Dr Charlotte Nicklas introduces the work of an international research group in dress history, and describes its recent committee meeting held in Brighton.


On 7 July 2017, the University of Brighton hosted a meeting of the Steering Committee of the GIS –ACORSO (Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique – Apparences, Corps & Société / Research Interest Group – Appearances, Body and Society). The RIG-ACORSO, overseen by the University of Rennes 2, France, includes academics and curators from around the world. The group’s aim is to encourage cross-cultural, multidisciplinary exchange and research about the role of dress and appearance in historical and contemporary societies. Professor Lou Taylor and I are members of the RIG-ACORSO Steering Committee, and the Research Interest group also includes several other University of Brighton academics with interests in dress history. Other Steering Committee members attending the meeting were: Ariane Fennetaux (University Paris Diderot), Alexia Fontaine (Museo Consulting), Jean-Pierre Lethuillier (chair, University of Rennes 2), Marjorie Meiss-Even (University of Lille 3), Marie Riegels Melchior (Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen), and Gabriele Mentges (Institute of Art and Material Culture, Technical University of Dortmund). Jeremy Aynsley, IDH director, warmly welcomed the group to Brighton.


The Steering Committee discussed its recent COST Action funding application, which will be developed and re-submitted for consideration for European funding in 2018. This application includes research projects organised into four themes: European Fashion Identities in a Global Context; Norms, Values, Ideologies: Fashion Politics in Europe; Powers of Fashion Capitals and Geographies of Dress and Fashion; and the Invention of a European Heritage. The planning of the RIG-ACORSO’s annual conference was another important topic of discussion. This event will be held in Paris in September 2017 at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) and the University of Paris 7. The conference will provide an opportunity for the group’s members to discuss shared research interests and work on developing projects.


The final discussion of the day centred on the planning of another RIG-ACORSO conference, to be held in Strasbourg and Haguenau, France in May 2018. The conference title is: ‘Fashion and dress collections, exhibitions, and research in small and medium-sized museums in Europe.’ It will explore the functions of these museums of art, industry, fashion, ethnography and history that hold textiles and dress, whether these objects form their entire collections or just elements within them. The conference will consider the range of interests such museums address, including local, regional and national heritages. It will pay special attention to specific challenges and opportunities for these museums. The Steering Committee worked on the conference’s call for papers, which will be circulated soon.


Lou and I also took the opportunity to show the members of the Steering Committee some of the objects from the University’s Dress History Teaching Collection. Several of the attendees were coming from Paris, so a 1924-25 winter sale catalogue from the Paris department store Au Printemps (now known as Printemps) was featured. The group enjoyed looking at these objects during this productive, stimulating day.