Sally Stokes Presents at a Conference Merging Fashion with Library and Information Science

Professor Sally Stokes presented a paper at the Fashion: Now and Then Conference in New York in October. Here are some highlights of her experience:

How often have you seen “libraries” and “fashion history” in the same paragraph? If you answer, “Hm. I hadn’t thought about it,” here’s news: Librarians are leading the way in bringing fashion resources into the hands and onto the desktops of a wide range of eager patrons.  Librarians at the Adrian G. Marcuse Library of LIM College, in New York City, are in the advance guard, drawing attention to the study of fashion through an annual conference, Fashion: Now and Then.

Librarians, students, scholars, database architects, market analysts and entrepreneurs gathered at LIM College’s Townhouse from October 22 to 24, 2015 for the fifth annual iteration of the conference, under the direction of librarian Nicole LaMoreaux and colleagues. Thanks to a grant from Catholic University, I had the privilege of attending this year’s meeting, and of presenting a paper, “Madame Demorest and the Fair: The Demorest Empire and the Global Reach of Fashion at the 1876 International Centennial Exhibition.”

Conference papers for 2015 covered  such topics as rebranding Burberry to appeal to millennials; the nineteenth-century whaling industry and the production of corsets; men’s fashion magazines; athletic apparel and behavioral economics; African American hair advertisements; Marjorie Merriweather Post’s wardrobe; and whether print (especially in fashion education) is dead. I wish I could have heard every presentation, but here are some highlights:

  • On October 22, Prof. Amanda Hallay of LIM College gave the keynote presentation, “’SALUDOS AMIGOS’: Fashion and the Good Neighbor Policy.” She demonstrated that promoting Mexican-themed products–from salt shakers to ashtrays to wallpaper to espadrilles–benefited U.S. foreign relations in the 1930s and 1940s. FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy of cementing relations in the Western Hemisphere against the Nazi threat manifested itself in U.S. consumers’ embrace of home décor, and styles of dress, in Mexican (and sometimes Brazilian) modes. Fashion history and diplomatic history are more closely aligned than one might ever have imagined.
  • On October 23, attendees heard from Amanda Breccia and James Lingle of Bloomsbury Publishing. Library science students, take note: fashion history digital collections are expanding at breakneck speed! Ms. Breccia and Mr. Lingle provided an overview of Bloomsbury’s Fashion Central, which currently offers fashion textbooks and other tools for fashion students, and which will be launching a fashion photography archive and interactive study tools in 2016.
  • The Ron Knoth Lecturer on October 24 was Caleb Sayan, co-founder of Textile Hive. Mr. Sayan, the son of Andrea Aranow, whose collection of over 40,000 textile examples form the corpus of Textile Hive, gave a demonstration of Textile Hive Base. He offered valuable insights into the work involved in creating a taxonomy and visual interface for a highly effective searchable digital collection.

The complete conference program is available here. The event was inspirational. I can’t wait to discuss potential fashion-related class projects with students enrolled in CLSC 677 and CLSC 834 in 2016 [View 2016 Spring Course Schedule here]!  And I hope CUA LIS students will consider attending future Fashion: Now and Then conferences.

Professor Stokes is an Adjunct Faculty member specializing in Cultural Heritage Information Management. She has previously hosted our Arts & Museums Summer Institute. Here are two students’ experiences from the institute:

1. Christopher Needham

2. Mase Woodland



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