Registration is now open for Benjamin, Barthes, and Fashion

Friday 28th June 2013

University Place Room 6.207

The University of Manchester Oxford Rd. M13 9PL

Fashion and Theory: Exploring critical perspectives in fashion and dress studies

Benjamin, Barthes, and Fashion

Historian, philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin wrote on fashion’s relationship to modernity, commodity fetishism, history, and memory. In his unfinished Arcades Project, the notes for a large section on Fashion reveal Benjamin’s desire to read the medium of dress culturally, materially, historically, and through his own brand of Marxist analysis.

Roland Barthes developed a semiotic system for interpreting the discourse of fashion. Barthes’ The Fashion System, the seminal work on fashion and semiotics, suggests fashion can be understood as a language composed of codes, signs, and significations. Both Barthes and Benjamin wrote on fashion’s relationship to temporality, memory and history, and both critically investigated the potential of dress as metaphor in literary and visual analysis. In the vein of such work as Caroline Evans’ Fashion at the Edge (2003), which utilizes Benjamin’s writing on fashion and time, and Malcolm Barnard’s Fashion as Communication (1996), which engages with Barthesian semiology, this conference presents new critical readings of fashion that engage with Benjaminian and Barthesian theories.

This international, interdisciplinary conference brings together researchers who are examining these themes across the mediums of film, advertising, contemporary fashion, painting, and exhibitions. 
Caroline Evans is our confirmed keynote speaker.

Advanced booking is required.
Registration for the conference is now open online:

For more information see: 

Full Programme:

10:00 Registration

10:30 Welcome Gizem Kiziltunali (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Session 1 Discourses of Fashion
10:35-10:55 ‘The Jeans that Built America’: myth, music and image in advertising for Lee and Levi’s between 1985 and 1994. Paul Jobling (University of Brighton)

10:55-11:15 The Language of Fantastic Man: a Barthesian Analysis of Twenty-First Century British Fashion Writing.
Megan Wray Schertler (Varsity, London)

11:15-11:35 Reconsidering Roland Barthes’ ‘Chanel- Courrèges Match’. Hannah Adkins (Fashion Institute of Technology, New York)

Discussion chaired by Gizem Kiziltunali (Manchester Metropolitan University)

11:45-12:00 Coffee/Tea Break (provided)

Session 2 Costume: Representations of Fashion
12:00-12:20 The Conventional World of Historical Film Fashions. Elena Dimitrova Trencheva (Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland)

12:20-12:40 Well-dressed folds and creased allegory: The semiotics of cloth hanging in two productions of Parsifal. William Filipski McDonald (Middlesex University)

12:40- 13:00 Dressing the Surface: Fashion and Aesthetics in Franz Winterhalter’s ‘Portrait of the Empress Eugénie Surrounded by Her Ladies of Honour’, 1855. Lynda Nead (Birkbeck University of London)

Discussion chaired by Wendy Ligon Smith (University of Manchester)

13:15-14:15 Break for Lunch (not provided)

Session 3 Fashion Spaces
14:15-14:35 ‘The Concise Dictionary of Dress’ and the Language(s) of Fashion Exhibition. Michal Lynn Shumate (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

14:35-14:55 Within the labyrinth: tracing and exhibiting resonances. Flavia Loscialpo (Southampton Solent University)

14:55-15:15 Outer Dark. Continuing After Fashion. Mahret Ifeoma Kupka (Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany)

15:15-15:35 Citing the Sun: Marc Jacobs, Olafur Eliasson and the Production of Aesthetic Myth. Grant Johnson (The City University of New York)

Discussion chaired by Wendy Ligon Smith (University of Manchester)

15:45- 16:00 Coffee/Tea Break (provided)

Session 4 Clothing and Identity
16:00-16:20 Traces of Memory: Clive Rundle’s Mesh-Shirt: S/S10. Erica de Greef (The Research Centre in New Identities, Cape Town, South Africa)

16:20-16:40 Lost and Found: The Hand Knitted Jumper, exemplar for Fashion’s Agency. Angela Maddock (Swansea Metropolitan University and Royal College of Art)

Discussion chaired by Gizem Kiziltunali (Manchester Metropolitan University)

16:50-17:00 Break

17:00 Keynote
Factories of Elegance: The Optical Unconscious of Twentieth-Century Couture Houses. Caroline Evans (Central Saint Martins, UAL)

18:00 Closing Remarks Wendy Ligon Smith (University of Manchester)