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As many employees whose workplaces switched to working from home during the pandemic continue to make the transition back to working in an office environment, we’re considering ‘workwear’ in all its forms – from down-to-earth uniforms that designate occupational identity to gravity-defying spacewear.
We’ve recruited a selection of the best chapters, articles, images, business cases and video from across Bloomsbury Fashion Central to explore how the social practice of adopting workwear can empower, protect, or underpin hierarchies – shaping our collective perception of many professions and those who perform them.
The eighties was a time of big fashion, both in the workplace and on the runway, defined by ‘power dressing’ that reflected the glamorous and glossy corporate culture emerging from big changes in politics, economics, gender equality. As the diversity of the global workforce increased, discover the symbolic importance of an ‘effective business image’ to those fighting to progress through established power structures such as people from ethnic minorities.
Women embodied their subversion of traditional gender roles by adopting power suits characterized by a broad, square shoulder-padded silhouette. Watch videos from the runway at that time and browse our chosen articles which explore how male fashion designers, such as Thierry Mugler, presented fetishized versions of power dressing and female identity.
Making and using protective clothing for hazardous environments involves higher stakes than your average workwear! Learn more about the complex design requirements for industrial, military, first-responder, and medical environments. Our article on Functional Wear then looks to the future of protective wear as it increasingly responds dynamically to changes in the body and environment.
The sky is no limit when designing for the weightless body, so discover how spacewear is built to contend with the gravitational conditions in spaceflight and on the surface of other planets. Utility Chic then considers the tensions between uniform - as a symbol of conformity to an institution - and fashion - associated with change, creativity, and individual liberty – though frequently taking inspiration from uniforms. You can also delve into a business case exploring Under Armour’s line of golf apparel and take a closer look at both catwalk and museum images of utility wear.
Image Credit: Cordings. Fishing outfit. 1996. Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Bloomsbury Fashion Central.
Dress codes rationalize our appearance in a range of settings from the workplace to formal occasions and within the subcultural identities that form our everyday lives. Our content explores employer guidelines for appearance as it relates to conduct and the origins of ‘black tie’ and ‘white tie’ formal garments. A business case about Brooks Brothers’ Made-To-Measure dress shirt program sheds light on bespoke formalwear.
When it comes to negotiating the blurred lines between the public and private spheres in modern life, uniform has helped to divide time by giving the wearer ‘a sense of certainty by acting as an agent of the external forces of power and control’. Read more about how its rise was a response to ‘profound changes in the experience of time and space in Western capitalism’.
Finally, take a trip through the popular culture contexts in which uniforms have been adopted as the dress code, from revolutionary and resistance groups, to body decoration within subcultures such as punk, and even imitation of filmic codes of dress by certain groups.
Image Credit: "Figure 9.11" Photograph by Bettmann/CORBIS. In: Michael P. Londrigan. "Menswear: Business to Style." Fairchild Books Library.
This quarter, we’re zooming in on fashion photography, a genre which might naturally call to mind the flawless imagery of high fashion or creative storytelling of editorial shoots. Our selection of chapters, articles, images, business cases and video allow you to take a deeper dive into the world of fashion photography and also portraiture, to reveal a rich history, diverse aesthetic ambitions and the complex interplay between images and their consumers.
Take a look at the history of fashion photography as a way of documenting or selling clothing or accessories. We start from the earliest fashion photographs made in the 1850-60s for Parisian fashion houses, move through the 20th century with a snapshot of Australian fashion publishing, and into the present day. The content explores whether fashion photography’s commerciality compromises its artistic integrity; and how the ‘hyperreality’ of many modern fashion images treads a fine line between persuasion and alienation of the consumer.
Image Credit: "Photograph of Model at Lincoln Memorial" Photograph by Tony Tinsell. In: Nancy Hall-Duncan. "Fashion Photography." The Berg Companion to Fashion.
Consider the intersections of fashion, media and gender in portrait painting and photography from the Renaissance era through to Bill Cunningham’s street photography in the 1970s.
‘New York welcomes commerciality, Milan embraces understated classicism, London adores wacky creations, (..) Paris welcomes creativity, luxury, and newness.’ This is Tony Glenville’s characterisation of the ‘Big Four’ fashion capitals. But how did they reach this point, and what comes next?
Our featured content this quarter traverses the globe to explore fashion cities, starting with stories of the traditional capitals – London and the rich history of its garment industry; Paris and the experimental creativity of haute couture; New York with the enduring relationship between its fashion (sub)cultures and identity; and Milan – capital of prêt-à-porter, navigating the age of fast fashion.
We then look to the emerging fashion centres such as Tokyo, city of influential street fashion and innovative design; Shanghai with its manufacturing capacity and emerging market; São Paulo and its new generation of designers such as Jum Nakao; and Dakar – dubbed the ‘Paris of Africa’ but with its own tradition of sartorial excellence that ‘far exceeds French projects of colonial civility’.
Virtual fashion spaces and the use of digital technology such as augmented reality or interactive museum collections, including those at MoMu Antwerp Fashion Museum, offer a dynamic alternative to the established fashion landscapes. Discover how the rise of digital fashion is disrupting the conventional interconnections between people, materials, capital and ideas in the industry.
Click on the links below to discover content from across all Bloomsbury Fashion Central products, from in-depth articles, chapters and real-life business cases, to runway photographs and videos that showcase city styles or digital garment printing.
Image Credit: Moschino, Spring/Summer 1999. Fashion Photography Archive.
Image Credit: "A Model Wearing a Paper Dress, Designed by Jum Nakao, at the 2004 São Paulo Fashion Week" Photography by Fernando Louza. In: Andrade, Rita, and Regina A. Root. "Dress, Body, and Culture in Brazil." Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Latin America and the Caribbean.
Image Credit: "Iris van Herpen 3D Top." In: Harris, Clare. "Digital spaces and innovations." The Fundamentals of Digital Fashion Marketing.
Like a theatre set, the runway is a carefully designed space that shapes the viewer’s perception of an artist’s work.
On a broader scale, fashion itself reflects the places, cultures and traditions that produce it. At the same time, the globalisation of fashion has hugely impacted national fashion cultures, transforming business models and approaches to design.
In recent years fashion has transcended place altogether, with the industry shifting much of its presence online.
From the catwalk to cyberspace, from the street to the global stage, our Featured Content explores the ways that space and place influence fashion, and vice versa.