Academic Writing

Exhibition review: David Bowie is at Philharmonie de Paris

Fashion Theory, Taylor & Francis, 2015

Image courtesy of William Beaucardet
Image courtesy of William Beaucardet

Excerpt: “David Bowie is makes a strong case for David Bowie as an influential artist and postmodern icon, perpetually shifting personas and borrowing ideas from across the vast landscape of popular culture. […] Co-curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh selected more than three hundred objects from the David Bowie Archive after being granted unprecedented access to the collection, which consists of thousands of photographs, handwritten lyric sheets, and, of course, his memorable stage and screen costumes. Although costumes only constitute a small fraction of the materials that the exhibition uses to chronicle Bowie’s artistic phases, they are certainly one of the key draws for the show. After all, Bowie and fashion are inextricably linked. One can’t discuss his music or other accomplishments without mention of his sartorial choices, as they have played a crucial role in constructing the image of a man whose career is explicitly based around spectacle. David Bowie is recognizes this connection, highlighting the importance of clothing to his music by featuring costumes in a way that transcends museum conventions by displaying mannequins in modes that emulate live stage performances.”


 

“A Taste for Caviar”: National Identity Ambivalence in American Fashion Between 1930-1960

Master’s Thesis, Parsons The New School for Design, 2014

cardin
Image courtesy of Vogue

Abstract: “Throughout American history, fashion has served various roles in constructing and upholding the political beliefs that have allowed the nation to be distinguished from its European roots. Looking specifically at the period surrounding World War II, this thesis argues that dress has continued to be critical in the reinforcement of American identity during periods of great transition, just as it was when the country was establishing itself as a sovereign nation in the late eighteenth century. Observing American fashion between 1930 and 1960 highlights the increased importance placed on material culture to support American ideals. In turn, Americans placed the significant weight of these patriotic desires on the country’s fashion designers, who were faced with the task of establishing a distinct aesthetic to represent the United States while also being able to cater to the tastes of American consumers who were accustomed to European influence. Although scholars have extensively studied the formative years of American fashion, moving from reliance on French designers to the embrace of American talent, issues concerning national identity ambivalence and the conflicting messages disseminated through the media are often brushed over to great extent. This research is focused on the work of one particular New York dress manufacturer, Herbert Sondheim, who exemplifies the path of American designers and the changing landscape of American fashion during this turbulent time in the nation’s history. As an industry spokesman on both fashion trends and the economic matters of dressmakers, Sondheim’s politically charged statements make him an example of how fashion and politics are inextricably linked. Furthermore, the contradictory nature between his blatant European design influence and promotion as a creator of “original” American design allows us to conceptualize fashion as a complex communicator of national identity.”


 

Make it big. Do it right. Give it class: The curatorial legacy of Diana Vreeland’s exhibition of ‘Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design’

Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, Intellect Books, 2014

Diana Vreeland
Image courtesy of Intellect Books

Abstract: “Both admired and criticized, Diana Vreeland’s approaches to exhibiting fashion have left a profound impact on how curators choose to display fashion worldwide. Her ‘Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design’ exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is emblematic of what makes her work so notable in the field of museology. Running from 1974 to 1975, the record-breaking show exuded her idiosyncratic way of staging fashion exhibitions that blurred the lines between traditional gallery displays and fashion magazine editorials, and continues to raise interesting questions about what is appropriate in the display of historic dress. The cultural impact of the exhibit is not based solely on its curatorial work or public reception; its true legacy is also founded on how it brought Hollywood costume into the museum setting, elevating it to the status of high art while appealing to the interests and fantasies of a diverse group of visitors. A detailed analysis of Vreeland’s curatorial idioms, including abstract mannequins, dramatic lighting and sound, helps us to conceptualize the practice of exhibiting fashion as a meaningful yet theatrical discipline that dovetails with cinematic production.”


 

Watch That Man: David Bowie’s Performance of Anonymity

BIAS: Journal of Dress Practice, Parsons The New School for Design, 2015

Bowie Balaclava
Image by Mike Thompson

Excerpt: “In recent years, the term “recluse” has been used to describe David Bowie almost as much as “fashion icon” and “music legend”. His enigmatic presence over the past decade is certainly a stark contrast from his extremely publicized life in the early 1970s, a time when media outlets on both sides of the pond were eager to report on the ever-changing details of the singer’s life and appearance. Today, Bowie remains mostly unseen and unheard, after becoming increasingly reclusive since the mid-2000s following a heart attack in 2004 and making his last stage appearance (to date) in 2006. Rumors of his failing health became rampant as time passed, and, without any statements from the man himself, fans and critics began to assume that he had decided to retire. But, in a world obsessed with celebrity surveillance, can a star really stay relevant without showing their face? Moreover, is the shape-shifting performer truly embracing a reclusive lifestyle, or is this simply a different type of performance?”


 

Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe

ABC-CLIO, Expected Publication November 2015

American Fashion
Image courtesy of Amazon

I contributed entries on varied topics related to American fashion in the twentieth century.

From Amazon: “This sweeping overview of fashion and apparel covers several centuries of American history as seen through the lens of the clothes we wear—from the Native American moccasin to Manolo Blahnik’s contribution to stiletto heels. Through four detailed volumes, this work delves into what people wore in various periods in our country’s past and why—from hand-crafted family garments in the 1600s, to the rough clothing of slaves, to the sophisticated textile designs of the 21st century.”