SUMMARY

Dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of fashion from an academic perspective, the quarterly journal Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture views fashion as a cultural phenomenon, offering the reader a wide range of articles by leading Western and Russian spe­cialists, as well as classical texts on fashion theory. From the history of dress and design to body practices; from the work of well-known de­signers to issues around consumption in fashion; from beauty and the fashionable figure through the ages to fashion journalism, fashion and PR, fashion and city life, art and fashion, fashion and photography — Fashion Theory covers it all.

This issue’s Dress section is devoted to fashion and gender.

Carole Collier Frick contributes Gendered Space in Renaissance Flor­ence: Theorizing Public and Private in the ‘Rag Trade’. In Renaissance Italy, women contributed to clothing production by supplying the per­sonal and domestic linens used by men, women, and children alike. But there were also women who were not confined to making the utilitarian linens that would ultimately be hidden beneath a person’s clothing. In fact, in Florence, some skilled females were employed in fashioning el­egant and extravagant headdresses for the urban elite, while others were in demand for adorning gowns with custom embroidery designs. Still others worked in crafting a wide range of clothing accessories, thereby making a significant contribution to the clothing of display-conscious Florence. Using archival documents and Florentine artwork from the period, the author examines the female artisans who worked as clothing professionals across the four quarters of the city. These women played an essential role in producing the luxury ensembles for which Florence be­came famous. Their creations made women’s work visible on the streets of the city. This visibility helped to counteract the passive public role of mannequin that women of the upper ranks played in Florentine society.

Elizabeth Currie offers Prescribing Fashion: Dress, Politics and Gen­der in Sixteenth-Century Italian Conduct Literature. The study of pre-seventeenth century dress has relied heavily on the use of contemporary accounts, diaries and prescriptive literature in order to reconstruct the appearance of garments. Written descriptions are invaluable for recon­structing the appearance of clothing; but they also provide important in­sights into the more elusive subject of contemporary attitudes towards dress and fashion. From the end of the fifteenth century and through­out the sixteenth, a large number of books were published in Italy giv­ing guidelines for all aspects of correct behaviour, often with a particu­lar emphasis on dress. Similar themes were reiterated in very different texts, from political and moralistic writings to treatises, memoirs and plays. Thanks to these sources, today we have not only descriptions of virtually all items and styles of clothing and accessories of those times, but also a record of contemporary attitudes towards them.

Olga Khoroshilova’s Androgynes of the Great War offers a fasci­nating insight into Russian women’s military units in World War One. Looking at the activities, equipment and external appearance of these women, Khoroshilova examines the important impact that their uniforms and looks had, in the post-war period. Turning to the formation of these units, the author focuses in particular on Maria Bochkareva’s First Rus­sian Women’s Battalion of Death. Khoroshilova looks at the uniforms and appearance of women-volunteers, especially in the Women’s Na­val Unit. Researching the history of this unusual unit through archival documents, the author managed to gain an idea of the uniform worn by its members. These women, it seems, were the first ever to be granted the official right to wear men’s trousers. Khoroshilova concludes with a look at how women volunteers in the Great War influenced the looks of Soviet women in the early days of the USSR.

This issue’s Body section looks at underwear.

Jennifer Craik’s States of Undress: Lingerie to Swimwear is an excerpt from a chapter of the same name from her book The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion (Routledge, 1994). In this chapter Craik ex­plores how physical movement such as sport, exercise, posing and ges­ticulation is influenced by a nexus of gender and sexual codes. Examin­ing the socially accepted norms that came into being through the fusion of body practices associated with social behaviour, etiquette, hierarchical relations and political behaviour, the author analyzes the body as a con­tentious and contradictory participant in social interaction. Drawn from diverse eras and cultures, Craik’s examples of attitudes towards the body reveal a multitude of approaches and lines of behaviour among men and women alike. With the arrival of a new concept of decency, the deliber­ate concealment of the body with clothing became the fundamental ba­sis of socially acceptable behaviour. Nudity came to be associated with shame — thus, for situations requiring intimate contact and partial ex­posure, special clothing was invented, allowing the wearer to retain a so­cially acceptable exterior: so appeared swimwear, lingerie and nightwear.

Matthew H. Hersch offers High Fashion: The Women’s Undergarment Industry and the Foundations of American Spaceflight. In the years that followed the end of World War Two, Americans turned to synthetic fibres to transform their bodies to meet the challenges of a new era: for wom­en, the pinched waists and thrusting bustlines of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’; for men, the physiological demands of high-speed, high-altitude flight. The story of foundation garments and pressure suits is not simply one of government-developed ‘spin-off technologies invigorating the civilian market; rather, new techniques for the manufacture of civilian apparel infused pressure suit development. Inspired by each other, the two industries revolutionized ‘high fashion’ with a series of radical new garments as ‘dangerous’ as they were beautiful. Considering the two as complementary technologies may illuminate both the ways in which the consumer market enriched American innovation during the twentieth century, and the resonances these two kinds of garments have as iconic representations of post-war American modernity, beauty, and power.

Jill Fields contributes From Black Venus to Blonde Venus: The Mean­ing of Black Lingerie. The development of the specialized meaning of black lingerie as particularly erotic raises questions regarding the dy­namics of race and sexuality, as blackness and black bodies have for several centuries in Western culture been linked to deviant and particu­larly lascivious sexuality, while whiteness and white bodies have been associated with sexual purity. The article briefly notes the multiple and shifting connotations of black clothing, from nineteenth-century mean­ings as signs of both mourning and male sobriety, to twentieth-century meanings as signs of both female sexual sophistication and bohemian opposition. The article then focuses on the bodies, objects, and discourses of blackness and sexuality, from the much-discussed ‘apron’ of the Hot­tentot Venus in the nineteenth century, to the café au lait performances by white women in American musical revues in the early twentieth cen­tury, that suggest that the wearing of black lingerie by white women is a practice of racial masquerade. Black lingerie infuses its wearers with the erotic charge of racialized and therefore transgressive sexuality, but one that is safely contained, like blackface, by its temporary nature and re­movable ‘skin’. The article ends by discussing the analytic effects of con­sidering both production and consumption in regard to the signification of fashion, as oral histories of retired African American undergarment works report strikingly different meanings of black lingerie constructed on the shop floor from those engendered in the locations and practices of consumer culture. When these workers returned from vacation or sick leave they would find stacks of black undergarments next to their sewing machines left for them by their largely immigrant co-workers because sewing black thread on black fabric was more difficult. At the shop floor, black lingerie was a sign not of eroticism, but discrimination.

Bella Shapiro’s The Feminization of Sport and Women’s Underwear: On the History of Sports during the Belle Epoque looks at the differ­entiation of ladies’ sporting underwear in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Women’s sports and sporting dress of that period were of course influenced by the historical processes of the Belle Epoque. Sha­piro traces the development of ladies’ sporting dress against the back­drop of intense urbanization and industrial modernization, as well as of shifting gender roles. If previously, women had not enjoyed the means or the freedom of movement to undertake sporting activities, the Belle Epoque brought with it a rapid feminization of sport. The ‘new woman’ was free to choose how to spend her leisure time, and a whole range of physical activities soon became popular: after travel came mountain-walking, which was followed by a whole host of sports. Ladies’ sports underwear developed accordingly. Some styles, whilst claiming to be suitable for sports, were in fact little different to ordinary items. Some ‘universal’ items were suitable for most sports, whilst other styles were designed expressly for particular, elite forms of exercise. With a high price tag attached, these exclusive styles were divisive, serving to dif­ferentiate between the haves and have-nots. Women’s sports underwear became a new and popular branch of ladies’ fashion.

Yulia Demidenko’s All Men Wear It takes a look at the history of men’s underwear. This topic, Demidenko suggests, has hitherto attracted relatively little research and few publications. The author’s main focus is the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth cen­tury, a time that saw increased variety in terms of underwear styles and function. Demidenko looks at the gradual appearance of new fabrics, novel trends and design. In the early twentieth century, the nature and range of men’s undergarments saw some dramatic changes as a result of social and economic shifts. Underwear became more brief and sporty, with greater diversity of colour and style. The author also takes a look at Soviet times with their militarization of light industry, limited sup­ply and the use of ‘alternative models’ such as tracksuit bottoms worn in lieu of underclothes.

What Lies Beneath? Thoughts on Men’s Underpants is co-authored by Prudence Black, Michael Carter, Karen de Perthuis and Alison Gill. With each of these experts having much to say on the subject of men’s underwear, their joint offering presents a multi-faceted and compre­hensive exploration of the subject. Beginning with a ‘day in the life’ of a standard pair of underpants, it moves on to explore some of the specific characteristics that accompany the wearing of this particular garment. The authors look at the relationship between the item and its wearer, and at the role that underpants play in domestic life. With clothing this intimate, a variety of approaches is possible; yet, in its own way, each part of this fascinating piece strives to answer the same intriguing ques­tion: what lies beneath?

This issue’s Culture section is devoted to fashion, magic and fairy­tales.

On the basis of Richard Martin’s Fashion and Surrealism, in Magic Fashion Elizabeth Wilson attempts to analyze to what extent fashion can be seen as a magical phenomenon. Touching on the theme of fetish and using the Marxist concept of capitalism, the eminent fashion expert concludes that in the world of the surrealists, the relationship between organic and inorganic, natural and artificial is a gap, or tear in the fabric of our experience, through which we may glimpse a different version of the world. It is moreover the very irrationality of fashion — its most often criticized aspect — that gives it significance. It bears witness that the magical is more than just the refuse. Like surrealism, it still speaks to us today, affirming the autonomy of human desire at a time when not only our bodies but even those desires themselves are in danger of becoming wholly commodified, of being wholly colonized by consum­er lifestyle. Fashion, the epitome of consumerism, is also its stealthiest critic, and in its obsession with what Freud referred to as the ‘refuse of the phenomenal world’, surrealism gives us hope, suggesting that there are still gaps in the apparent seamlessness of consumer culture, through which we can escape into re-enchanted worlds.

Inna Osinovskaya’s Fairytale Poetics: Shoes and Shoemakers is de­voted to the poetics of shoes and shoemakers in fairytales and in ancient and modern myths. Red shoes, silver shoes, winged sandals, — all these kinds of footwear have their functions and roles, poetical images and meanings. Life and death, new and old, funny and sublime, good and evil, falsehood and truth — these are the main senses of human being and the main implications of footwear imagery in fairytale texts. One section of the essay describes the image of ‘literary’ and ‘real’ shoemak­ers and offers answers as to why the figure of the shoemaker is full of mystery, and how patterns of God and jester are fused in this image.

Ekaterina Kulinicheva’s Stories for Boys of All Ages, and Footwear for Stylish Superheroes looks at sports shoes such as trainers, football boots and spiked shoes from the less familiar point of view of profes­sional sports and sportsmen.

The final decades of the twentieth century witnessed a dramatic rise in the popularity of a range of sports shoes. No longer simply functional, they turned into iconic objects of desire for the masses. This shift is often linked to marketing advances by the makers of the shoes, as brands fell upon the lucrative idea of linking their products with top athletes. Using the example of football boots, Kulinicheva takes a detailed look at simi­lar contemporary practices. Advertising for these items, the author ar­gues, makes ample use of fairytale motifs connected with magical shoes, which are capable of transforming their wearers’ physical capabilities.

Kulinicheva also examines how top-level athletes ‘appropriate’ fash­ion — a trend usually neglected by fashion and material culture research­ers. While marketing experts seek new ways of taking advantage of star athletes’ sporting successes, the sportsmen likewise use fashion and mar­keting to attract more fans and build up their own brand. An important role in this process is played by sports shoes.

Why are sports shoes often the best way to make a fashion statement and show off one’s individual taste and style in a drab, uniform envi­ronment? How do sports shoes reflect the status and ambitions of the wearer? How do today’s footballers prefer to make their professional boots more individual, and what stories are they attempting to tell in the process? How can sports shoes become part of a sporting personality’s brand, taking his or her career to a whole new level? These are among the questions that Kulinicheva attempts to answer in her article.

In this issue’s Museum Business column Nadezhda Efimova contrib­utes Fashion at the Museum: History and Strategies of Representation. As Western culture becomes increasingly visual, Efimova looks at fashion in the museum environment — a relatively recent phenomenon in Russian and Western theory and practice. Viewed through the lens of visual culture theory, strategies of representing fashion in the museum context by means of exhibition practices can be seen as a new means of visual interaction and communication. As dynamic structures, over the second half of the twenti­eth century museums themselves experienced significant change, the con­sequences of which are felt in current museum practice. Totally changing their development strategy, museums have evolved from collections of items that may be of interest to future generations, into open communica­tion fora — spaces which prioritize the values and needs of today’s visi­tors. After taking a detailed look at the exhibition strategies of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the author analyzes, and draws conclusions on, the fusion of two remarkable worlds — that of fashion, and that of museums.

In this issue’s Books section, Ekaterina Shubnaya offers The Ties That Bind: a review of Dress and Ideology: Fashioning Identity from Antiqui­ty to the Present, edited by Shoshana-Rose Marzel and Guy D. Stiebel, Bloomsbury, 2015.

In this issue’s Events section, Maria Terekhova offers The Myths and Legends of Soviet Maya: her take on the ‘Divine Maya’ exhibition at St. Petersburg’s State Museum of Theatre and Music (2 October — 8 Novem­ber 2015).

Liuba Popova visits ‘Crinolines & Cie, La Bourgeoisie S’Expose, 1850-1890’ at the Brussels Museum of Costume and Lace (28 May 2015 — 10 April 2016), and shares her impressions in Demonstrative Photography.

How Did Belgian Fashion Designers Become Successful? enquires Liuba Popova after visiting ‘The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story’ at the Brussels Palais des Beaux-Arts, BOZAR (5 June — 13 September 2015).

Ellen McIntyre’s Holiday Season offers a review of ‘Riviera Style: Re­sort & Swimwear since 1900’ at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum (22 May — 13 September 2015).