Is it masking too much?

Nine days after Illinois Governor Pritzker issued a shelter-in-place order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I sat down and made myself a couple of face masks using materials on hand.  No elastic but plenty of thread and yards of a colorful Dutch wax print cotton fabric I bought at a West African shop a few years ago.  Instead of a pleated rectangle with elastic ear loops—such as the mask suggest

Collecting Indigenous Mesoamerican Dress

So this is winter in Southern California.  Do I still get to use seasonal hibernation as my excuse for a lengthy writing hiatus?

The truth is, as the first Anawalt Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Study of Regional Dress, I’ve been deep in the archives and object collections at UCLA’s Fowler Museum preparing for two projects.  The first is a course I’ll be teaching this spring in UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department, “Collecting Indigenous Mesoamerican Dress.”  The second related project is an exhibition addressing the same theme set to open at the Fowler in 2017. 

Dress and Cultural Appropriation

Earlier this year, French fashion designer Isabel Marant was accused of plagiarism, a frequent occurrence in the fashion industry where designers take their inspiration from museum exhibitions, films, the street, the color of a mud hut, and, in this case, from the indigenous Mixe women of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec in Oaxaca, México.  Yet what makes this story unique is its 21st century flavor.

Appearances Matter Pt. 2: Halloween

Last week I talked about several recent dress-related contentious situations.  From last summer’s Rachel Dolezal moment to this Halloween’s incendiary costume choices on college campuses, there is no end of examples on social media and in the news to show us just how much appearances matter.  While what we wear and how we look matters in all situations where visual communication is part of the equation, the Halloween context is unique from the everyday.  The example of Rachel Dolezal attempting to pass as African American in he

Appearances Matter

On Monday, November 9, 2015, The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Julia Baird called “Being Dishonest About Ugliness.”  Ms.

Terminology is a Drag, or Sometimes a Dress is a Costume

The annual Costume Institute Benefit Gala has come and gone with only the jpg social media detritus to let the great unwashed know what we have missed.  Online photos reveal that few men heeded Anna Wintour’s dress admonition for this to be a white tie affair.  Whether the broad spectrum of men’s dress reflected rebelliousness, ignorance, or a simple lack of concern, we may never know.  More pressing is why the Costume Institute – as of May 8, 2014, the Anna Wintour Costume Center – is so named.  Costume?

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