Valerie Steele has been instrumental in creating the modern field of fashion studies and in raising awareness of the cultural significance of fashion. The talk will explore the research and organization behind Steele’s exhibition, ‘A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk’, held at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2013. Steele examines high fashion as a site of subversive potential and queer renegotiation and explores the aesthetic sensibilities and often unconventional dress of LGBTQ people, especially since the 1950s. Her research juxtaposes the two fields of queer studies and fashion history. She will show how her work on cross-dressing and gender ambiguity informed and complicated what began as an exploration of gay chic and gay designers. It explores the relationship of style and gender, and how fashion is always time-sensitive, reprising pasts and shaping a future.
Valerie Steele (Ph.D., Yale University) is director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she has organized more than 25 exhibitions since 1997, including London Fashion, Gothic: Dark Glamour; Daphne Guinness, Dance and Fashion, and Proust’s Muse, the Countess Greffulhe. She is also the author or editor of numerous books, including Paris Fashion, Women of Fashion, Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power, The Corset, and Fashion Designers A-Z: The Collection of The Museum at FIT. In addition, she is founder and editor in chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture – the first peer-reviewed, scholarly journal in Fashion Studies. Described in The Washington Post as one of ‘fashion’s brainiest women’ and by Suzy Menkes as ‘The Freud of Fashion’, she was listed as one of ‘The People Shaping the Global Fashion Industry’ in the Business of Fashion 500 (2014 and 2015).
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, in Time. Ideas of physical, social, revolutionary time, internal time consciousness, or historical experience are far from settled in their respective discourses and practices. Yet attempts to harmonize or correlate the understanding of time and temporal phenomena generated in different disciplines all-too quickly resort to normative, if not teleological ideas of progress, efficiency, or experiential plenitude. Can the heterogenous relations between discordant conceptions of time and temporality be understood as being ‘erratically’ structured, that is, as marked by inherent misapprehensions, a dissonance that defies regulation, and an unexpected variability?
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