Fashion Interpretations: Dress, Medium & Meaning Symposium

Fashion Interpretations Symposium Part I

Speakers: Rebecca Arnold (The Courtauld), Elisa De Wyngaert  (MoMU, Antwerp) and Charles Tepperman (University of Calgary)

This symposium takes place online across five nights, showcasing the work of participants in The Courtauld Institute/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.   


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 


You can learn more about the Fashion Interpretations research here: 

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7:00pm, 30 Nov 2020