Hi again!

If we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: This issue has been a labor of love. We are not too proud to admit that this semester (because as scholars and educators, we still measure time in five-month increments) has been a doozy for us over here at FSJ HQ. Our coursework, teaching, grading (grading, grading, grading…) article-writing, book-proposing, and dissertation-drafting have competed with our FSJ editing and networking duties for our time and energy. These pressures, unfortunately, have taken a toll on some of us as we have unnecessarily beaten ourselves up about our inability to dedicate time to this project of ours. “Sorry” has become too-common a salutation both amongst ourselves and from us to those of you taking your time to correspond with us (thank you, by the way! And please keep it up!).

In short, we’re all stressed. And you know what? It’s ok to talk about it! Really!

While the increasingly elusive tenure track professorship consistently still ranks at the top of employment rankings for job satisfaction, did you know that half of all PhD students today struggle with mental health issues? [1] For those of us who are not walking the lonely road of PhD life but who are hanging on for dear life to tenuous teaching positions, however, we would venture to guess that depression and burnout (and at the very least, crippling self doubt and impostor syndrome) are common among lecturers and academics-at-large, too. Much of this arises from the fact that there is simply too much expected from us and that, as over-achieving, passionate individuals, we are too invested in a particular notion of success. But it also stems from structural problems that are bigger than any one of us; for better or for worse (but mostly worse) the university system is in a state of flux, and those of you who are underemployed, or, conversely, have somehow managed to piece a life together out of contract-based adjunct work are living proof.

Couple this with the horrors that await every time we’re pinged by a news notification and we have a perfect recipe for getting down in the dumps. With this and all our FSJ content and events, we’d like to offer a suggestion: let’s get together, get vulnerable, and get something going. Whether working in schools, media, design practice, museums, or the fashion business, our best asset is our community of ridiculously creative peers and the energy we can give each other through collaboration. It’s not always easy, but it’s vitally important to keep fostering the plurality of voices in this field, to carve out meaningful niches for ourselves, and to stay focused on the future of what fashion studies can be for us and those who will follow. (Editor's note: A great place to start is at our monthly FSJ Cocktail Hours!)

Speaking to the above, Issue No. 3 is an homage to the diversity of our field, to the potentialities of fashion studies work, and to the grit and ambition that we all possess as fashion studies scholars. We’re excited to feature a success story in the form of a confessional personal journey from Philip Warkander (the first scholar to graduate with a PhD specifically in fashion studies), who has taken a meandering career path that should inspire anyone feeling stuck at present. Also in the Notes from the Field column, we hear from Ya’ara Keydar, curator of two recent exhibitions on high heeled shoes in Israel and New York. Ya’ara details the process of conception and execution in a clear and focused way that reminds us of the power of collaboration and being open to twists and turns as projects unfold organically. With another perspective on what a fashion studies project can be, Ivana Culjak recounts her ethnographic work with seniors in a nursing home in Zagreb, touching on issues of memory and preservation. Her sensitivity to her subjects reminds us that dress and wardrobe choices are not limited to what’s in and what’s out, but are highly personal and often more circumstantial than vain.

Our three essays in this issue both ruminate on an evergreen theme in fashion studies: identity. Rachel Kinnard’s piece positions designer Ralph Lauren as an American superhero, interrogating just what the iconography of his brand says about the national myths currently up for debate and reconception. Tatiana Kombo brings the question of identity down to earth with a discussion of how another icon of American fashion, Vogue magazine, has generally failed to include racialized identities such as her own. Her piece brings home the point that finding oneself in fashion is rarely easy for anyone. The essay by Anders Wallace on fashion’s role in the male seduction community (known to some as the “pick up artist” scene) also grapples with how clothing and appearance are used to create idealized identities—in this case, that of a potentially successful and adequately masculine seducer. It raises the question of whether there is a real and meaningful distinction between the idealized self we can portray through dress, and the person who may be impelled to arise to meet the clothing halfway.

It’s safe to say that, for those of us who are historically-inclined, happiness is sitting in an archive, poring over ephemeral objects and forgotten garments—a space in which it is possible, if only momentarily, to escape the grind of regular working life. The archive recurs several times throughout this issue, first and foremost in Natalie Nudell’s exciting reveal of the Ruth Finley collection at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In discussing the wealth of information this archive has to offer, Natalie reminds us what a privilege it is to be able to work alongside the archivist herself—in this case Ruth Finley, a woman who has lived and breathed the history of the American fashion industry from its inception in 1938 to today. Erica de Greef’s moving account of working in an archive in flux will also give you pause. Recounting the intimate experience of unpacking a collection, Erica evocatively discusses the material memories that are embedded in the folds of these otherwise inert objects.

The idea of material memories crops up again in Ellen Sampson’s visual essay, “Creases, Crumples, and Folds.” While we oftentimes try to eliminate these signs of everyday wear from our clothing, Ellen asks us to contemplate the fact that we are literally shrouded in traces of our day-to-day lives. It is a moving notion. Likewise, Carla Castiajo’s account of her work with human hair in creating wearable art pieces that uneasily toe the boundary between the abject and the beautiful forces us to reflect, oftentimes uncomfortably, on how even the most ordinary materials can be rendered extraordinary in the right hands. Although these pieces are light on text, we encourage you to slow down spend time with the images. The scholars who contribute to our Visual Essays column work in practice-based disciplines, and therefore their work requires a different, more meditative, kind of engagement.

The three pieces in our “What We’re Wearing” column similarly force us to rethink the power of the everyday. For instance, have you ever thought about maternity bikinis? Yeah. Neither had we until Laura, our Editor-at-Large, had to go searching for an elusive, high-waisted, 50s-style number for an impending trip to San Diego. At once humiliating for Laura and sweetly hilarious for the reader, her piece will give you a new reverence for pregnant ladies for whom the term “beach bod” carries a different meaning. Rebecca Smith more explicitly bridges fashion and the everyday in her reflections on fashion’s cooptation of protest motifs. In this highly relevant piece—one which stems nicely from our recent investigation of protest wear—Smith wonders, “How does purchasing a political identity fit with an authentic desire to make a difference?” Many of us have been grappling with this question since November, and this piece does much to keep us focused on what’s really important as feminism becomes increasingly fashionable.

Finally, our last two articles really dig deep into the relationship between the body, identity, and self-fashioning—all topics that are very near and dear to our particular approach to fashion studies here at FSJ. In his reading list— one which is derived from his ongoing project, “Fashioning the Self in Slavery and in Freedom—our returning contributor and friend, Jonathan Michael Square, explores the intersections between slavery and the fashion system. His brilliant reading list evidences a forgotten history and sheds light on marginalized bodies, a project that is as important as it is urgent. Eric Zhang tells a different story of self-fashioning in their piece about coming to terms with their gender queerness. Deeply inspired by the drag of Kim Chi (a contestant on Season Eight of Ru Paul’s Drag Race) Eric describes their evolution from doing drag as a college pastime to incorporating “everyday drag” into their performative self-fashioning.

As always, we have a truly wonderful slew of reviews for you in this issue. In case you missed it, we have a write-up of the Fashion Space Gallery’s Museum of Transology. You can, however, still catch the Fowler Museum at UCLA’s Pantsula 4 LYF and FIT’s Paris Re-Fashioned this spring, both of which are reviewed in this issue. We also are proud to share with you our most up-to-date series of book reviews ever! Hot off the presses are reviews of Francesca Granata’s recently-released Experimental Fashion: Performance Art, Carnival and the Grotesque Body and Giovanni Matteucci and Stefano Marino’s Philosophical Perspectives on Fashion. Keren Ben-Horin and Aria Darcella also provide reviews of the slightly older but no less relevant books 19th Century Fashion in Detail—a visually spruced-up re-release of an older edition—and Cecil Beaton: A Life in Fashion.

Also with this latest issue, we happily welcome some new team members: editors Julia and Namkyu and contributors Rachel and Chloe. We’re proud to be growing the FSJ family across the world and hope that if you’re reading this, you’ll consider getting on board in whatever capacity suits you. If you’re just a satisfied reader or friend, we hope you’ll consider showing our collective some love and support in the form of a donation of any size to help with our operating costs. As always, we’ve got lots of exciting ideas and dreams for bringing FSJ to more people, so we’d be truly honored to receive anything you can offer. We love you!

In strength & solidarity,

The FSJ Editorial Team (April 5, 2017)



[1] Katia Levecquea, Frederik Angela, Alain De Beuckelaerd, Johan Van der Heydenf and Lydia Giself, "Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students," Research Policy 46.4 (2017), 868-879.