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Article

Maria Elena Buszek

Interest in the subject of ‘craft’ in the contemporary art world grew at the start of the 21st century, as artists with conceptually oriented studio practices increasingly turned to media and processes associated with handicrafts or decorative arts, such as knitting, stitching, weaving, pottery, glass-blowing, and woodworking. In this so-called ‘information age’ the sensuous, tactile ‘information’ of craft media spoke of a direct connection to an endangered humanity, or at least to a humanity being rapidly reconfigured in a technologically saturated world. Many artists returned to old-fashioned, handmade materials, images, and objects seeking balance in a high-tech world. Others were drawn to the familiarity of utilitarian media such as cloth, ceramics, glass, or wood, which are often invisible due to their ubiquity in our everyday lives; they made work that directs audiences’ attention to the extraordinary potential of these seemingly ordinary craft materials and techniques. In all cases, these artists entered into a dialogue over the distinctions between ‘art’ and ‘craft’ that have been debated since the early modern era....

Article

Sarah Scaturro

Technology influences the physical manifestation of fashion, affecting a garment’s appearance and performance. Throughout history, changes in technology affecting the production of materials and the manufacture of garments and accessories have spurred changes in fashion design. In the 20th and 21st centuries, technology has affected not only the look of fashion, but how the fashion system works.

Much of the relationship between technology and fashion centres on textiles. Looms often determine the size and complexity of textiles. Fabric woven on a simple backstrap loom has inherently smaller widths in reference to the size of the human body, whereas fabric woven on the drawloom can be several feet wide and contain more complex weave structures, which translates into more sophisticated patterning options. The drawloom process (which requires two people—the weaver and a person who ‘draws’ up warps at specific points to create the pattern) was mechanized in the early 19th century with the invention of the jacquard loom and its punch card system. Lyons in France and Spitalfields in England were two of the most technologically advanced silk-weaving centres....

Article

Sarah Scaturro

Since the late 20th century, there have been significant changes in the ecological concerns of fashion designers, clothing manufacturers and consumers. There is a growing awareness of the limited natural resources available for clothing production and the polluting, often toxic, by-products produced in the manufacturing process. Both problems are compounded by ever-increasing rates of clothing consumption and disposal. There are several key phrases that are often used interchangeably (although there are slight distinctions) in describing fashion that attempts to address these concerns: ‘eco-fashion’, ‘sustainable fashion’, ‘fair-trade fashion’ and ‘green fashion’. There is no single answer or best practice for creating or participating in environmentally sustainable fashion; a participant in the fashion system might focus on just one aspect, seeking to make a small, but hopefully effective change to the current fashion paradigm. Although as recently as the late 1990s, environmentally minded fashion was associated with an unsophisticated, oversimplified and so-called ‘natural’ style, the early 20th century has seen a rise in sustainable clothing of high-quality fabrication and fashionable design....

Article

Meghan E. Grossman

Fashion photography is the use of photography to communicate the latest trends in clothing. It acts as a representation of popular taste and is created to serve a commercial industry, yet it has also served as an avenue for change, pushing the boundaries of acceptability with innovations in style, technique, and the portrayal of fashion. Fashion photography was a democratizing force in the acceptance of photography, as it brought the new form of expression to an audience of every social level, rich or poor, urban or suburban. Via mass media, photography serves to relate changes in fashion over long distances and many cultures, primarily disseminating the styles of high fashion in Paris, Milan, or New York to the rest of the world.

Fashion photography as it exists today falls into three main categories: editorial, advertising, and documentary. In the first category, photographs are commissioned by a publication to provide the “news” in fashion to its audience. These photographs are intended to feature the best designs of the current season, without monetary compensation from the companies whose products are included. Editorial photographs are often tied together by theme or narrative, to create a coherent multi-page spread featuring several different designs. Advertising photographs are commissioned by the design house, manufacturer, or retailer to feature a product or brand identity. The company pays for the space in which the advertising photograph appears. Finally, fashion design companies often commission photographers to document their collections; these photographs can be used in-house for documentary purposes or published in the form of a catalog, which serves as additional advertising. Depending on the purpose of the assignment, the photographer may choose to feature the clothes on a model, or hide fashion pieces amongst a jumble of unrelated objects. The goal of the photographer is to elevate the clothing to its highest status, the “fashion object,” through visual cues, lighting, composition, and creativity. Photography has served to add prestige to fashionable clothes since its introduction....

Article

Lourdes Font, Beth McMahon, Cassandra Gero, Ann Poulson, Nancy Deihl, Lourdes M. Font, Deirdre Clemente and Clare Sauro

This article defines, describes and traces the history of the major categories of Western fashion design, with an emphasis on women’s high fashion.

The term ‘underwear’ refers to several different types of garment worn under outer layers of clothing. The first type is the basic undergarment worn next to the skin, historically made of washable linen or cotton. The English term ‘linen’ and the French term ‘lingerie’ (Fr. linge: ‘linen’) are synonyms for basic undergarments. The second type of underwear is a foundation garment worn to alter the shape of the body. The term ‘understructure’ also applies to these garments, which create or support the silhouette demanded by fashion at a given time. Although at various times it has been fashionable to reveal underwear at the neckline, sleeve or hemline, both basic undergarments and the foundation garments worn over them are usually invisible under the outer layers of clothing. Finally, there is a type of lingerie identified as undress; clothing that is worn only in private situations in the home. Although not considered acceptable public attire, over time undress frequently develops into fashionable outerwear....

Article

Sandra Sider

Folk art, or vernacular art (specific to a group or place), developed in Colonial America out of necessity when individual households produced most of the utilitarian objects required for daily life. Using traditional tools and techniques, many of these makers created pieces in which aesthetics came to play a substantial role, through form, ornamentation, or both. In some groups, notably the Shakers, function was emphasized, with pure form evoking an aesthetic and spiritual response. Religious beliefs have informed American folk art, such as the saints and other figures (Santos) carved and painted by Catholic settlers in the Southwest as early as 1700. Although the majority of folk art is now anonymous, the oeuvre of numerous individual artists can be determined by their distinctive styles or marks. Folk art is often considered within the field of ‘material culture’, with an emphasis on the object’s context rather than its creator. Most American folk art falls within three categories: painting and cut paper, textiles and fibre, and three-dimensional work such as furniture, carvings, metalwork, ceramics, and outdoor installations....