development of the Aromatic Note of Apple. The author studies the concept of the ‘national’ in the sensorium using the example of a single aromatic note — the scent of apple. At the end of the 18th century, the first official register of apple varieties was developed by the Russian educator and plant breeder Andrei Bolotov, who set out criteria for their description. This approach allowed the subtle nuances in the changes of all five senses during the sensory reception of the fruit to be classified. These changes had their own dynamic, they expanded in time and space and formed, in this way, a Russian taste and olfactory landscape and calendar. However, the national pomological sensorium underwent a radical transformation in the Soviet era and again in the post-Soviet period. The process of globalization in the creation and distribution of food products, the format of which was introduced by fast-food chains and became known as McDonaldization, also touched Russia. But just as in the rest of the world, it spawned an opposite movement — Slow Food. One of the examples of the contemporary revival of the pomological sensorium can be found in a number of creative projects for developing the urban environment in the town of Kolomna, near Moscow.
Kelsey Erin McClellan offers The British National Costume: Of Tweed and Tension. A phenomenological inquiry of the islands of Lewis and Harris provides a foundation for the cloth that is made there, which in tag and reputation conveys its relationship to ‘place’. Tweed is a cloth historically born out of place-based tensions, which express themselves socially and materially in the vehicle of this woven proxy. Using Harris Tweed as a primary case study, this tension is addressed in a narrative examination of insiders and outsiders to conclude that the fabric of tweed — as well as the nationalisms, social fabric, and industry so iconic to it — is constructed with contrasts and differences, and not in spite of them. This examination proves relevant to tweed’s historic role as the ‘British National Costume’, especially in light of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit vote.
This issue’s Body section focuses on the pose, which is fundamental to fashion as representation, embodiment and idea and opens with Felice McDowell’s ‘I know I am posing’... Feeling the Pose in Post-War Fashion Modeling. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes outlines how posing for the camera is a performative act, in which one lends oneself ‘to the social game’; therefore ‘I pose, I know I am posing, I want you to know that I am posing, but (to square the circle) this additional message must in no way alter the precious essence of my individuality’. This article examines some of the ways in which the pose and act/action of posing have been articulated in selected accounts of post-war fashion modeling. In doing so, it questions the ways in which the pose and act/action of posing may be considered in terms of what Raymond Williams terms ‘structures of feeling’, which is feeling as both a product of, and as productive in, social, historical, cultural and individual contexts.
Eugenie Shinkle contributes The Feminine Awkward: Graceless Bodies and the Performance of Femininity in Fashion Photographs. Recent fashion photography has been preoccupied with awkward and uncomfortable poses. In fact, awkwardness — a negative affect comprising emotional and bodily discomfort — is part of the history of fashion photography. The ‘feminine awkward’ is proposed here as a formal and critical idiom for unpacking the relations that exist between the model, the photographic frame, and the camera, and for considering the way that the image is experienced by the viewer. The meaning of awkward fashion photographs is not only communicated directly, through various signifying practices; it also arises out of deeper emotional and bodily responses that accompany signification. The feminine awkward emerges most openly into fashion images during periods when gender norms are most forcefully contested, interfering with the trajectories of desire to which fashion images typically give rise. Culturally, it is aligned with paradigm shifts in social attitudes: with changing expectations of how a feminine subject should look and how she should act. Looking at fashion photographs through the optic of the feminine awkward opens up new ways of thinking about the way that fashion photography simultaneously participates in, and unsettles, the production of gendered bodies.
Lauren Downing Peters presents ‘Fashion Plus’: Pose and the Plus-Size Body in Vogue,
In this issue’s Culture section, we publish the last portion of articles based on papers presented at the ‘Fashion and Humour: Strategies, Theories and Practices’ conference. Marking the journal’s 10th anniversary, this was held in Moscow on December 2, 2016.
Jo Turney offers Would They Wear It In Wigan? Who Is the Butt of Fashion’s Joke? In the 1990s, the UK version of the women’s fashion magazine New Woman featured a small monthly review of what might be considered the more ‘outlandish’ ensembles from international catwalk shows. These images were then taken to the Lancashire town of Wigan, where public opinion polls were conducted as to whether the women questioned would wear these fashions. Other than the alliteration (‘Would They Wear It in Wigan?’ sounds rather lovely), but much like the tongue-twisting riddle the phrase imitates, the question was not intended for a serious study. This article considers why a fashion magazine would deem it necessary to identify ‘unwearable’ fashions and ridicule them, but also why this would be done via the straight-talking women of Wigan. Likewise, why would fashion advice be solicited from these women, when their response is already implied? The emphasis is that these women would NOT wear ‘high fashion’ and thus fashion is ‘not for them’. There is a joke here, but who is it on? So, who is fashion for, and who decides?
Orna Ben-Meir’s Shoshke — A Caricature Comes to Life: Female Nakedness and Performance of the Self as a Political Statement takes a look at Shoshke — the brainchild of Zeev Engelmayer, an artist, illustrator, writer and journalist who has earned the reputation of an enfant terrible among Israeli caricaturists. He dreamed up Shoshke in 1988 as the cosmic female character of a book. Initially just a casual, hastily-executed sketch in an illustrated tale, she then appeared in a sequel as a completely naked woman, ‘bringing all his fantasies to life’. In the 1990s Shoshke became a comic-book heroine. Her adventures take place in Israel, where specific locations are always linked to local politics. Engelmayer frequently uses the technique of punning, a humoristic effect that works through the use of absurd conjunctions: for example, ‘hormones’, associated with the character’s muscles, rhyme with ‘Mormons’ - and the absurdity of the rhyme softens the critical tone of the comics. In the madcap, provocative comic strips that recount the strange and fantastic adventures of Shoshke, she is depicted barely clothed — in skin-tight variations on Superman’s costume. In these comics she appears as a vulgar and unruly superheroine, possessing fabulous physical strength and an enormous sexual appetite, free from social limitations, efforts to appear sweet or any kind of political correctness. Shoshke is the most recognizable of Engelmayer’s characters, and he relates to her and speaks about her as if she were his female alter ego. This article examines the character in depth.
Tatyana Dashkova offers Nonwork Gait: The Catwalk in Soviet Films of the Thaw and the Era of Stagnation. In comparison to the mighty film tradition of the West, which not only frequently featured catwalk shows, but also made use of the catwalk potential of cinema, Soviet film output from the time of the Thaw and the Stagnation appears quite weak. However, gradually it too began to use plots and situations in which clothing is the focus of attention and becomes a means of transfiguring the hero and heroine. At the same time, consumption practices will continue to have a highly dubious status for a long time to come — just as in life, so too on the screen. The films of the 50s-70s strip bare and sharpen the ambivalence of meaning that arose in connection with the fashion show — hence a comic element, irony as a consequence of demonstration and the ‘outplaying’ of these contradictions and conceptual ‘rifts’. On one hand, fashion shows have clearly acquired a legitimacy as a form of cultural leisure pursuit. At the same time, in the majority of cases the appearance of the catwalk in a film is linked to irony: fashion shows on Russia’s big screen show off not so much the clothes, as the contradiction in Soviet fashion discourse, where evening dresses appear alongside mass-produced clothing, where fashion shows are bureaucratically regulated and do the rounds in the form of touring village spectacles, and the models’ bodies send out hints of suppressed erotic emotions. Thus, the ostentation of film and the fashion show are in internal contradiction: films show us how clothes are shown off as part of cultural presentations, within an ideology in which ostentation is not really welcome, and may even be reprehensible.
In the Practice of Fashion column, Nadezhda Lebedeva offers From Fashion Photography to the Art of Performance: An Interview with Manuel Vason. Manuel Vason began his career as a fashion photographer in London, where he collaborated with publications like ID Magazine, Vogue, Dazed and Confused and The Sunday Times. Almost by accident, he started working with performance artists, creating his own approach to documenting their works: a performance for the camera tête-à-tête, the result of which is a single photograph. Vason later began to create his own performance works, studying the relationship between presence and representation, as well as the role of visual images in our society. In this interview, Manuel Vason explains how his personal story unfolded on the border of two worlds: fashion and art.
In the Events section, Jo Turney’s Lessons from Rei Kawakubo reviews ‘Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Yekaterina Kulinicheva offers Cartier and the Social Biography of Expensive Watches — a review of ‘Cartier in Motion’ at the Design Museum, London.
Ksenia Borderiu presents Dior Seen as Never Before on ‘Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve’, an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris.
Maria Terekhova offers The Science of Historic Textiles on ‘The Hermitage Encyclopaedia of Textiles: History, Restoration’ at the Winter Palace, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
Larisa Rudova and Hans J. Rindisbacher present The Fantastic Marc Chagall — their take on ‘Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Anna Davydova offers Photographer with an Aftertaste on ‘Fashion and Fantasy: Gian Paolo Barbieri’ at the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg.
In this issue’s Books section, Denis Kondakov contributes New Shades of the 18th Century Borderiu K. The Empress’s Gown: Catherine II and European Dress in the Russian Empire. — М.: New Literary Review, 2016. (Series: Library of Fashion Theory magazine.
Larisa Rudova presents How Fashion Constructed Soviet Identity on Hausbacher E., Huber E., Hargaßner J. (eds). Fashion, Consumption and Everyday Culture in the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1985. Die Welt der Slaven Sammelbände, Vol. 54. Munich: Verlag Otto Sagner.
Anneke Smelik offers In Search of a Method — a review of Fashion Studies. Research Methods, Sites and Practices by Heike Jenss (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).