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Designer Lida Aflatoony from University of Missouri, Columbia.

Part of the CSA Symposium was the Design Showcase where on display were unique fashions. These designs posed a problem, answered a question, or highlighted an historical period. One that I was drawn to was titled Tech and Craft Synergy.

Submitted by Lida Aflatoony and Jean L. Parsons from University of Missouri, Columbia the displayed jacket was made of white organza adorned with swatches of fabric decorated with floral motifs. Using traditional handicrafts such as embroidery, beading, and knitting the intent was to address the conflict between traditional hand craft and technology.  What was unexpected (to me) was that half of each design was done by hand and the other half by technologies like laser cutting and 3D printing.

 

 

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On each of these swatches, the left side was hand crafted and the right side was done by technology.

In their abstract Aflatoony and Parsons say: The design was created as an art piece that illustrates and recognizes the confluence of traditional handcrafts and current technology, with a transitional stage in the center. This concept aims to visually emphasize the transition from the handmade and craftsmanship to digital production. In addition, the aim was to suggest that craftsmanship as a precious heritage can fit hand in hand with emerging technologies. 

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Although there is nothing like something handmade, I like the idea of a crossover. And I wonder if as fewer and fewer people are learning traditional crafts, can technology play a role in preserving these crafts.

 

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Every year Costume Society of America hosts a symposium, where professionals gather to discuss historical and cultural dress.

Costume Society of America was founded in 1973. As a non-profit organization they seek to offer educational opportunities in historical dress. Their mission statement:

The Costume Society of America fosters an understanding of appearance and dress practices of people across the globe through research, education, preservation, and design. Our network of members studies the past, examines the present, and anticipates the future of clothing and fashion.

This year I attended the CSA symposium for the first time. Held in Seattle, Washington it was four packed days of paper presentations, professional development workshops, meetings, exhibitions, and lots of chances to meet new friends among over 250 like-minded people. Attendees included professors,  historians, costumers, and museum curators. I’m not sure, but I might have been the only fashion writer. Although there were plenty of academic writers.

This year’s theme was The Pacific Rim and Beyond: Diffusion and Diversity in Dress. The keynote speaker Akiko Fukai from the Kyoto Costume Institute opened the symposium with an enthusiastic speech on the influence of Kimono and Japanese dress on western fashion.

Presentations varied and covered topics from costuming Shakespeare to pattern creation, from prison attire to clothing terminology, from modern Muslim dress to 1790s menswear.

My favorite presentations happened to be grouped together on the final day of the symposium.

Union-Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century. Denise Nicole Green, Ph.D. discussed a multi-media exhibition at Cornell University that chronicled the rise and fall of union-made clothing in America.  The exhibit included union-made clothing, photos, sewing machines, ephemera, and artifacts from the the university’s costume collection and union archives. What a rich and fascinating topic.

Sustainable Clothing – Nothing New: Women’s Magazines Encouraged Clothing Recycling During World War II presented by Nan Turner, professor at University of California, Davis. We could learn a thing or two from fashionable women of the war generation. With all resources going to the “war effort” clothing was rationed both in England and Europe. Recycle, up-cycle and “Make-do and Mend” were a way of life. Researching fashion magazines of the period and interviewing women in Britain who lived through the war, Ms. Turner considered how women went about refashioning their clothing.  This paper is part of a book Ms. Turner is currently working on. I look forward to reading that book!

Corporate Fashion Archives and the Growing Role of the Historian: Using PVH Archives as a Case Study presented by Becca Love, PVH Archives. Ms. Love has a very interesting job – she manages part of the archives for PVH, a fashion conglomerate which owns brands Calvin Klein, IZOD, Arrow, and Geoffrey Beene, among others. PVH Archives launched in 2014.  In this paper presentation Ms. Love discussed this new avenue in corporate fashion houses for fashion historians. As legacy brands begin to tout their history, archives have become important for inspiration, research, and PR cachet. Growing archives create a need for professionals to manage these archives. With limited and competitive options elsewhere for museum curators and fashion historians, corporate fashion houses are an exciting option. I really enjoyed learning about this new and growing career path.

All in all it was a week of full immersion in fashion academics.

There is more to report so I’ll be posting again on the CSA Annual Symposium in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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… today most consumers fail to understand the human cost of manufacturing garments at such low prices. Living in a discount culture, TV shows continue to perpetuate this misnomer through their steal and deal segments. A majority of people see the rise of fast fashion giants, such a Zara and H&M, as a revolution in democratizing runway trends, but does the consumer stop to think or even care that their new Celine-like ensemble comes at the cost of a human life?

Ariele Chantel Elia – MSL candidate in Fashion Law at Fordham University, Industry/Project Coordinator for MFA Fashion Design program at Fashion Institute of Technology.

This quote of from Scholars’ Roundtable Presentation, 2018 Costume Society of America Symposium. Printed in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America, v.44, #2, 2018. The title of the discussion was Engaging Labor, Acknowledging Maker.

Some consumers do care and are thinking about the cost of fast-fashion. This brings to mind Fashion Revolution Week, the annual event that seeks to highlight the people around the world who make our clothes. Who are they? What are their lives like?

Behind Fashion Revolution Week is the UK based non-profit organization Fashion Revolution. Their intent with the week is to remind consumers of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, in which 1138 workers died and many were injured. Also during this time people around the world are planning various events to highlight the true cost of fashion and inspire us to think and question.

One of the many campaigns for the week is #whomademyclothes? Sport a piece of clothing inside out so the label shows. Take a selfie holding a sign that says – Who Made My Clothes? Post on Instagram and Twitter with #whomademyclothes? Make sure to share with the brand you’re wearing.

This year Fashion Revolution Week is April 22nd – 28th. It’s a time to consider and ask questions about what we wear. Join in!

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I recently had the pleasure of joining the Textile Arts Council on a private docent-led tour of Kimono Refashioned, on now through May 5, 2019 at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

The Kimono has been  a part of my world since I was a little girl. My dad owned an antique men’s Kimono in silk and my mother has a collection of colorful cotton Kimono that she dons at home. One of my first sewing projects was a Kimono style robe. The word Kimono means “a thing to wear.” That is a casual definition for such an important garment that has crossed cultural barriers from traditional Japan to modern America.

Kimono Refashioned highlights the influence Japanese Kimono – in textiles, aesthetics, and design – has had on western fashion since the late 19th century. The exhibit is two galleries with over 35 garments from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

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 Kimono made into a Victorian dress, c.1875. 

Among the displayed garments is a Kimono deconstructed and remade into a Victorian dress (are we thinking appropriation?) and later examples of how Kimono influenced western silhouettes with designs by Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, and Madeleine Vionnet, among others. Modern designers featured include Tom Ford, Rei Kawakubo, Sarah Burton, and Christian Louboutin.

Kimono Refashioned at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. Don’t miss it!

PS – No photo-taking allowed in the exhibit.

 

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Nicole Kidman in The Destroyer.

We took so long to find the leather jacket that I wear in pretty much every frame of the film. I became so obsessed with that jacket, I would wear it at home. I put it on first thing in the morning. My kids visited the set and were shocked at the way I looked.  

Nicole Kidman, Australian born actress.

In an interview for W magazine (v.1 2019) Kidman was talking about the jacket she wore in her most recent film, The Destroyer, which was released in December 2018. Costumes by Audrey Fisher.

I see how an article of clothing can help actors find their characters: Hercule Poirot’s spats; Holly Golightly’s little black dress; Columbo’s top coat.

Clothing or accessories are part of what defines us. For example my mother is known for her scarves. People think of me in hats, particularly cloche. I once worked with a woman who, every day, wore an armful of silver bracelets, many of them handcrafted with turquoise by Native Americans. We might have been a bit bewildered had she ever shown up at work without those bracelets. 

I call these signature piecesSome people have a signature piece and don’t even know it. They’re just wearing what they like.  It could be a ring one wears every day, like a class ring. It could be a  go-to jacket or a silk flower on a lapel. Perhaps a certain brand of distinctive shoe such as Dr. Marten’s. 

How about you? Do you have a signature piece?

 

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Franklina Gray in Milanese lace veil, 1875.

English girls dress in the worst possible taste … German ladies dress without any regard to taste, the prevailing colors being purple and yellow … The Milanese ladies have a pretty fashion of wearing long black lace veils instead of hats. 

Franklina Gray (1853-1934).

At age 22, Ms. Gray embarked on the Grand Tour of Europe with her mother, aunt, and stepfather. From 1875 to 1877, the four traveled together visiting such countries as England, Germany, Greece, and Italy. As she traveled she kept a detailed journal and wrote letters regularly to her fiance left behind in Oakland, CA.

When the family returned they settled into what is now called the Camron-Stanford House on Lakeside Drive in Oakland. In 1878, Ms. Gray married her fiance, William Springer Bartlett at the Lakeside Drive home where they also lived for the next few years.

On now at the Camron-Stanford house is the unique exhibit, Franklina C. Gray: The Grand Tour, which features photos and excerpts from Ms. Gray’s writings about her travel experiences as well as personal mementos and articles of clothing, including gloves and shoes from her wedding ensemble.

I’m a big fan of local history and interesting characters, of which Ms. Gray certainly was. I’ve toured the house several times, but something new is always added (this time details about Ms. Gray’s family) and the old information sometimes doesn’t stick. For example, I should have remembered that the Camron-Stanford House (the last standing Victorian mansion on Lake Merritt) was once the Oakland Museum and we nearly lost this historical treasure back when the new museum was built.

But we didn’t lose it and tours of the house and the current exhibit are available on Sundays only. I highly recommend a visit to the Camron-Stanford House to my local readers for a leisurely Sunday afternoon out.

Franklina C. Gray: The Grand Tour runs through November 17, 2019.

Click here for more information.

 

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Ensemble by Itang Yunasz displayed as part of the Contemporary Muslin exhibit, de Young Museum, fall 2018.

Last fall when I attended the exhibit Contemporary Muslim Fashions at the de Young Museum, I began to wonder if elements of what we were seeing on display would crossover into mainstream fashion. In particular, the hijab.

Sure enough, headscarves are all over the pages of recent fashion magazines. Perhaps not exact copies of the hijab but there is an echo.

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Headscarf by JW Anderson as seen in Vogue, February 2019.

The headscarf is a natural progression since scarves in general have been in fashion for quite some time as a year-round accessory worn around the neck. Also, it’s an easy baby step into modest dressing, if designers have any thoughts of going in that direction.

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Beautiful designs by Khanaan Luqman Shamlan at Contemporary Muslim Fashions,

 

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Ensemble by Givenchy in Vogue, February 2019. Note that the model is pretty well covered up, too.

Although headscarves are nothing new, they were a mid-century staple for Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Queen Elizabeth among others. But its been awhile since they were in vogue and this time around the look is a bit different, perhaps influenced by the chic yet still modest hijab.

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