Fashion Interpretations

The Courtauld’s Research Forum is pleased to announce Fashion Interpretations, a Symposium.

This symposium takes place online across five nights, showcasing the work of participants in The Courtauld/London College of Fashion AHRC-funded Fashion Interpretations: Dress, Medium & Meaning networking project led by Rebecca Arnold and Judith Clark.

Each evening, we will present aspects of our individual and joint research into fashion and medium, exploring specific case studies from our perspectives as dress and film historians, artists, writers and illustrators, stylists and journalists.

We are an international, interdisciplinary network focused on the ways modern and contemporary fashion is continually reinterpreted through varied mediums, seeking to gain insight into the ways representational modes translate and reconfigure the meaning of fashion itself. 

This symposium is the culmination of a year-long research initiative and also marks the launch of Archivist Addendum – a publishing project exploring the nascent space between standardised fashion editorial and academic research.

Follow us on Instagram: @fashioninterpretations

You can find out more about the Symposium talks below.

Fashion Interpretations Symposium Part I

30th November 2020 

Rebecca Arnold – Senior Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles, The Courtauld
Elisa de Wyngaert – Fashion Curator, MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp
Charles Tepperman – Associate Professor of Film Studies, The University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Part I: Rebecca Arnold / Elisa De Wyngaert / Charles Tepperman – Monday 30th November, 7pm – 8pm

Rebecca Arnold: Showing Fashion: Man Ray, Imagery and Imagination in 1930s Harper’s Bazaar 

During the interwar period, illustration, the preeminent form of fashion representation, sat alongside photography, an emergent medium. Fashion magazines became increasingly experimental, with the latest trends depicted through the centuries-old practice of drawing, and the relatively new technology of the camera.  

This talk focuses on the February 1937 of Harper’s Bazaar, in particular Man Ray’s images, which blur the interplay between the two mediums to consider how be given to how gesture, pose and styling slipped between photography and illustration, to produce a fashion vernacular that crystallised the look of contemporary magazine imagery. 

@documenting_fashion / Documenting Fashion blog / Bande à part 

Elisa De Wyngaert  

“Why do people dress the way they do? What are we communicating with our clothes?” 

As an art and fashion historian, I love investigating how fashion is interconnected with the psychology and mood of a society. I am always looking for the emotional and psychological layer in the exhibitions I curate. I don’t mind being a bit subversive. 

My research has focused on the use of textiles in contemporary art and on 20th – 21st century fashion – specifically Belgian designers, Balenciaga, Balmain and Helmut Lang. I have worked on publications and exhibitions such as ‘Hermès: The Margiela Years’ (MoMu), ‘Soft? Tactile Dialogues’ (MoMu), ‘Olivier Theyskens – she walks in beauty’ (MoMu) and I am currently curating the opening exhibition at MoMu Antwerp. 

I love encountering awkward mannequins in desolate shop windows. I will stop to photograph them anywhere and anytime.” / @elisadewyngaert / Alumni Interview: Elisa De Wyngaert / Unrequired Reading with Thea Voyles 

Charles Tepperman 

What do people film when they are documenting their surroundings, or visiting somewhere new? How does the amateur gaze negotiate local specificity and exotic fantasy? When amateurs place fashion alongside monuments and architecture, how do they understand the relationship between fashion and the built environment? By looking at some specific films more closely, fashion (especially in its more casual, everyday forms) and amateur cinema emerge as parallel phenomena in American visual culture. 

Amateur movies and fashion are both media for creative self-presentation. In my presentation, I will discuss films from the 1930s, 40s and 50s that document and dramatize aspects of fashion from that period. I am particularly interested in the ways that amateurs during this period used the new Kodachrome film to capture vivid modern culture and simultaneously transform the screen into a textile of movement and colour 

I have written about aspects of this history in my book Amateur Cinema: The Rise of North American Moviemaking, 1923-1960 (University of California Press, 2015) and I direct the Amateur Movie Database project: Amateur Movie Database  

Fashion Interpretations Symposium Part II

1st December 2020

Lisa Cohen – Writer and Associate Professor of English & Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut
Olga Vainshtein – Senior Researcher, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow
Elizabeth Kutesko – Lecturer in Cultural Studies, Central Saint Martins

Part II: Lisa Cohen / Olga Vainshtein / Elizabeth Kutesko – Tuesday 1st December, 7pm – 8pm

Lisa Cohen is a writer. She is Associate Professor English and of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

“I am interested in how experiments with biographical writing might document lived experiences of clothing in new ways. For this project, I’m thinking about clothes and grief: about how sartorial remnants hold the bodies of the dead and our memories of them; about what it looks, feels, and smells like to re-encounter these objects. I’m writing about my encounters with people who have shown me charged, cherished, and even neglected clothes they have held onto, sometimes for decades. This work grows out of the book I’m completing, a meditation on queer friendship, notions of preservation and decay, and Enlightenment legacies in the context of the long history of HIV/AIDS”

Cohen’s All We Know: Three Lives – a group biography, study of queer modernisms, and reflection on archival afterlives – includes her portrait of Madge Garland, the founding Professor of the School of Fashion at the Royal College of Art and fashion editor of British Vogue in the 1920s and ’30s. She has also written on clothes, books, film, and contemporary art for The London Review of Books, The Paris Review, the New York Times’ T Magazine, BOMB, Vogue (U.S.) and Fashion Theory, and her essays and poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Queer 13, The Vassar Review, among other magazines and anthologies.

Olga Vainshtein is a Senior Researcher at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.    

“I have written on the history of Dandyism and male costume, beauty and gender, fashion and body and recently – about the use of Photoshop in fashion photography and about semiotics of fashion in Edith Wharton’s novels. In 2006 I founded the Russian version of Fashion Theory journal. My current research interests are focused around fashion and fiction.   

For this project I am exploring intersections between Fashion and Literature.  I aim to examine how literature as an artistic medium reinterprets fashion. Fashion in fiction is frequently analyzed as a social monitor for taste and status, but literature has its own discursive peculiarities. My goal is to gain insight into the ways literature can translate and reconfigure the development of fashion itself.  

My main case study deals with Lord Fauntleroy suit – a particular trend in the history of late nineteenth – early twentieth century fashion for boys. I am looking at the impact of the outfit worn by Little Lord Fauntleroy in the 1886 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book was illustrated by Reginald Birch. His illustrations had a decisive influence on children’s fashion of the period and became the key motifs symbolically representing the novel in other genres of art, such as photography, political cartoons and films.  I am interested to investigate how this style was received in society, what was its origin and what happened to this fashion trend later.” 

Elizabeth Kutesko 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 articles based upon her research in the Global Fashion Special Edition of ZoneModa journal (December 2019) and the Brazilian Fashion Special Edition of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture (November 2016).   

Fashion, Medium, Modernities: Claude and Dina Lévi-Strauss’ Snapshots of São Paulo, 1935-7  

This paper is organised around a series of 44 original photographic negatives taken by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (and possibly also his wife Dina) in São Paulo between 1935 and 1937. We see recently built neighbourhoods and avenues, urban transportation networks, and new patterns of consumption in the form of restaurants, cinemas, cafes and department stores selling the latest fashions from England and France – all captured amidst crumbling Old World facades and general urban detritus. These photographs are held by the Instituto Moreira Salles in São Paulo and were published for the first time sixty-years later in Brazil in the photobook entitled Saudades de São Paulo (1996). Claude and Dina Lévi-Strauss travelled to Brazil in 1935 as part of a small cohort of young French academics invited to help establish the newly founded University of São Paulo. This transnational programme of cultural exchange must be contextualized within the specific context of the French-Brazilian “special relationship” which dates to the mid-sixteenth century. France’s failed attempt to colonise terrain in Latin America and create France Antarctique evolved into a pursuit of cultural hegemony in the region that found fertile breeding ground in Brazil, who imported French luxury fashion and consumer goods.  

The Lévi-Strauss photographs document a rapidly transforming São Paulo cityscape, founded on coffee wealth and a diverse immigrant population, which was poised precariously between an agricultural past and a modern vision of the future. For Brazilian anthropologist and sociologist Renato Ortiz, if modernity refers to ‘the technological progress of cities, to their organisation and management, it is also a discourse, a “language” through Latin Americans become aware of these changes’. These unpolished photographs form a small part of a much larger visual archive of the city that includes Adalberto Kedemy and Rudolf Lustig’s experimental film São Paulo, Sinfonia da Metropole (1929) and photographic works by Hildegard Rosenthal, Chico Albuquerque and Thomaz Farkas. This paper uses the Lévi-Strauss photographs to examine how photography provided the ultimate medium to represent the fashions sported by Paulistas (those born in São Paulo), who responded to their contradictory experience of urban modernity in dress, style and pose, reacting to a period of intense change in Brazil that resonated on a global scale.  

Elizabeth Kutesko | UAL / 

Fashion Interpretations Symposium Part III

2nd December 2020

Leanne Shapton – Adjunct Professor, Columbia University. Fellow, Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Judith Clark – Professor of Fashion & Museology at London College of Fashion

Part III: Leanne Shapton /Judith Clark – Wednesday 2nd December, 7pm – 8pm

Leanne Shapton is a Canadian author, artist and publisher. Shapton’s Swimming Studies won the 2012 National Book Critic’s Circle Award for autobiography. She is a co-editor, with Sheila Heti and Heidi Julavits, of the best selling Women In Clothes. Her most recent book, Guestbook is a collection of image-based stories. Shapton lives in New York city with her daughter.

Judith Clark is a curator and exhibition-maker. She is Professor of Fashion & Museology at London College of Fashion; she is also the Co-Investigator for the Fashion Interpretations project. 

For the Fashion Interpretations project, Judith is considering attributes as a bridge between word and image in the work of Stephanie, Madame de Genlis and her use of attributes as a teaching tool for children. This research speculates on use of attributes in fashion exhibition-making. 

Fashion Interpretations Symposium Part IV

3rd December 2020

Richard Haines – Artist and Fashion Illustrator 

Part IV: Illustration Masterclass with Richard Haines, Thursday 3rd December, 7pm – 8pm

We are pleased to announce project member Richard Haines’ Fashion Illustration Masterclass, which will sit within our Fashion Interpretations Symposium week!  

Richard Haines is an artist and fashion illustrator. To Richard Haines, New York City is an endless runway. When he moved to the city to pursue illustration, he instead found a successful career as a fashion designer, where he developed a keen eye for the often overlooked details of form, fabric, and how a garment falls on the body. After years in the design world, his career came full circle: he’s now one of today’s most sought-after fashion illustrators: 

”During this drawing session I will discuss, in no particular order: the rich history of fashion illustration from Lepape to Bouchè and Bérard to…me! I will share my insights on the importance of gesture, shape, the play of positive and negative, and I’ll explain my golden rule of drawing—never use an eraser. 

As we begin drawing we will talk about the process of approaching a blank sheet of paper— What do we see? What do we tell ourselves? Are we excited, apprehensive? So much of drawing is overcoming our fears, the voice in our head that says “I can’t draw,” “this is hard,” or “I’ll draw but I’ll avoid the hands, or the feet, or…” I’ll talk about ways to move those old conversations out of our head, which allows us to proceed to make beautiful drawings. 

Perhaps no one captures the essence of a fleeting, assured stroke more than French artist and illustrator Christian Bérard. Bérard had the ability to capture the spirit of a room or a dress with a few quick lines without looking back. To arrive at this point in a drawing is fearless, brave, and beautiful. Here, we will talk about that energy and the power of a line!”  

It is not uncommon to see Haines seated front-row at Fashion Week, sketching images for publications who’ve hired him to record the nuances that cannot be captured on film. His fascination with the people behind the styles informs every stroke, propelling his work into the intersection of fashion and art. 

Fashion Interpretations Symposium Part V

4th December 2020

Part V: Roundtable: Archivist Addendum, Friday 4th December, 7pm – 8pm 

> so there is no point in doing normal fashion shoots with models 

> because i don’t find any of this normal 

> make people feel uncomfortable because they spend too little time thinking and are unaware of so many things. take away the whirlwind and emptiness and replace it with something solid. something so big that they can’t look past it or around it’s sides. someting so quiet they can hear the air and their own breath and heartbeat. 


  Email to myself, Jane Howard, Tue, 7 Oct 2003 13:38:49  

Founded in 2020 by Jane Howard and Dal Chodha, Archivist Addendum is a publishing project free from the confines of a bound periodical. With it, the duo hopes to renew – and pull apart – the museological concern of what the uses of the archive might be.   

This roundtable discussion with members of the networking project will address the dilemma of contemporary fashion publishing and the practice of sharing academic research.  

Non-seasonal and multi-format, the inaugural issue of Archivist Addendum occupies the nascent space between standardised fashion editorial and arcane academe. Each project is contained within it as if a fragment of a conference that might have never happened. 

London-based writer Dal Chodha is editor of Archivist Addendum. He contributes to various international fashion titles including Modern Matter, AnOther and Wallpaper* for which he reports on the menswear shows twice a year. He has worked on projects with brands including Burberry, MARIOTESTINO+, Kenzo, Paul Smith and Sunspel as well as The British Council. For more than a decade, he has shaped the curriculum at leading universities as Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in fashion communication. 

@dalchodha / 

After graduating with BA (Hons) in Fashion Design in 2000, Jane Howard worked in the studio of Hussein Chalayan and alongside curator and exhibition maker Judith Clark. She went on to become first assistant to David Bradshaw – then Creative Director of Prada and Miu Miu – followed by two years with Katie Grand at POP magazine and Louis Vuitton. She was made Senior Fashion Editor at POP in 2006, a position she held for a year. In 2012 Howard co-founded the non-seasonal fashion journal Archivist. To date Archivist has published four journals collaborating with Chloé, Hussein Chalayan, Shirin Guild, Shelley Fox, Christopher Raeburn and Comme des Garçons. The title was shortlisted for an award at the Design Museum’s Design of the Year 2015. Howard is now launching Archivist Addendum and interested in exploring projects that are free from the confines of a bound publication: ‘I want to continue to bridge the gap between contemporary editorial and academia.’ 


You can learn more about the Fashion Interpretations research here: