Fashion as Material Culture: Global Perspectives

Summary, contact information, membership list

Fashion as Material Culture

The intellectual premise for the working group is the complexity of interdisciplinary frameworks and methods for looking at fashion as a form of material culture within a global context.  The working group members come from different areas of scholarship and museological practice which will facilitate the sharing of diverse topics, such as the fashion as identity in former communist countries in Eastern Europe, the curation of dress collections in British historic homes, fashion and commodity culture in the United States or modeling and the runway culture.   In addition to moderated seminars and round table discussions, the working group members will travel to different sites in Toronto to visit fashion collections and exhibitions.  The group will also invite guest speakers such as Cynthia Cooper (Head, Collections and Research/  Curator, Costume and Textiles) from the McCord Museum in Montreal and Christina Bates (Curator Emerita in History) from the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.  The working group will also expose graduate students from various universities in the GTA to recent scholarship from Canadian academics, both junior and senior. 

Our critical engagement with global fashion systems and contemporary modes of representing and talking about fashion as material culture will follow loosely the questions/issues below:
1. The meanings and uses of fashion in various cultural and political contexts – our group will problematize the different ways in which fashion is defined in everyday discourse, practice and theory across diverse cultural and political environments, focusing on the intersections between current modes of thinking about fashion and globalization, post-colonialism and post-socialism; this critical and comparative investigation of fashion systems will also highlight the identity work that fashion allows for communities and will open discussions of taste cultures.
2. The collecting, representation and communication of fashion systems in cultural institutions – the group will observe contemporary practices in various museums in Canada and abroad for the collecting and representation of fashion histories and cultures.  Museums – from art to history and design – collect and display fashion for its spectacular appeal to visitors but also for its ability to tell stories – cultural, social, political – through familiar or desirable objects; observing museum practices globally will allows the observations of the connections between fashion and costume collections in museums and broader discourses about fashion, style and taste.
3. The study of fashion and costume history in Canadian academic contexts – our group aims to highlight the Canadian scholarly contributions to the study of fashion by opening a forum for conversation between academics from various fields, such as fashion communication, history, cultural studies and museum studies.  This exercise in interdisciplinarity will locate Canadian scholarship within the larger global context of the study of fashion and will also emphasize what is specifically Canadian in approached to analyze and deconstruct discourses and systems of representing fashion.

Irina Mihalache, Information
Alexandra Kim, museum professional and dress historian

Sarah Amato, Instructor, Victoria College
Denise Cruz, English
Adrienne Hood, History
Emily Truman, Instructor, Centre for the Study of the United States

Alison Matthews David, Fashion, Ryerson University
Susan Ingram, Humanities, York University
Alexandra Palmer, Norah E. Vaughan Fashion Curator, Royal Ontario Museum
Markus Reisenleitner, Humanities, York University
Marlis Schweitzer, Theatre, York University

Neil Brochu, City of Toronto Museum Services
Gail Cariou, Curatorial & Collections Branch, Parks Canada
Ingrid Masak Mida, Fashion Research Collection Coordinator, Ryerson University
Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum

Ellen Hlozan, Museum Studies, iSchool
Alexandra Jeffery, Museum Studies, iSchool
Brittney Sproule, Museum Studies, iSchool
Juni L. Yeung, History

Miriam Elyse Couturier, Fashion, Ryerson University
Kathryn Franklin, Humanities, York University
Katarina Kuruc, Journalism & Communication, Carleton University
Charlene K. Lau, Humanities, York University
Alann McKnight, Communication & Culture, Ryerson University