By Marie McLoughlin

RIG-ACORSO Second General Assembly

The International Design History cluster, together with Brighton School of Humanities, very kindly funded the Brighton Dress History Collective, represented by Professor Lou Taylor and Marie McLoughlin, to attend the Second General Assembly of the RIG-ACORSO held in Lille on 12th February 2016. The University of Brighton is a founding member of this EU project. The RIG (Research Interest Group), for Appearances, Bodies and Societies, is a pan-European network of dress historians with more than 80 members from universities and museums across Europe, including six from Brighton’s IDH. Professor Taylor is a member of its small steering committee which is working towards an EU COST funding bid to facilitate joint research work.

Work to date and plans for the EU COST funding bid were discussed at some length. The bid will require very detailed proposals of research projects and study days, based around five broad themes. These details will be finalised at the final meeting of the steering group before the bid is submitted, to be held in Brighton on 23rd April.

Producing the History of Fashion in the West

Marie collectif a Johannesburg

Membres du collectif a Johannesburg. 2014 © Harness Hamese

The most visible outcome of the RIG to date was a very successful international three day conference in Paris: Producing the History of Fashion in the West (Faire l’histoire de la mode dans le monde occidental) in May 2015. Four IDH members gave papers:

In the strand ‘Gaps and Failings in History of Fashion’ Jane Hattrick spoke on ‘The Absent Voices in the Archive: the Value of Oral History to Interdisciplinary Dress History Research’. Charlotte Nicklas and Professor Taylor, in the strand ‘Materiality, Teaching and Museographic Researches’ spoke on Researching and Teaching from Things—Current Use of the University of Brighton, Dress History Teaching Collection. Garments and objects from the University of Brighton’s Dress History Teaching collection were passed around, and MA case studies, where MA students had studied individual objects in great depth, were discussed. Marie McLoughlin, as part of ‘the History of Fashion Concepts and Teaching’ session, spoke on Teaching Dress History to Fashion Design Students.

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Patron-modèle édité par L’Echo de la mode, vers 1950. Collection Manuel Charpy © Manuel Charpy

The University of Brighton, with its team of dress historians, is a leading institution in the field of Dress History. Other delegates were often working alone as members of university history departments specialising in social or economic history; or archaeologists or archivists attached to museums. This diverse background made for a very interesting conference with papers on such diverse topics as Between Cobbles, Bunions, Shoe Last and Fashion. A muliti-disciplinary Approach to the History of Footwear (Vivi Lena Anderson, University of Copenhagen) which looked at archaeological examples of discarded footwear; A Systemic Approach to Fashion and Dress with/without Visual Materials (Yuniya Kawamura, FIT, State University of New York) which included current marketing practices; Est-ce que la mode est un sujet pout l’histoire économique? La mode et l’économie italienne (XIXe et XXe siècles) (Professors from the Universities of Brescia, Rome, Milan and Pisa) which located the place of fashion in the economic development of the Italian state in the 19th and 20th centuries.

By the end of the conference, which was held in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, new friendships had been forged and there was a palpable sense of comraderie as individual researchers realised they were part of a wider group of dress historians. The prospect of future collaborations and themed conferences was universally welcomed.

If you would like to know more about the RIG or have suggestions for particular research projects or papers please contact Marie McLoughlin or Lou Taylor before 23rd April.