Tag Archives: MA Documenting Fashion

MA Documenting Fashion 2017-18 Farewell

Just like that our MA has flown by and the Documenting Fashion group of 2017-18 graduates with our Masters in the History of Art on Monday! Documenting Fashion blog co-runners Olivia and I wanted to say goodbye and thank you for following along! As we reflect on this wonderful year, we’re sharing some behind-the-scenes photos and our favorite memories. Below are some lists I’ve compiled from the group reminiscing about moments from our time in class, our trips, and of course, our best food moments.

Niall and Arielle admire Rebecca’s Kim Kardashian Selfie book

In class:

  • Viewing the Courtauld’s collection of fashion magazines such as the Gazette du Bon Ton
  •  Rebecca’s seminar on Vionnet and the big reveal of her favorite Vionnet dress
  •  Book time! – For each seminar Rebecca would collect books from her impressive collection which pertained to that weeks topic. It was endlessly exciting and I think we all have book wish-lists a mile long now
  • Dr. Adrian Garvey’s guest lecture on film and World War II
  • Our seminar on Gordon Parks
  • last but certainly not least, when we were fortunate to have been visited by our favorite dachshund, Koda
The group with Beatrice Behlen at The Museum of London
Nelleke at the Posturing exhibit

Field trips:

  • Our first visit to the Courtauld’s own prints and drawing collection
  • V&A Blythe house where we got to see some show-stoppers
  • Our multiple visits to the Museum of London – especially when we considered dress and biography
  • Visiting Autograph APB
  • The Mod New York exhibition in NYC where we collectively marveled at the beautiful exhibition design and danced to the groovy playlist
Spotted: Destinee, Olivia, Niall, and Grace on the steps of the Met in NYC – xoxo Documenting Fashion


  • Our weekly after seminar lunches in the Coutauld cafe
  • Tutorials at Federation Coffee in Brixton
  • When Evie brought us to Fish n Chips in Camberwell
  • Our lunch at by Chloe during dissertation work


For me, the best part of this year has been the friendship I’ve found in my Documenting Fashion classmates. As you can tell from our posts, we all approach dress differently but we are also extremely supportive and encouraging of each other’s thoughts and work. Our personalities meshed together so well since day one and we have had such fun together while also pushing each other to think differently, and ultimately, be better art historians. I am truly thankful to have gone through this experience with such a lovely group of people.

Thank you for reading. We are so looking forward to what the next MA Documenting Fashion group creates for you starting in September.

Abby Fogle

Dissertation Discussion: Grace

What is the working title of your dissertation?


So far, it is ‘Movement in Metal: The Representation of Paco Rabanne’s 1960s Fashion Designs’

What led you to choose this subject?


My virtual exhibition was about late 1960s minimalist sculpture in relation to fashion. One of my exhibits was a metal ‘sound sculpture’ robe made by the Baschet Brothers for the 1966 film Who are You, Polly Maggoo? I became interested in how the models moved in this uncomfortable metal dress, which eventually drew me to Paco Rabanne and his metal dress creations from the late 1960s. In 1966, Rabanne presented a collection titled ‘Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials’ at the Georges V Hotel in Paris, which I will discuss further in my dissertation.

Favorite book/article you’ve read for your dissertation so far and why?


I enjoyed reading Jane Pavitt’s Fear and Fashion In The Cold War (V&A, 2008). Pavitt discusses late 1960s avant-garde and space-age fashions, stating the reasons why designers and wearers chose to make such statements in what was a politically turbulent time. The book also features many entertaining photographs of strange space-age costumes.

Favorite image/object in your dissertation and why?


I found an advertisement in the January 1967 issue of British Vogue for Goddard’s ‘Long Term Silver Polish’. In the photograph, a model wears a Rabanne style metal disc dress, and the advert explains the polish’s use for the dress. It is interesting to see the connection between ‘traditional’ metal surfaces and Rabanne’s style of dresses, and also imagine the mixed attitudes towards them during this period.

Favorite place to work?


The National Art Library at the V&A is beautiful, and I like that it isn’t too overwhelmingly big.


By Grace Lee

MA Documenting Fashion Holiday Wish Lists


It’s December and Holiday goodies are on our mind. We decided to come up with a dress-themed holiday wishlist where each of us dreamed up a fantasy gift and a realistic gift to ask Santa for this year. Check out our answers below!

Dr. Rebecca Arnold

Fantasy: I would very much like a Madeleine Vionnet dress – I don’t mind which, but what a dream…

Realistic: I would like the new Richard Avedon biography – Avedon: Something Personal, by Norma Stevens & Steven M L Aronson. I love his work and would enjoy reading more about his life.

Niall Billings

Fantasy: Myrtle Snow’s leather pleated gloves by Gaspar Gloves but in black

Realistic: Fetishism in Fashion by Lidewij Edelkoort

Olivia Chuba

Fantasy: Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy designed dress for the 1954 film Sabrina is my dream gift. This is the dress that made me fall in love with fashion, film, and of course Audrey Hepburn!

Reality: My more practical wish list gift is the exhibition catalogue from the V&A’s wonderful exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. It was a beautiful show and I would love to be able to have the catalogue to flip through whenever I want!

Abby Fogle

Fantasy: As the self-proclaimed biggest fan of the Met’s Costume Institute, I would want an invitation to this year’s Met Gala.

Reality: Keeping with my Met Gala theme, I am asking for last year’s exhibition catalog Rei Kawakubo/Commes des Garcons: Art of the In-between.

Destinee Forbes

Fantasy: Custom Gold Grillz. I have been looking to improve my dental bling aesthetic.

Reality: Match Stix Trio in Deep from Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. Ready to work on my #fentyface!

Grace Lee

Fantasy: A Paco Rabanne 1967 mini disc-dress, altered slightly to be long enough for my tall self to wear — perfect for New Year’s Eve!

Reality: A DSLR camera, so I can take better quality abstract pictures of my surroundings.

Lily Mu

Fantasy: Live as Princess Galitzine (fashion designer, model, and WW2 Codebreaker) for a week, preferably, when she created her famous palazzo pyjamas. Princess Irene Galitzine was a WW2 codebreaker, Terence Rattigan muse, Dior model, actress, M&S advisor, TV presenter, Russian princess, and fashion designer, whose most renowned creation was the “palazzo pyjama” suit. Because why not? Sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Reality: An original Kenneth Paul Block illustration, in monochrome framing. I Absolutely love his beautiful and gestural fashion illustrations that are energised and full of movement.

Arielle Murphy

Fantasy: Issey Miyake’s Bao Bao tote is on my dream Christmas wish list. The metallic prisms are attached to a mesh setting, making it is semi-structured—so playful and fun!

Reality: What I really need, though, are more sweaters. It has been a running joke throughout this term that I moved to London with only two jumpers. A cashmere turtleneck would be the perfect winter addition to my California wardrobe.

Nelleke Honcoop

Fantasy: For this year’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities back in the Netherlands, I would love to wear this gorgeously green, printed silk evening dress made in 1938–1939 by Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978). Its fabric was designed by the artist and illustrator Jean Cocteau (1889–1963). The masks in the print are portraits of the artist and his love, the young actor Jean Marais. The dress is currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Fashion, Room 40). The colour and print of this dress are stunning, and I adore its construction, with the crossover bodice with keyhole in the front and the slight V-shaped back. A girl can dream, right?

Reality: While writing an essay on Simplicity’s paper patterns, I became obsessed with a sewing pattern designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, which was brought to the public by the American chewing gum company Wrigley to promote their ‘Double Mint Chewing Gum’. In an advertisement in the March 1938 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Hollywood actress Anita Louise modelled the ‘Schiaparelli Double Mint Gum Dress’ made with Simplicity Pattern no. 2740, which could be purchased at the time for $0.15. I would absolutely love to have this pattern in size 16 to create my own Schiaparelli.

Au Revoir MA Documenting Fashion Graduates of 2017!

The MA graduates at a post-graduation celebration on Somerset House’s River Terrace. Courtesy Harriet Nelham-Clark.

Even after all these years, it is still a little surprise when graduation suddenly appears again on my calendar.  My MA course at The Courtauld seems to rush by – nine months of seminars, visits, discussions and so much more. The most exciting aspect for me is always meeting the students as a group for the first time in October, and getting to know them and watching their responses to the images and ideas we discuss.

This year, I had the great pleasure of seeing Jamie, Dana, Barbora, Harriet, Yona and Sophie progress from early essays thinking about key methodologies and theorists, through film reviews, blog posts, formal essays and a virtual exhibition, to their final piece of work – a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject of their choice.  You can look back at the posts they wrote a couple of months ago to learn about the amazing topics they chose, suffice to say, I was reading drafts on everything from 19th century Decadents to 1930s bathing suits – and enjoying guiding the students as their ideas developed and their writing became ever more fluent and sophisticated. They all worked incredibly hard, were great fun to teach and graduated with excellent grades.

So, please join me in congratulating these brilliant, talented graduates, and wishing them luck for their future, no doubt wonderful careers!

MAs in academic dress, along with History of Dress Ph. D. graduate Lucy Moyse. Courtesy Harriet Nelham-Clark.
A toast to a wonderful year! Courtesy Barbora Kozusnikova.

Introduction to the Courtauld History of Dress Journals Archive

The conference Reading Fashion Magazines may be over, but our display of 9 items from the collection is still available to be viewed outside the Courtauld Library vitrines. Please come and visit, before it closes in August. In order to tempt you, you can read the introduction to the display, and our conference, below, available for you to download in a pdf.

Introduction to the Courtauld History of Dress Journals Archive

Some of the earliest fashion magazines in the Courtauld History of Dress Journals Archive are on show in the exhibition. Here, Gazette du Bon Ton, Für die Dame and Pinpoints are displayed.
A view of the 1940s section of the exhibition featuring Harper’s Bazaar and Femina.
Elizabeth and three MA Documenting Fashion students after the completion of the exhibition instal.

Dissertation Discussion: Barbora

My three bibles for the past few months: D.V. by Diana Vreeland, Allure by Diana Vreeland and Memos: The Vogue Years edited by Alexander Vreeland

What is your title?

“Fake It!” Examining the myths and realities in the life and work of Diana Vreeland.

What prompted you to choose this subject?

Ever since I’ve watched The Eye Has To Travel for the first time, I was fascinated by Diana Vreeland and the way she shaped the industry almost singlehandedly. Her stories, too, are quite something: Vreeland, her sister and nanny were the last people to see the Mona Lisa before it was stolen in 1911; Charles Lindbergh flew over her garden on his first trans-Atlantic flight; she almost took down the British monarchy when Wallis Simpson came to her lingerie store to order some special garments for her first weekend away with the Duke of Windsor, Prince Edward; and she attended Hitler’s birthday party in the early ’30s, sending a postcard to her son afterwards with the note “Watch this man.” Apparently so, anyway. I wanted to find out more about what prompted her to create such an extreme background for herself, the reason behind all the myth and fantasy which surrounded her, the obsession with “faking it” and everything else about her, really. Actually, I think I fancied the role of a detective for a few months, attempting to untangle what really went on in her head and her life.

‘Vogue’ December 1, 1965 Cover | Wilhelmina Cooper by Irving Penn | Diamond cage deisgned by Harry Winston (‘Memos: The Vogue Years’)
‘Vogue’ July 1, 1969 | Veruschka by Irving Penn (‘Memos: The Vogue Years’)

Most interesting research find thus far?

I was lucky enough to go to New York to visit the Diana Vreeland Papers Archive at the New York Public Library. Flicking through the original pages of her teenage diary, handling her passport and birth certificate (the date of her birth is no longer a mystery!) and finding out what she was up to on a day-to-day basis through the Smythson leather diaries she kept between 1950 and 1985 was quite amazing. There are some peculiar entries where Vreeland notes when she is due to start her pills – once green, then yellow, then pink. Very intriguing. Sadly, I only had two days in New York and so could only go through four boxes out of the sixty-something the library has. Might have to go on another trip soon! I think about a month should do it, mainly because Vreeland’s handwriting makes it quite a challenge to decode what she was actually trying to write down. Oh, and one more thing: the Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue online archives are very dangerous if you don’t have much time – they suck you in!

‘Vogue’ April 15, 1969 | Bert Stern (‘Memos: The Vogue Years’)

Favourite place to work?

I got into a very bad habit of working from my bed. So most of the time I can be found there, surrounded by mounds of paper, pastel-coloured highlighters and books. If I manage to persuade myself to face the outside world, I head to Starbucks (but only one that has comfortable armchairs or sofas!), and have a huge mug of soy matcha latte. I fear to look at my bank statement and find out how much I spent at Starbucks in the past couple of months. And there’s still time to go… Strangely, I find libraries quite distracting, but in Starbucks I get the work done.

Starbucks should probably have its mention in my acknowledgements as the place which provided constant fuel for all the writing.
What my bed looks like most of the time now. Also, pastel-coloured highlighters are a must, as is colour-coding!

Fashion Illustration as Family History

As those of you who follow our blog will know, we are very interested in the ways personal and ‘official’ histories intersect through dress. We frequently refer to a wide range of imagery and objects – amateur and professional in their creation, private and public in their use – to seek new ways to understand how dress is thought about, worn and represented. This enables us to develop a more rounded view of fashion and dress histories, and look beyond the canon.

One thing I always ask students to do in the first term of MA Documenting Fashion is to bring in a dress-related image or object from their personal or family collection to open up discussion on (auto)biographies of dress, but also to think about history and memory. This is always one of my favourite sessions, and I was reminded of this at the weekend, when I went to visit my parents. My Dad gave me two autograph books that belonged to his Mother and looking through them has been incredibly touching personally, and professionally. What is so wonderful is the care each contributor takes with their ‘autograph’ – and how often a fashion illustration is used as the author’s signature and message to my Grandmother.

Rebecca’s grandmother, Mabel Clowes, when she was at Godolphin & Latymer School
Cover of the album
Covers of autograph albums belonging to Rebecca’s grandmother

They date from 1914-16 – and the pages are filled with pictures carefully drawn and coloured by friends. Clearly inspired by contemporary fashion illustration in magazines and newspapers they replicate, or perhaps rather re-imagine fashions they’ve seen, or clothes they fantasise about wearing. What emerges is a beautiful private world of intimacy and connections made through these drawings. Their friendships and their desire to create a unique contribution are catalogued on the books’ pages, and have been saved for over a century now, passed down through generations.

Because of the period in which the books were completed they also document the war, and these idyllic renditions of femininity and display are punctuated with darker references, as the outside world interferes in home life. Several male friends – including my Grandfather – draw soldiers, warships, and even a Zeppelin scare on Leigh-on-Sea, where my family comes from.

I hope you enjoy viewing these images from my Grandmother’s autograph books, I will share some on our Instagram account too – and please post your own family dress histories. We would love to see them, and to create a more nuanced view of what clothes mean to us.

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Dress, History & Emotion

Something we discuss a lot on the MA Documenting Fashion is the ways dress is implicated in our ideas of history – on the grand scale, but also in our personal histories too. Early on in the course, we all bring in items from our own and/or family collection to help us unpick the myriad ways we use images and objects to talk about ourselves and situate ourselves within our families and wider communities. These discussions are always some of my favourites, they draw us together as a group, as we share stories and memories, and they allow us to recognize the subjective element within our work as dress historians – how we relate to and use dress ourselves.

I thought it might be interesting for our blog readers to see the things I treasure as part of my family history through dress, and the ways these items connect to wider histories.

My Grandfather & The Compact
My Grandfather & The Compact

My grandfather was in the Royal Navy, and travelled to China in the early 1930s. His wife was left behind at home, but their closeness and love is remembered still in the presents he brought back for her on his return.  These include the powder compact shown here. The outside has a little scene painted on it, and the surface has a slight texture – it warms in your hand as you hold it, and contrasts to the cold metal base of the case. Once opened, traces of the white face powder remain and I think of my granny using it – catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, just as she would have done.

Inside the Compact
Inside the Compact

The compact makes material their relationship, my grandfather’s travels, and the emotions imbued in the souvenirs he brought to share his experiences with his family. It provides an intimate link to the past – my personal history, but also to the role of the military in the 1930s, to international relations and the goods produced for home and tourist markets. It shows us an example of makeup history, and ideals of beauty and design in the 1930s.

My Granny (left) with her Sister.
My Granny (left) with her Sister.

There are so many links to be made through the objects and photographs we save – in a sense we curate our life histories through these and share them with those close to us, weaving intimate and public histories together and showing the importance of dress in embodying emotion and memory simultaneously.

Documenting MA Documenting Fashion

At this point in the term we switch gear – you might think we’d be winding down for the holidays, but no, we like to keep the momentum going. So having spent the first eight weeks of the course looking at themes in dress and fashion history, we now focus in on our core period, 1920-60, and apply everything we’ve been talking about and thinking about thus far to this era.

But before we move on, I thought it would be good to reflect on what we’ve been up to these past months…


7          Themes discussed: definitions of dress, modernity, history & memory, dress as autobiography, vision and touch, empire & colonialism, portraiture


4          Storerooms & Archives visited: Fortnum & Mason, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of London, Courtauld Prints & Drawings

4 Storerooms & (Archives) visited. Pictured above: At the Museum of London storeroom.
4 Archives & (Storerooms) visited. Pictured above: At the National Portrait Gallery Archive.

22        Seminar readings read


1          Presentation given – in front of a painting at Tate Britain, on the theme of empire


1          Film review written – on a clip chosen from the BFI’s archives


1          Formal essay written on one of the 7 themes discussed


8          Objects and images discussed that evoke personal connections to dress during the history

& memory class


10        Fashion magazines and rare books, spanning 16th – 20th century from the History of Dress collections studied during our very first class

10 Fashion magazines and rare books studied

1          Hand-painted Victorian family photo album examined during our discussion of sight & touch

1 hand painted Victorian Family Photograph Album examined

3          Tutorials each – to talk through ideas and approaches to assignments


1          Addressing Images event attended


14        Blog posts written


224      Images posted on Instagram (follow us here!)


I’m sure I’ve forgotten something … But I think this gives you an idea of what we’ve been up to…