FASHION + MEDIA SCHOLARSHIP
As an independent scholar, I study the representation of fashion, textiles, and cosmetics in the media. My research has been published in academic journals, presented at conferences, and exhibited.
View project highlights and article abstracts below, and click the links to view full-text versions. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to learn more about my work.
AN EVENING WITH ACKERMANN: EVENING DRESS IN THE REPOSITORY OF ARTS, 1809–1813
Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, 2020, Volume 18, Issue 4, "Fashion as Communication"
This study examines the presentation of evening dress within the first 50 issues of The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, from January 1809 to February 1813.
Within this early nineteenth-century British magazine, published in London by Rudolph Ackermann, several visuals and voices emerge as its primary fashion communicators. Through the written observations of two author-characters, as well as elegant hand-colored fashion plates and tactile fabric swatches of domestic manufacture, The Repository of Arts provided a dynamic array of sartorial instructions for its readers to consider.
This study illuminates the publication’s explanation of the temporal boundaries of evening dress and related dress categories, its discussion of good taste and variety in fashion, and its commentary on visual impact, light reflectivity, and bodily exposure, providing new insights into the significance of evening dress at the start of the nineteenth century.
What happens when the fashionable beauty ideal – typically considered unattainable – becomes instantly attainable for the masses with the mere tap of a touchscreen? As the widespread use of Snapchat’s popular but problematic Lenses has shown, responses are mixed and critiques abound.
The social media platform Snapchat introduced Lenses – commonly known as face filters – in 2015. These filters apply virtual accessories and edit facial features, enabling users to incorporate augmented reality technology into their daily sartorial practice. Through this ‘digital adornment’ users experiment with creativity and self-expression, as with cosmetics and clothing, while forging social connections.
However, Snapchat’s filters frequently spark controversy by slimming the jawlines and noses, enlarging the eyes and lips, and smoothing and lightening the complexions of millions of users. These effects have caused users to consider the powers of self-fashioning and question the standard of beauty being presented.
By examining the observations and opinions presented in the online fashion, tech and news media, this study explores the problematic nature of Snapchat’s beautifying filters. It traces users’ dismay at how Snapchat, originally praised as a space for authentic, unfiltered self-presentation, became a force for aggressively perpetuating fashionable but exclusionary beauty ideals. It presents the range of reactions to these face-perfecting filters, from satisfaction and guilt to insecurity and body dysmorphia. It also explores the connection between face filters, cosmetics and feminine beauty ideals in a celebrity-led, self-image-saturated culture, with reference to brand-sponsored filters.
BLOOMSBURY FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE CONTRIBUTIONS
An online collection of over 750,000 images, the Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive is an authoritative resource for fashion designers, students, and researchers featuring informative articles, videos, and designer bios edited by Valerie Steele.
I was commissioned to write five biographies tracing the lives, careers, and lasting influences of significant fashion designers for the BFPA along with two articles addressing themes in fashion. One surveyed sparkle on the runway and the other focused on fashion in the workplace. All were published in 2019.
FASHION IN THE WORKPLACE • ABSTRACT
Workplace environments differ across industries and geographic locations. They can be construction sites or stores, farms or factories, kitchens or classrooms, airplanes or ocean vessels. As such, clothing requirements differ dramatically. Yet EuroAmerican expectations for office attire – the focus of this survey – have been significant for not only those in the corporate world but for society at large.
From John T. Molloy’s Dress for Success guidebook to Donna Karan’s “Seven Easy Pieces” and Giorgio Armani’s unstructured suits, what professionals are permitted to wear reflects and reinforces ideas about gender relations, the boundaries between personal and professional life, and the nature of success.
Though uniforms are not required, office employees must navigate a set of spoken and unspoken rules. Formalized dress codes and categories such as business formal, business professional, business casual, and creative professional are intended to guide employees toward appropriate attire, yet their definitions can be elusive. Meanwhile, labels like Calvin Klein and Céline help define what is stylish and suitable for the working wardrobe. As the nature of the workplace changes, expectations for professional dress – and for its designers – evolve.
SPARKLE IN FASHION • ABSTRACT
Use of the word “sparkle” began in the thirteenth century. It originally referred to the act of giving off sparks, indicating an association with fire. Scholars have suggested that the human attraction to sparkle is a primal instinct related to the need for life-giving water and light. Associating such objects with wealth and beauty, countless cultures across the globe have incorporated them into dress for centuries.
In the Western world, fashion has glimmered because of silk and metallic threads, spangles, sequins, lamé, Lurex, beads, and bling. Sparkle has figured prominently on stage, on screen, and on the catwalk. Companies like Swarovski have built empires on the enchanting effect of scattering light through crystal, while artisans have spent countless hours affixing sequins and beads to couture creations.
From the opulent gowns of Charles Frederick Worth to Norman Norell’s shimmering mermaid shifts and Elie Saab’s romantic red-carpet dresses, fashion has sparkled through the centuries.
Image credits: Tom Ford for Gucci, Fall/Winter 2006; Versace, Fall/Winter 1990; Collette Dinnigan, Spring/Summer 1999; Bill Blass, Spring/Summer 1992; Tommy Hilfiger, Fall/Winter 1999. All photographs are by Niall McInerney and part of the BFPA collections.
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER:
DECADE-DEFINING LIDS, LASHES, & BROWS
Exhibition Co-Curator and Digital Media Manager
80WSE Gallery, New York, January 13 – February 2, 2018
NYU Steinhardt’s Costume Studies MA Program presented an exhibition of historical and contemporary beauty products entitled The Eye of the Beholder: Decade-Defining Lids, Lashes, & Brows, on view at 80WSE gallery from January 13 through February 2, 2018.
This exhibition surveys the American products, advertisements, and icons that have contributed to cosmetic lid, lash, and brow trends from the 1900s to the present day. Arguably the most distinctive feature of the face, eyes have the power to dramatically transform one’s outward appearance, while also uniquely conveying inner character. Highly expressive, they serve as nonverbal communicators of emotions ranging from sympathy and envy to fear and flirtation. Since ancient times, people have sought to enhance their eyes through preening and the application of cosmetics. Featuring publications, photographs, and material culture, The Eye of the Beholder contextualizes and synthesizes each decade’s notion of the ideal eye.
From 1920s Max Factor cake mascara to the Urban Decay Naked Palette of the 2010s, exhibition objects include grooming tools and makeup essentials, ads, patents, periodicals, and guidebooks sourced from personal collections, such as that of Bésame Cosmetics founder Gabriela A. Hernandez, and professional archives, including the archive of Maybelline New York and the Coty Archives, Max Factor and Cover Girl Collections. By examining defining moments within the cosmetic industry’s immense commercial output, this exhibition will illustrate how companies tap into the zeitgeist of each era to perpetually create a prevailing look, often reviving past beauty styles in the process. Although eye aesthetics are ever changing, the pursuit of “ideal” beauty – whether paradoxically natural or conspicuously artificial – is remarkably enduring.
Image credits: Greta Garbo by Cecil Beaton, 1937, mixed media, bromide print on card mount, National Portrait Gallery, London. Installation photos by Leticia Valdez. Promotional photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp.
ENCHANTING AZURITE OR TABOO BLUE? THEORIES ON THE MEANING OF BLUE EYESHADOW
Costume Studies Graduate Thesis
New York University, 2018
In the United States, blue eyeshadow has been used as shorthand for both glamour and tackiness. It has been considered old fashioned as well as boundary pushing; natural as well as artificial. As shifts in thinking take place over time, the same eyeshadow shade can evoke visceral responses and stir emotions ranging from terror to total confidence.
Through a study of the American fashion press from the 1930s through the late 2010s, this project is an exploration of why women wear blue eyeshadow, and how this practice has been justified over the years. By analyzing over two hundred advertisements and editorials from Vogue, with supplementary evidence from other print and digital publications, I have developed a theoretical framework to explore what it means, socially and psychologically, to wear eyeshadow, what it means to buy and sell similar products under an array of evocative names, and how fashionable society has reconciled itself to the fact that the application of blue eyeshadow is an inherently non-natural practice, yet one that is commonly exercised by fashionable and beautiful women.
After tracing the evolution of blue eyeshadow as a product, I discuss how conspicuous cosmetics impact the face and eyes as communication tools and central sites for identity expression. I then demonstrate how the shadowed eyelid has been understood variously as an extension of the iris, part of an aesthetic whole, a fashion accessory, and a blank canvas primed for artistic adornment. Next, I consider how strategically-applied product names attract consumers through implications about travel, exoticism, nature, luxury, and lifestyle. Finally, I conclude with an examination of how the visual impact of eyeshadow has been described using adjectives related to verbal communication and sonic experience.
This textual analysis uncovers how brands and consumers must contend with the non-natural yet powerful character of blue eyeshadow.
TOILE DE JOUY / CLOTH OF ENGLAND: COPPERPLATE TEXTILE PRINTING IN ENGLAND AND FRANCE, 1752–1820
Conference presentation in Paris, France, 2017
Conference: Moving Beyond Paris and London: Influences, Circulation, and Rivalries in Fashion and Textiles between France and England, 1700-1914
Organizers: LARCA (Laboratoire de Recherche sur les Cultures Anglophones), Université Paris Diderot; Séminaire d’Histoire de la Mode, IHTP (Institut d'Histoire du Temps Présent), CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique).
Featuring graceful monochromatic designs scattered across cotton and linen surfaces, toile de Jouy has charmed its way into history as a French fabric. The name means “cloth of Jouy,” referring to the Oberkampf printworks in Jouy-en-Josas, France, which reached the height of its success in the late eighteenth century.
Despite these associations with France, many printing innovations, dye processing techniques, and commercially successful designs were developed and deployed in and around England. Following a 1752 printing innovation, designs could be transferred from engraved copper plates onto woven textiles, and this printing practice flourished in England early on. Indigo blue prints were made possible by the English "china-blue" technique while Lancashire was the first city to use the mechanized copper roller.
This presentation examines the copperplate printing industry in England from 1752 to the 1820s, with an exploration of how English researchers recovered this previously lost history in the mid-twentieth century. Success in Jouy can be partially attributed to a careful study and quick adoption of these technologies, and its political significance and well-preserved history has helped keep its story alive. But by examining English advancements alongside the Jouy legacy, this presentation unfurls the map and reveals the circulation of knowledge between nations.
THE FLEECE OF THEIR FLOCK: HOMESPUN AND THE AMERICAN IDENTITY
Honors Program Undergraduate Thesis
DePaul University, 2015
My Honors Program senior thesis provides an overview of the Revolutionary-era homespun textile movement — from its early origins to its minimalist aesthetic, patriotic rhetoric, and effect on class structure. This 250-year-old history and symbolism is connected with today's "Made in America" preference through rich visuals and engaging storytelling.
Although the initial idea evolved from a history paper, the final project is a digital and print publication inspired by museum exhibit catalogs and resulting from a culmination of multidisciplinary interests.
"Appearing clothed in our own woolens has raised a spirit in the country that can hardly be abated; our farmers now look upon it as a disgrace, if they and their families are not clad with the fleece of their flock." – Pennsylvania Gazette, December 29, 1768