The study of how people dress is a serious discipline. I’m saying this because the people who are professional dress historians and educators have, for the past thirty years or so, struggled to let that fact be known. Pick up almost any book written about fashion studies in the twentieth century, and the introduction will stress how fashion IS a serious area of study.
Go to a conference for dress historian, and chances are good that you will stumble on this conversation. Even museum professionals continue to make this point. In The First Monday in May, Andrew Bolton spent much of his airtime lamenting his lack of respect within the Met.
What we wear, and how we wear it ARE important parts of our culture. A garment can be a powerful symbol, as the Phrygian cap was during the French Revolution. Even today, over 225 years later, that cap is strongly associated with the Revolution.
Garments can reflect a person’s station in life and their political views. Black has long been a symbol of mourning in Western cultures, and even today, many people will wear black to a funeral or wake. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Suffragettes wore purple, white, and green, and in the USA, gold. Today, many working for equal rights have rediscovered these symbolic colors and are using them to help make a point.
World events have gone at a crazy fast clip in the past two weeks, and it might seem that talking about fashion is a bit frivolous. Nothing could be further from the truth.
* Will the pussy cat hat endure as a symbol of the recent women’s marches? Museums are adding examples to their collections.
* Hillary Clinton’s choice to wear a white pantsuit to the Inauguration was no accident.
* The clothes we wear to work affect how others perceive the job we are doing. Sean Spicer’s recent fashion transformation is a great example of using image to try to build credibility.
* Kellyanne Conway defended the made in Italy Gucci coat she wore to the Inauguration by saying she was the “face of Donald Trump’s movement.” She went on to apologize. She was “sorry to offend the black-stretch-pants women of America with a little color.”
* After all the speculation, Melania Trump wore a Ralph Lauren coat and dress to the Inauguration. She was stunning.
* Not all the fashion and art news is from Washington. First up, a lesson why you should never loan your prized possessions to friends.
I’ve been writing about the human rights and environmental issues in the garment and textile industries for almost fifteen years. In my mind, the solution comes down to one big truth: In order to solve the problems, people are going to have to see the benefit in paying more for their clothing. The time of spending lots of money on lots of cheap clothing needs to be replaced with spending the needed amount of money on ethically produced, well made and designed clothing.
* An article from the UK continues to bust the myth that “garment factories exploiting workers is a problem restricted to low-wage Asian nations.” An undercover investigation discovered that workers in UK garment factories were making as little as £3 an hour, while the minimum wage is £7.20.
* A USA producer breaks down the cost of making higher quality garments. thanks Jen for the link
* Those campaign promises of good manufacturing jobs for the unskilled? Easier said than done.
* “The minimum wage in Bangladesh is 32 cents an hour.” Those protesting for more are arrested.
* And just to prove that I’m not completely overwhelmed with the negative, here is a nice feature on the resurgence of home sewing.