This year’s conference will explore the role of dress in fashionable society, whether that is through fashion itself, or as an expression of society in history, literature, and other fields.
Dress in all its manifestations – clothing, jewellery, accessories or body adornment – is necessarily related to fashion, and this relationship is one that culture references. The clothes we choose to wear act as social and cultural signifiers, by which others know us, and one of the most prominent indicators is whether or not they are fashionable. As individuals, we cannot escape fashion: whether we choose to embrace or ignore it, we make a statement about where we stand, and how we wish to be valued.
Membership of fashionable society feeds our psychological need to belong, and can provide the key to power and influence, making it difficult to resist. In literature, fashionable society is often used as a metaphor for superficiality and self-obsessiveness. In his novels, Thackeray attacked the frivolity of fashionable society, yet he was drawn to it and was very much a part of it himself. Its influence is pervasive; it has, for example, shaped the development of cities: parks, pleasure gardens, theatres, have all been prompted by the prevailing nature of social assembly (and fashion has responded by inventing new modes of dress for all of these activities).
Through presentations, posters and panel discussions, the conference will consider the many aspects of costume and dress, their role in fashionable society, and the significance of this for culture and the social order.