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Taking Fashion Seriously

Edited by Elizabeth Coulson and Liz Tregenza

 

In this column we wish to investigate not only fashion, but wider notions of dress, style, and identity. We want to consider not only how dress is worn, but how it can be used as a tool to convey meaning, and the effect that dress may have on the human whether through the experience of wearing or viewing. As the world of dress, fashion and style continues to evolve we wish to explore the way in which it can be used to construct a new perception of an identity whether personal, private, active or passive. We are keen to ensure that this is a truly international column thinking about the interrelationship between clothing and different cultures, and the borrowing of both looks and meanings in a wider global context. Fashion as a design history discipline has in the past twenty years been taken much more seriously, no longer seen as the frivolous and ephemeral cousin of textiles. We hope this column will continue with this trend of taking fashion “seriously”, hopefully gaining an interesting insight into the potential areas in which this subject could be taken in the future. Whilst both of our specialisms lie more in the 20th and 21st century we are keen that our column looks back over a greater period of history, encompassing ideas of what we may term dress, costume and fashion.

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Frida Kahlo:
The Artist, the Woman, the Myth, the Clothes

Elizabeth Coulson   Upon her death in 1954 Diego Rivera, the husband of iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, ordered for her entire wardrobe to be sealed in a bathroom of their home, now museum, ‘La Casa Azul’ in Mexico City. Rivera’s death some three years later saw their long time friend and patron Dolores Olmedo

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Viewing and Reviewing The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier:
From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Caterina Tiezzi   Mermaids and Punks, Sailors and Madonna’s, neon signs and photographs, voices and projected faces, static and rotating mannequins: these are a few ingredients that make up The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From The Sidewalk to The Catwalk. Introduced as ‘the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to the celebrated French couturier’, this

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When Tokyo met Paris: Investigating a 1950s Japanese ready-to-wear dress

Liz Tregenza   My MA dissertation investigated British ready-to-wear between 1946 and 1966, but whilst completing my research I also encountered a number of curious examples of ready-to-wear garments from other countries around the world. One that particularly interested me was a pink silk satin 1950s cocktail dress from Japan. The dress in question is

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Sportaville fashion show 1960 –
A ‘novelty nut’ dream find

Liz Tregenza   Fashion show of 1961 Beachwear, 1960. © British Pathé, 4:16. [Please click the Image for a link to the video] Whilst completing the research for my MA dissertation, the British Pathé website became an invaluable research tool for finding original footage relating to the fashion brands I was researching.[1] It was during

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RCA textile design: In discussion

Colleen McGonegle, Harriette Lane, Joanne Pilcher & Sophie Farrelly   The following contributors are all History of Design MA students at Royal College of Art, and their conversation follows on from visiting the School of Material Work-in-Progress show at the RCA. Their discussion was centred around the experience of how textiles were displayed at the exhibit. The work-in-progress

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The History of a Sportswear Icon?

Elizabeth Coulson    Trainers have, in the last few years, been reignited as the epitome of a cool accessory – they are worn by fashion’s great and good alike. The footwear de jour has seen the fashion and sporting worlds collide with an ever widening array of trainers, created or re-discovered to be worn in

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Skiing in style

Liz Tregenza   Friday 7th February sees the start of the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and this seemed to be the perfect excuse to write about the history of ski fashion. Whilst the history of skiing stretches back to around 5000BC, it was not until the 19th century that skiing was established as a competitive

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A Love Letter to Issie –
A Review of the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!

Elizabeth J E Coulson   The Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! Exhibition, opened in the South Wing Gallery of Somerset House in November of last year. A beautifully crafted exhibition, it aims to re-define the position of Isabella Blow as the infamous stylist, maverick, talent and talent spotter, whose influence on fashion during the nineties was instrumental

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The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon at the Fashion and Textile Museum

Liz Tregenza   The fashion and textile museum has, over the past ten years since it opened in 2003, become one of the key locations for fashion exhibitions in the UK. Over that ten year period it has hosted a veritable smorgasbord of exhibitions focusing primarily on the best of British design talent. I first

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Matilda Etches:
A re-discovery of a forgotten couturier

Liz Tregenza     British couture in the 1940s and 1950s normally conjures up a series of between 10 and 12 names; designers such as Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies, or fellow members of the Incorporated Society Of London Fashion Designers.[1]  This small selection of designers does not wholly represent British haute couture during the

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