Alexis Romano - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Alexis Romano

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Alexis Romano

PhD student

Thesis: Constructions of Modernity, 1945-1970: Prêt-à-Porter, Paris and the Image of Women

Supervised by Rebecca Arnold

Funded by

  • Textile Society Critical Writing Award 2015
  • Courtauld Scholarship (2011-2014)
  • Pasold Research Fund, PhD Bursary for Textile History (2012-2014)
  • Design History Society Student Travel Award (2014)
  • Society for the Study of French History Research Grant (2014)
  • Bard Graduate CenterAlumni Travel and Research Grant (2011, 2014)

My thesis, entitled, “Constructions of Modernity, 1950-1970: Prêt-à-Porter, Paris, and the Image of Women,” studies the French ready-made clothing industry against the cultural stage of the Fourth and Fifth Republics during which time the country struggled to redefine itself in relation to shifting ideas of postwar modernity. France’s construction of modernity during this twenty-year period was informed by transitions, into new economic and industrial systems, decolonised and urbanised landscapes, and by its loss of political and cultural hegemony. Modernity also comprised contradictions—notably between prosperity, modernisation and tradition—and tensions, felt by the individual in a mass culture and by women in their ambiguous status as French citizens. Each chapter considers how fashion related to complex notions of modernity with regard to different aspects of the ready-made clothing industry, from shifting visualisations and symbolic constructions of women and Paris in the fashion press to promotional methods and language, production, distribution, and reception. It asks how players from disparate fields—industry, government, and art—used fashion to negotiate national and gender identity and modernity in various ways.

Through the study of dress in the context of postwar industrial, historical, and social developments, my thesis seeks to shed new light on historical and cultural questions and rethink French, women’s, and fashion histories. It also adds to scholarship that has considered gender, identity, representation, national fashion, the everyday, the city, and Paris. It asks how fashion, using as evidence extant garments, pictured and written clothing, oral history, period fine art, literature, film, and other commentary, relates to its wider cultural landscape.


  • PhD Candidate, Courtauld Insitute of Art
  • Bard Graduate Center
  • Universite de Paris IV-Sorbonne
  • Loyola University


Research interests

  • Dress History
  • French prêt-à-porter industry, 1945-1970
  • Postwar French history and visual culture
  • Fashion and feminine press, 1945-1970
  • Dress, femininity and identity
  • Dress and national identity
  • The Everyday

Conference papers and lectures

  • ‘Shaping Prêt-à-porter in the Fourth Republic (1946-58): The Paris/New York Dialogue,’ Fashion, 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, Institute of Historical Research, London (2 July 2015)
  • ‘Interpreting memory and image: women, spaces and dress in 1960s France,’ Women Make Fashion/Fashion Makes Women, A Conference Celebrating 50 Years of Dress History at The Courtauld, Courtauld Institute of Art, London (16 May 2015)
  • ‘Prêt-à-porter and Ambiguous Urban Bodies and Spaces in French Magazines, 1961-1966,’ Fashion and the Body Workshop, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University (5 May 2015)
  • Bravo la confection française! Researching French Ready-to-wear, 1947-1957: Industry, Modernity, and the Image of Women,’ Couture, Fashion and Consumption: Britain/France, 1947-1957 Symposium, l’Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent and Brighton University, Paris, 11 April 2014
  • Stylisme, Optical Art Surfaces, and Ready-Made Clothing Production in 1960s France,’ Postgraduate Symposium, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 6 March 2014
  • ‘Negotiating Modernity in 1950s French Elle: Prêt-à-porter, Quotidian Space and the Image of Women,’ Research Forum Seminar: Modern and Contemporary, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 18 November 2013
  • ‘Prêt-à-Porter, Paris, et l’Image des Femmes à travers la Presse de Mode, 1950-1965,’ Séminaire Histoire de la Mode, Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, CNRS, Paris, 19 April 2013
  • ‘Beyond Paris, 1952-1967: Prêt-à-Porter and the Image of Women in Elle,’ ‘Fashioning the City: Exploring Fashion Cultures, Structures, and Systems’ Conference, Royal College of Art, London, 19-21 September 2012
  • ‘Revolution of Evolution? Emmanuelle Khanh’s Ready-to-Wear Creations in 1960s Paris,’ Costume Society of America Symposium, Boston, 7-12 June 2011
  • ‘Yohji Yamamoto and the Museum,’ ‘Collaboration and Creative Space’ Symposium, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 6 May 2011
  • ‘Fashion for Every Woman: Elle and the Development of Stylisme in 1960s Paris,’ Costume Society Symposium, Leeds, 9-11 July 2010
  • ‘Emmanuelle Khanh et le Développement du Stylisme dans les années 1960,’ Séminaire Histoire de la Mode, Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, CNRS, Paris, 18 June 2010
  • ‘What’s in a Narrative? Interpreting Yohji Yamamoto in the Museum,’ 1st Global Conference: Fashion–Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, University of Oxford, 25-27 September 2009


    Recent publications

    Articles, Chapters

  • “Fashion Cities: Paris,” Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Ar-chive, forthcoming.
  • “Negotiating Modernity in 1950s French Elle: Prêt-à-porter, Quotidian Space and the Image of Women,” Text 42, 2015-2016.
  • Elle and the Development of Stylisme in 1960s Paris,” Costume. Journal of the Costume Society 46, no. 1 (January 2012): 75-91.
  • “Yohji Yamamoto and the Museum: a Contemporary Fashion Narrative,” in Yohji Yamamoto, edited by Ligaya Salazar (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011), 102-127.
  • “What’s in a Narrative? Interpreting Yohji Yamamoto in the Museum,” Fashion Forward (Oxford, UK: Inter-disciplinary Press eBook, 2011), 57-68.


  • “Conference Review: Benjamin, Barthes, and Fashion. Fashion and Theory: Exploring critical perspectives in fashion and dress studies,” Fashion Research Network, October 2013
  • With Katerina Pantelides, “Conference Report: Between Object and Idea: Rethinking Fashion Spaces,” Textile History 44, no. 2 (November 2013), 257-261.
  • “Book Review: Ilya Parkins and Elizabeth M. Sheehan, eds., Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion,” Dress. The Journal of the Costume Society of America 39, no. 1 (May 2013), 90-92.
  • “Exhibition Review: Histoire Idéale de la Mode Contemporaine,” Fashion Theory. The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture 16, no. 1 (March 2012): 89-98.
  • “Exhibition Review: Saint Laurent Rive Gauche: la révolution de la mode,” Textile History 42, no. 2 (November 2011): 268-271.
  • “Exhibition Review: Robes de lune,” Fashion Theory. The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture 14, no. 2 (March 2010): 107-114.

Conferences Organised

  • Co-organiser, “Surfaces and Boundaries: The Legacy of Guy Bourdin,” Somerset House and Fashion Research Network, Somerset House, London (13 March 2015).
  • Co-organiser, Association of Dress Historians Annual New Research Day, Art Workers’ Guild, London (21 February 2015).
  • Co-organiser, “The Legality of Dress: Historical and modern approaches to the control of clothing and textile production,” Association of Dress Historians Annual Conference, Art Workers’ Guild, London (12 July 2014).
  • Co-organiser, “Fashion and the Archive,” Fashion Research Network Study Day, Royal College of Art, London (25 June 2014).
  • Co-organiser, “Documenting Fashion: Re-thinking the Experience and Representation of Dress,” Fashion Research Network Symposium, Courtauld Institute of Art, London (6 May 2014).
  • Co-organiser, Association of Dress Historians Annual New Research Day, Art Workers’ Guild, London (15 November 2013).
  • Co-organiser and panel participant, “Between Object and Idea: Re-thinking Fashion Spaces,” Fashion Research Network Symposium, Royal College of Art, London (19 June 2013).

Panel Discussions

  • Panel participant, “Etat des lieux de la recherche en histoire de la mode,” Séminaire Histoire de la Mode, Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, CNRS, Paris (19 October 2012).
  • Session Chair, “On the Periphery? The Strengths and Weaknesses of Fashion Cities outside the ‘BIG Five,’” Fashioning the City Conference, Royal College of Art, London (21 September 2012).
  • Session Chair, “Beyond Dress: Expanding Definitions of Consumption, Luxury, and Fashion,” 1st Global Conference: Fashion, University of Oxford, Oxford (27 September 2009).

Professional Roles and Memberships

  • Exhibition Reviews Editor, Textile History (July 2015-present)
  • Co-founder, Fashion Research Network (2013-present)
  • Membership Secretary, Association of Dress Historians (2013-2015)
  • Textile Society
  • Design History Society
  • Society for the Study of French History
  • Association of Art Historians
  • Costume Society
  • Costume Society of America


  • Oral History Spring School, 26-28 April 2012, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

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