Your weekly dose of campus fashion
This week I spoke with Hannah Kagan-Moore, a graduate student in the art history program. During her undergraduate career at Skidmore College she was involved with costuming for drama productions.
“My official title was wardrobe mistress,” Kagan-Moore said. Her knowledge of theatrical dress and art throughout the ages helps Kagan-Moore (HK-M) teach “History of Fashion” (Design 143) with Professor Susan Avila this quarter.
REISS: What is your favorite era in fashion?
HK-M: That is a tough one because there is so much fashion in the world. I think in western fashion – early modern Western Europe in the 15th and 16th century – [is my favorite fashion era] just because it was so wild for both men and women. The [gendered] lines along which those costumes come to be divided are very weird politically and socially.
[I do] not just [like] Western Europe, I would say [I also really like] Russian folk costume, because it is absolutely gorgeous for one thing, and has a really rich iconographic history.
I can’t pick just one. There are really rich textile traditions in Afghanistan and the Middle East that are really beautiful. In their contemporary uses there’s a lot of iconography that has to do with politics, war and artists who are responding to their current political climate.
REISS: What is your least favorite fashion trend throughout the ages?
HK-M: To me, fashion is so much about play, creativity, subversion and all of these other kind of personal identity and social forces that it’s hard for me to pick a least favorite [type of fashion] because fashion is so bound up in self-representation.
Probably just from an aesthetic perspective, things I can remember really hating things like whiskering and destroyed jeans. [Also] I think “boho” and its reincarnation in the mid-2000s, which was all about wearing really expensive clothing made to look like you had dragged it out of a dumpster, [seemed] really disingenuous and weird [to me].
REISS: Can you give me three words to describe your personal style?
HK-M: Bright, monochrome and mascu-femme. I wear a lot of men’s pieces, but paired with heels or really bright lipstick. I’m interested in the ways that clothing is gendered and the ways that we can subvert that.
REISS: Why are you interested in fashion?
HK-M: I’ve always been interested in fashion just from a tactile, aesthetic and kinetic perspective. The thingness of clothing is really appealing, but also from a cultural and social perspective [clothing appeals to me].
I think what we wear says, perhaps, more than any other art or design form about our own cultural moment, politically and socially. [Fashion is] a particularly interesting tool for someone who is looking to examine how people shape themselves and what things are valued in a society.
REISS: What do you hope do with fashion in your life?
HK-M: Well other than wear it, I [hope to] incorporate a lot of fashion history into my work, looking at things like hats and styles of dress and what they mean to us now and what they meant to us. [By] “us” [I mean], viewers and users of different historical time periods.
I am very interested in costume history and it’s something I’ve considered pursuing longer term. I also have a lot of history working in literal capital costume shops in the theater tradition; that will undoubtedly continue to be a part of my professional toolbox.
REISS: What is your favorite part about being a teacher’s assistant for “History of Fashion”?
HK-M: My favorite part of teaching is discussion section. My students have the most insightful and funny things to say about the subject. Section is when things really come alive for people and that’s always an exciting moment.
Aggie Style Watch would like to thank Kagan-Moore for taking time out of her busy schedule to sit down and talk about her views on fashion throughout history and its cultural importance.
ALLISON REISS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic by CA Aggie Graphic Design Team