Culture Costume and Dress

5-7th June 2019 Birmingham UK

Fashion’s Import

November 13th, 2018

This last weekend has been full of ceremonies and events to commemorate the Armistice of 1918 which brought to an end the First World War. It was a devastating period in world history, and news coverage was appropriately solemn. What struck me most forcibly, however, were the frequent allusions, in all media, to what people wore: images of the outfits of the female members of the royal family, with special reference to the Duchess of Sussex and how she successfully disguised her pregnancy; fashion coverage of Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron, both in blue outfits, and both wearing five-inch heels; and criticism of Jeremy Corbin, the leader of the Labour Party, for his scruffy raincoat. It seems that, even on sombre occasions, we are judged more by what we wear than what we do.

The ability of clothes to define and categorise us is at the heart of Culture Costume and Dress. In our last conference, the focus was on how dress contributes to individuals’ sense of identity, and how that translates into the shorthand clues we use to judge each other. This time we will focus on the way in which this characteristic contributes to group identity, and leads to the apparently superficial concern with fashion. We will consider dress in relation to fashionable society, the fascination it holds for us, and its enduring impact.

This is an exciting time in the organisation of a conference. We know there’s much hard work ahead of us, but we can look forward to receiving submissions which, as last time, will span the full range of Arts and Humanities, providing the promise of new topics, new perspectives, and stimulating discussion.

Anne Boultwood