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.
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.
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