Graduate Show 2019: Caroleen Molenaar: Fashion and Dress History

I am a final year student in the BA (Hons) Fashion and Dress History course which is a part of the History of Art and Design programme within the School of Humanities.

My main interest and motivation in researching fashion history encompasses the evolution of upper class women’s dress between 1860 and 1960 as a result of the societal, political, and extensive technological changes within that period. Additionally, throughout the course of my studies I have also become intrigued and a supporter of sustainable fashion as a way to combat the harming effects that fast fashion has on the environment.

Copy of dissertation

Please tell us about your final year project

My dissertation questions the trait of ‘newness’ within the scope of fashion in relation to the ‘new’ feminine ideal—consisting of accentuated bust, small waist and full skirts— that was spearheaded by fashion designer Christian Dior between 1947 and 1957, and can be widely seen in his evening dresses— a type of dress which epitomises the feminine ideal.

I discuss different aspects of the appearance of the feminine ideal including Dior’s ‘new’ way of marketing fashion to spread this ideal, how Dior’s ideal created a ‘new’ way of life, and how Dior created a ‘new’ way of dress construction to make his ideal. However, through thorough research I found that these aspects were actually not new but were revived from the House of Worth and its customers within the Belle Époque era (1895-1905). As a result, it has made me readdress and examine the definition of fashion and the feminine ideal it expresses, in that no matter how new fashion may appear there are always elements taken from the past.

The highlight of my research was visiting three different museum collection visits, including the Clothworkers’ Centre at the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Fashion Museum Bath, and The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan to view and analyse the construction of evening dresses by both designers.

How have you found your course/time at Brighton?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my course and time at the University of Brighton. When beginning this degree I did not know what to expect in terms of content, academic support, or university environment. Upon finishing, I can say that the wide variety of modules have provided me with broad understanding of fashion, art, and design history; the tutors have been extremely supportive, helpful, and encouraging; and Brighton has proved to be an excellent place to study and live due to the lively culture, and ideal location.

What are your plans after Graduation?

I have applied for a Museum Studies MA at the University of Leicester and Newcastle University, and the Curating Collections and Heritage Management MA at the University of Brighton. If I am successful in my acceptance it will lead to the next stepping stone in my goal to employment within a museum either as a curator or collections manager.

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