SARTORIAL SOCIETY SERIES
The Sartorial Society Series is a new digital seminar programme, which aims to showcase the most exciting and innovative research in the historical study of dress, fashion, and bodily adornment.
Each season of the series will consist of 6 online seminars, conducted fortnightly over an online platform. Our inaugural season of papers, Creative Approaches to Dress History, launched Autumn 2020 and will be followed by our second season, Human Stories of Dress, starting in January 2021. Sessions run on Thursday evenings from 6pm.
Sessions will contain papers from two or three speakers, as we strive to make connections and draw out the symbiotic threads across our work.
LOOKING BACK: THE HISTORICISMS, HAUNTINGS AND HERITAGE OF DRESS
Deadline for abstracts: 8 April 2021
When introduced to histories of dress, we are often met with timelines of fashion that imply a neat, progressive evolution of fashionable styles through the years. Clothing is framed as an index to history. Yet dress does not conform to an orderly chronology. It is full of disruptive reverberations, re-interpretations and revivals. The fashions of the past are repeatedly dismantled and reimagined, sending sartorial echoes through time.
The historic resonance of dress can also carry an emotional weight on a personal level. Clothes can serve as welcome memories of loved ones, or less-welcome spectres of the past. Memories of clothes can be deeply nostalgic, while the garments not-worn can serve as ‘sliding-door’ moments, causing us to dwell on the parallel lives we did not live or bodies unlike our own. This has been explored, for example, by Shahidha Bari, who describes ‘spectral visions of ourselves [that] haunt these garments like all things that are romanticised and never realised.’
Dress maintains its capacity to ‘haunt’ in the setting of the museum or archive. Elizabeth Wilson described museums of dress as ‘mausoleums of culture’: haunted and eerie. She stated that ‘there are dangers in seeing what should have been sealed up in the past. We experience a sense of the uncanny when we gaze at garments that had an intimate relationship with human beings long since gone to their graves.’ Carol Tulloch has written of the power of archives to access personal fashion histories that may otherwise have been lost, suggesting that: ‘archives enable a lived experience to be revived and reassessed time and time again.’
Through encounters with historic dress, we use objects and archival material to visit the past, but every version of the past is shaped by the present. We invite contributions that explore the historicism, hauntings and heritage bound up in our clothes. Subjects and approaches could include (but are not limited to) any of the following:
- Historic revivals in fashionable dress
- Historicism, interpretations and re-interpretations of the past
- Non-chronological perspectives on dress history
- Dress as spectre, dress hauntings
- Clothes as memories – nostalgia, longing, loss
- Sartorial inheritances – intergenerational connections, past trauma, shared stories
- Objects as time travel, collections as portals
- The utilisation of dress heritage, museums as cultural mausoleums
- Physical evidence of the past lives of dress – conservation perspectives
- Archival fragments – reviving and reassessing lives through dress