Certain subjects are “for girls”--including decorative arts, crafts, and interior design--and fashion is one of them. These “girl zones” have traditionally not been considered serious fields of inquiry/ practice like film, the fine arts, or architecture.
Libraries and fashion, as professions and fields of research, have more in common than immediately meets the eye. Both fields are gendered spaces, typically coded feminine/female/femme. Both libraries and fashion must justify their continued existence in ways the film industry, for example, never does. Both the fashion industry and the library field depend upon the passion and labor of women, yet have historically tended to reward male/masculine involvement to a much greater degree.
Starting in the 1990s, fashion studies began to emerge in the wake of the abandonment of home economics departments as an academic subject in its own right. Increasingly, attention is being paid to the importance of fashion history and practice in the study of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. It is clear that the study of fashion and its role in shaping self and society will not go away. Furthermore, the intersection of fashion and libraries will increasingly offer a productive vector for inquiry.
Questions we consider include: what role does fashion play in library collections, outreach programs, and programming? Where does fashion belong in the library? Does fashion belong in the library? In Special Collections? In the archives? Are three-dimensional objects allowed? Should or can libraries collaborate with museums? This session will be highly interactive, exploratory...and revealing.
Courtney Becks– Librarian for African American Studies and Jewish Studies Bibliographer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign