3rd Global Conference
Thursday 22nd September – Sunday 25th September 2011
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
All Tied Up: The Cravat and the Evolution of Men’s Fashion in Nineteenth Century France
Leonard R. Koos
University of Mary Washington, USA
During the final years of the Bourbon Restoration in France in the 1820s, a surprising and inordinate number of guides and manuals appeared in print contending that the cravat was the most important element of men’s fashion. In ephemeral works like Cravatiana, (1823), Le Code de la Cravate (1828), L’Art de mettre sa cravate (1828), and Manuel de l’homme du monde, guide complet de la toilette et du bon ton (1828), among others, the male reader was instructed on all aspects of the cravat – its history, the choice of an appropriate cravat according to the occasion, and illustrated directions on how to tie as many as forty-one different types of cravats then current . This paper will analyze these manuals and demonstrate how they are emblematic not only of this pivotal moment in men’s fashion, but also relate to greater social and cultural changes in nineteenth century France. First, I will contextualize these manuals by discussing their relationship to trends in men’s fashion in France in the first two decades of the century, considering in particular the transformation of the extravagant fashions of the Napoleonic incroyables into the understated elegance of the lions of the 1820s, a French variant influenced by English dandy on the continent. Next, my paper will analyze how these manuals discursively function as social commentary, discussing their conception the cravat as a mark of individuality in a society increasingly dominated by a lack of sartorial distinction. Finally, my paper will demonstrate how the cravat during this period can ultimately be understood as a contradictory expression of class conflict and mobility as the emergent bourgeoisie attempted to imitate and distinguish itself from the Ancien Régime’s aristocracy in the use of this complex albeit progressively marginalized signifier in nineteenth century men’s fashion.
Arm Candy: Enid Collins Handbags, 1959-1970: Branding, Nostalgia, and the Power of the Purse
Jacque Lynn Foltyn
College of Letters and Sciences, National University, USA
Since the late 1990s, designer handbags have become the most profitable product of the industrial fashion complex. But decades before the purse became an ‘it’ object, the bags of Texas purse maker Enid Collins made their cultural mark. Handcrafted, signed (EC), named, and embellished with candy coloured crystals, these limited edition bags were sold for $10i at Collins bag events and through the exclusive department store Neiman Marcus. Collectible, they were an early ‘branded’ fashion and inspired knock-offs.ii The visual aspects of these wood box or canvas bags can be read as historical, gendered, national cultural texts. Using the semiotics of fashion, one notes that early versions commemorate whimsical, often kitsch scenes of domesticity and small town American life, in which gardens, lollipops, cute animals, and leisure activities figure. The American cult of money is honored in a series of bags called “Money Tree” and the American west in a series of Texas horses, insects, and native birds. By the mid 1960s, EC handbags had expanded thematically beyond the domestic-private-optimistic sphere to larger cultural and pop cultural arenas, with themed bags celebrating the youth, flower power, ‘love,’ peace, and the ‘Age of Aquarius’ social movements, serving as consumer codes attracting buyers to the brand. EC kits allowed buyers to ‘do your own thing,’ i.e., customize one’s bag as a form of artistic and individual expression. The changing role of women figures in this transformation. In the 21st century, Collins bags are nostalgic fashion objects for vintage collectors dedicated (as many of the original buyers were) to the Baudrillard principle of ‘the series,’ whereby a branded object has numerous, but recognizable iterations.iii As in the 1960s, collecting the bags can be viewed as an extension of personal identity, and means to proclaim various moods and social roles, as well as a form of conspicuous display (Veblen). Websites and books are devoted to these mid-century bags, and collectors compete to buy them in a thriving resale market.iv That the bags themselves are carried on the arms of some stars of film and fashion and appear in 1960s inspired TV programs adds to their allure.
Footwear: Transcending the Mind and Body Dualism in Fashion Theory
Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, UK
The place of footwear in relation to identity has not yet been effectively examined in fashion theory or the contributing fields of sociology, anthropology and psychology. Existing fashion theory can be applied to footwear, however shoes as an aspect of clothing present additional qualities that deserve independent study (Riello and McNeil, 2006). Many academics that have focussed on shoes (relatively few) have been unable to provide convincing explanations as to what these additional qualities are and why shoes continue to hold such a special place in the imagination of the consumer. This paper suggests that this inability reveals inadequacies in fashion theory methodology. Historical, semiotic and postmodern approaches are characteristic of the discipline and translate to studies that use the shoe as metaphor or as a vehicle for intellectual illumination rather than focussing on the shoe and wearer themselves in a contemporary sociological context. Fashion theory tends to be a ‘mind’ centred discipline that could be seen to fortify binary oppositions of mind and body; structure and agency and this can be seen to constrain analysis of actual experience – this is a central criticism of the discipline. Fashion theory does, however, have the exciting capacity to connect mind and body. What is needed to transcend these unproductive dualisms are metaphors and models that link image and embodiment, that “implicate the subject in the object and lend insight into the constitutive articulation between the inside and the outside of the body” (Budgeon, 2003). I propose that footwear is an ideal model to fulfil this requirement. In addition footwear, often referred to as the Cinderella of fashion theory (frequently overlooked and underestimated), could be the key to unlock the door between image and experience, mind and body and used as a model by which to advance fashion theory beyond abstract notions of image and representation into a study of how representation is involved in actual experience.
Fashion as System or Action Net in ‘Fashion in All Things’: A Case in Colour Design of Mobile Phones
Celia (Yanqing) Zhang and Oscar Juhlin
Interactive Institute & Mobile Life Center, Stockholm University
Contemporary fashion has permeated into all things in life, but little has analyzed in detail. We present a study using mobile phone, one of the most intimate gadgets to people, as a way to approach ‘fashion in all things’. We study the representation of mobile phones in fashion blogs to unpack the fusion of mobile technology to fashion system. Fashion blogs increasingly assume the role of ‘gate-keepers’ within the fashion system, by which is meant Kawamura’s sense of the institutional and cultural arrangements that cause particular cultural objects to accrue values in specific waysi. This supports that fashion blogs have powers of legitimization. The selected corpus includes 109 entries from fashion blogs randomly searched through Google and the blog search-engine Technorati. Based on the materials, the paper pursues the following inter-related points: 1) visual appearances of mobile phones; 2) circumstantial appearances, such as fashion shows, celebrities etc.; 3) designers or fashion brand phones as a significant way of ‘fashionising’ phones. From the empirical study, we conclude that on the one hand, mobile phones do fit into the fashion system. Drawing on the semiotic theory derived from Barthes, the representation of mobile phones in fashion blogs carries two perspectives as heii suggested: the visual look and the circumstantial appearance. The blogs put fashion into mobile phone and legitimate it as a desirable fashion artefact belonging to the user. On the other hand, as mobile phones embrace shifting aesthetics and longer temporality, mobile phones exist in a social practice different from Parisian fashion system based on dress fashion. In this way, we can also contribute to the theorization of the concept of fashion per se which is historically contingent.