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.
This time around, the Dress section once again looks at sustainable fashion and we kick off with Kate Fletcher’s Durability, Fashion, Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use. Longer-lasting materials and products are often promoted as a strategy to increase resourcefulness and sustainability across product groups including fashion. Yet these gains depend on changed user behavior and consumption patterns, which in fashion in particular are influenced by social and experiential dimensions, not just material products. Obsolescence of fashion products, driven by aesthetic change and tied to changing social preferences underscores the psycho-social nature of factors which affect fashion garment lifespans. This is reflected by ethnographic evidence that shows that garments which defy obsolescence do so in informal or unintentional ways, rarely as a result of design planning or material or product qualities. This article suggests a point of departure for design for durability that shifts away from a familiar focus on materials, products, and user — object relationships to instead explore material durability as emerging from strategies of human action. It suggests that durability, while facilitated by materials, design, and construction, is determined by an ideology of use.
Otto von Busch contributes Inclusive Fashion — an Oxymoron — or a Possibility for Sustainable Fashion?
Cheap and accessible fashion from large retailers has, over the last decades, been thought of as a “democratic” form of consumerism. While embraced by masses of people with substantial environmental costs, many designers and researchers have questioned this mode of fast production and consumption. Designers try to create more sustainable models of consumption, often combined with ideas of other forms of consumer “inclusion” than cheap accessibility, yet they seldom define exactly what kind of inclusion is meant and what kind of desires they tap into. Using the example of nightclubs, this article asks some fundamental questions about the relationship between inclusion and exclusion in fashion, exclusivity and ability, and how to help cultivate a deeper interrogation of the dynamics these poles.
Carla Binotto & Alice Payne present The Poetics of Waste: Contemporary Fashion Practice in the Context of Wastefulness.
This article traces several interwoven traditions of considering waste and its materiality within fashion practice. Waste in fashion is commonly considered a problem to be solved, whether through reduced consumption, improved production processes, or recycling and upcycling practices. While the pragmatic and effective “waste management” approaches are key to developing a sustainable fashion industry they can also distance and obscure the materiality of waste, and in doing so overlook the potency and poignancy that waste can have. As a counter- approach to the problems of waste, this article explores a poetic element that relates to an aesthetic of the worn and wasted, and a fashion practice that elevates rather than disguises waste. This is discussed through a case study of experimental fashion label Maison Briz Vegas, reflecting on time, place and waste.
Mary Alice Casto & Marilyn DeLong contribute Exploring Esthetic Response to Classic as a Means to Slow Fashion.
This study used the framework of esthetic response to analyze student perceptions of outerwear coats as one apparel product considered for its potential for extended wear. Through a pilot, six coats were selected from an historic collection spanning the twentieth century that were deemed to range in respect to the concept of classic design.
Undergraduate students (n.55) in a design communication and trends course were asked to respond to the six selected coats using 14 word pairs to measure their response to each coat. Then participants were asked in an open-ended question to summarize their response to the 6 coats as to their classic attributes. Responses were analyzed and compared with the systematic analysis of the formal, expressive and symbolic characteristics of the coats. Attributes of the coats that were deemed “classic” and “not classic” included coherence of the layout and surface structure in a simple and a clear visual statement, versatile in that the coat could become focus or background for the wearer, flattering to a variety of body types that allowed the wearer to feel good in the wearing. Their concept of classic involved a sophisticated style that related to current trends without slavish adherence to current fashion or any specific period. Through their examination and analysis, these students gained an understanding of what characteristics contribute to classic design that could help to extend their wearing of apparel and slow fashion in the future.
Jenny Hall offers her article Digital Kimono: Fast Fashion, Slow Fashion? Fashion in the twenty-first century is typically fast fashion, characterized by mass production, high turnover and goods designed for a short lifespan. The kimono appears to be the antithesis of fast fashion in terms of production and consumption. A kimono takes time to create and usually has a long lifespan. However, in the current global fashion market there has been a growing trend towards slow fashion, which involves longer production times, use of local materials, and a focus on quality and sustainability. Elements within the Japanese fashion industry exhibit this trend but the reality is more complex than simply complying with a set of slow fashion criteria. An examination of the Kyoto kimono-making industry demonstrates a simultaneous speeding up and slowing down of various aspects of Japanese clothing. Rigorous scrutiny reveals the difficulty of categorizing production techniques as either fast or slow fashion. In addition, alternative ways of consuming kimono, that align with slow fashion characteristics, demonstrate that they can change the way consumers view purchases.
In this issue’s Body section, we offer Olga Gerasimova’s The ‘Pandora’ Myth: A History of Fashion Dolls in the Early Modern Period. Fashion dolls from the Early Modern Period are often referred to as Pandora dolls, yet this, the author argues, is in fact a common error. In reality, the dolls used to demonstrate the latest fashion trends from the end of the Renaissance to the late eighteenth century, had a good dozen names, and were not often referred to as ‘Pandora’. The contemporary expression ‘fashion doll’ did not appear until the turn of the twentieth century, when doll history began to take shape as an independent area of research interest. Numerous attempts were made to trace and set out the history of fashion dolls, the noted German writer Max von Boehn playing a key role in this process. The version put forward by him was accepted as gospel and did not tend to be seriously critiqued, despite having evidently been compiled from various sources, without proper acknowledgement of these historical documents. As contemporary Australian cultural historian Juliette Peers suggests, the parroting of von Boehn may have created something of a myth around fashion dolls, turning them into ‘mythical creatures’ with a plethora of delusive features and formulaic stories. The paper examines the ‘Pandora doll’ myth as an independent topic of academic research. Looking at a range of academic literature and historical sources, the author attempts to establish whether this myth is well-founded, accurate or dubious, contradictory or even untenable. Touching on historiographic issues and aspects of terminology and conservation, the paper off ers a critical reassessment of ‘known’ facts. Th e author’s main focus is not only on the appearance and interpretation of the classic, widely accepted myth, but also on an alternative version, which interprets this phenomenon within the context of the emergence and development of fashion as a new industry in late seventeenth and early eighteenth century Western Europe.
Irina Sakhno offers ‘The Anagrammatical Body’ in Hans Bellmer’s Doll Photographs (1934–1935). In this paper, Sakhno looks at the ‘Doll’ series of photographs (1934–1935) by the German photographer Hans Bellmer within the context of representing the artificial body. Bellmer’s articulated dolls were easy to take apart and ‘chop’ into pieces, representing objects which recreate new meanings of erotic content. The artist himself called them ‘articulated objects’ and anagrams, the visual translatability of which was marked with the aid of the instrument of deconstruction. For Bellmer, the Doll became something of an Alter ego, a part of a fetishist’s Universe, an ‘object that can be possessed’. Undermining the very foundations of aggressive masculinity, Hans Bellmer’s artificial girl is a product of his reaction to the Nazi regime (Rosalind Krauss). For Bellmer, the doll’s body is an erotic and narrative fetish that helps the artist to overcome childhood trauma, suppressed complexes and forbidden sexual desires. Through his obsessive interest in dolls, the photographer recreates a new associative text that is semantically ambiguous. In this, like a mathematician, he divides, subtracts and changes the order, presenting for the viewer’s appraisal an anagrammatic equation and a palindrome. In these photographic stagings, the body is balanced visually and linguistically with visual iconography and writing.
In this issue’s Culture section, we present the first part of our material on Muslim fashion and modest fashion, which has now grown to encompass far more than apparel dictated by religious faith.
Heather Akou presents The Politics of Covering the Face: From the ‘Burqa Ban’ to the Facekini. In 2009, the French government established a commission to study the controversial practice among a minority of Muslim women of wearing the ‘voile integral’ (full-face veil). Th is led to the passage of a law the following year — widely referred to in the media as the ‘burqa ban’ — designed to curtail what many lawmakers had described as a discriminatory, oppressive, and gendered practice that contravened the French values of liberty, equality, and brotherhood. The actual text of the law, however, simply banned citizens and visitors from covering their faces in public. As the law went into eff ect, the rhetoric shifted from symbolism to security. Five years later, linguistic confusion and increased concerns about security led to bans on the ‘burqini,’ a full-body swimsuit that does not cover the face. A few journalists, questioning the underlying rationale for the bans, compared the burqini to the ‘facekini,’ a face-covering swim garment from China invented in 2004. Although Chinese men and women wear the facekini for various reasons (primarily for protection from jellyfish and from tanning), it does not have any religious or political significance.
Alexandru Balasescu offers his paper Tehran Chic: Islamic Headscarves, Fashion Designers, and New Geographies of Modernity. The veil as an item of dress is one of the most debated, most contested, and maybe least understood of body adornments, although indeed there is no final understanding of any ‘object.’ These characteristics make it an ideal subject of anthropological inquiry. This article focuses on the intersection of women’s veiling as a practice associated stereotypically with the Islamic religion, and fashion — a secularized domain, the alleged expression of modern self-refl exivity. The author argues that fashion and veiling are not mutually exclusive, the results of their interaction pointing out to the tension between the common understanding of the term ‘modern’ and its negative — the space of tradition, religion, and lack of liberty.
Reina Lewis contributes Modest Body Politics: The Commercial and Ideological Intersect of Fat, Black, and Muslim in the Modest Fashion Market and Media. Discrimination and exclusion because of body size and race is endemic in the globalized fashion industry and its media, even though consumer activism on both fronts has led to some progress in market offer, industry practice, and regimes of representation. That both size and race inequities are present in the Muslim modest fashion industry and media is not surprising; the niche modest fashion industry cross-faith will inevitably reproduce some components of wider societal division and tension. Distinctive is how these often intersecting forms of discrimination are experienced and judged in a fashion industry and media focused on serving — and creating — a multi-ethnic and supra-national consumer demographic defined by Muslim religious identity and cultures. The challenges of fostering size and racial inclusivity demonstrate the extent to which normative modesty ideals are predicated on bodies that are non-‘fat’ and often non-black. The ways in which large and/or racialized bodies are judged to have failed in achieving preferred versions of modest embodiment reveal wider fault-lines in the affective affiliation to the umma, the imagined global community of Muslim believers.
In the Fashion Practice column, we present The Performative Nature of Dress: The ‘Living Sculptures’ of Roman Ermakov, Irina Sirotkina’s interview with artist and performer Roman Ermakov.
In the Events section this time around, Ksenia Gusarova offers Victorian Vynil for the Masses, her take on the Mary Quant exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (6 April 2019 — 16 February 2020).
Vera Kalmykova presents The Body and Teleology in Art: ‘A Total Expression of Personality’, her review of the Edvard Munch exhibition at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (17 April 2019 — 14 July 2019).
Anna Davydova visits the ‘Mario Testino: Superstar’ exhibition at St. Petersburg’s Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art (31 May 2019 — 29 September 2019), and shares her impressions in Mario Testino — Superstar of Modern Photography.
In this issue’s Books section, Anastasia Oskolkova contributes How the Ideal Man Should Be Dressed, her review of Jay McCauley Bowstead. Menswear Revolution: The Transformation of Contemporary Men’s Fashion. Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 224 pp.