I'm working on an exhibition involved fashion photographs from the 1940s to the 1960s, and I'm finding the research kind of exciting. Suddenly I want to change paths and be a costume/fashion/textile historian. Well, maybe not so much the techniques of textile, because I cannot get excited about warps and wefts and dye techniques, but fabric and clothing and shoes are interesting to me. Also the ways in which fashion photographs changed over just those two decades - very interesting. I think there's room in costume history for gender analysis, especially when you mix it with photography, because not only are you dealing with the clothing designer's ideas about the garment, but then you have to take into account the point of view of the photographer, art director, and client. What is the message Vogue, or McCall's, or Harper's Bazaar is trying to deliver with this photo? Why pick that dress and that belt? Obviously, at the very base of the pyramid is the imperative: SELL MAGAZINES. Running a close second is: SELL GARMENTS. But then - there's this complex mix of messages, brands, desires, art and commerce.
I just watched "The September Issue" documentary about the development of Vogue's September issue in, I think it was about 2008, and although Wintour is clearly the final authority on all things Vogue right now, there are a lot of visions competing in that organization.
Part of me, of course, the elitist, wants to dismiss it all as puffery, vanity, commerce. But there is real gender analysis to be done here - and Marxist analysis - regarding the ways that fashion and fashion photography push the consumer and the consumer sometimes pushes back. Which is the cart? Which is the horse?