Passing: Fashion in American Cities - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Passing: Fashion in American Cities

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Passing: Fashion in American Cities

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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Jack Allison, New York, 1938, Library of Congress

Organised by

  • Rebecca Arnold - The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • David Peters Corbett - The Courtauld Institute of Art
£16 (General admission) £11 (Courtauld staff, all students, over 60s)

The idea of ‘passing’ and the issues it raises in relation to contemporary and historical notions of self-fashioning and identities is of central importance in a period of political, social and cultural upheaval.  The notion of passing also speaks to current discrimination and civil rights issues, and this conference seeks to examine the ways dress has been used to ‘pass’, to negotiate, resist and refuse contemporary prejudice, discrimination and status and beauty ideals.  We aim to explore dress, the body and the idea of ‘becoming’ – in relation to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class, with the city as a key locus for attempts to outwit social and cultural mores through the artful deployment of dress.
The conference seeks to highlight and interrogate this important aspect of urban self-fashioning to understand its place within dress practices and visual culture, and to develop analysis of its place within American social life.

9.30am Introduction


9.40-10.30am Professor Carol Tulloch, Chelsea College of Arts

Walk On By

Self-Fashioning/Becoming American

10.30-11.30am Chair: Dr Rebecca Arnold, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Horace D. Ballard, Williams College Museum of Art

W.E.B. Du Bois: A Boston Revolutionary Passing as a European Dandy

Grant Johnson, University of Southern California

Né Lifshitz: Ralph Lauren’s America

Kalina Yingnan Deng, Parsons School of Design

DIY Citizenship: East Asian Immigrant Females’ Sartorial Methods for (Re)dressing Lady Liberty

11.30-11.45pm Discussion

11.45-12.15pm Break

Literature & Film

12.15-1.15pm Chair: Professor David Peters Corbett, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Olga Vainshtein, Russian State University for the Humanities

‘We are expected to be pretty and well-dressed till we drop’: fashion and ‘passing’ in the novels of Edith Wharton.

Elizabeth Way, Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT)

Dressing to Pass During Harlem Renaissance: Fashion in the Novels of Nella Larsen and Jessie Redmon Fauset

Ksenia Gusarova, Russian State University for the Humanities and the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Political Administration

Blanche’s Trunk and the Fabric of Urban Decay in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire

1.15-1.30pm Discussion

1.30-2.30pm Lunch

Models & Magazines

2.30-3.30pm Chair: TBC

John-Michael O’Sullivan:

Imitation of Life: Passing and Panic on the American Newsstand

Alice Morin, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3:

New York through Dress in 1980s Fashion Photography: Vogue and Interview

3.30-3.50pm Discussion

3.50-4.20pm Tea and coffee break (Seminar Rooms 1 & 2)

Passing As…

4.20-5.20pm Chair: Dr Jo Applin, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Dr Renate Stauss, American University Paris and University of the Arts Berlin:

Passing as Fashionable, Feminine and Sane: ‘Therapy of Fashion’ and the Normalisation of Psychiatric Patients in 1960s US

Dr Colbey Emmerson Reid, Columbia College Chicago & Virginia Heaven, Columbia College Chicago:

Bullet-Proof Textiles: Exploring the Fabric of Safety and Risk in Chicagoland

5.20-5.40pm        Discussion

Reception (Front Hall)

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