Fashioning A Decade – 1980s’ The Costume Society’s 2023 Conference

Saturday, 28 October 2023 – Wednesday, 8 November 2023

The Costume Society’s 2023 online Conference ‘Fashioning A Decade – 1980s’ provides a thought-provoking platform for exploring a pivotal decade of the late twentieth century in terms of high fashion, high street fashion, street-style and the representation of fashion in journalism, marketing, the music industry and on the screen.

The Conference will showcase and celebrate the unique nature of the 1980s in four key themes: High Fashion, High Street Fashion, Street Style and ‘Image is Everything’ – fashion journalism, marketing and image creation and fashion on screen and in the music industry.

These will be explored through a series of keynote, guest and selected short presentations.

We will have original proposals from both established researchers and those new to the field, and also from those whose lived experiences of the decade shine a light on relevant fashion and clothing histories from around the globe.

Conference Dates and provisional programme:

Saturday 28th October 14:00-17:00 GMT

Keynote Speaker - Rosemary Harden, Manager, Fashion Museum Bath; Speaker - Marielle Epstein, Assistant Director of Interpretation at the Art Institute of Chicago; Speaker Dr Davide Castagnola, Public University of Florence, Speaker - Wendy A Sanders, Southern Utah University

Wednesday 1st November 19:00-20:30 GMT

Guest Speaker - Dr Judith Hepner, International University of Monaco and Adjunct Professor INSEEC Lyon; Speaker - Summer Lee, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, School of Graduate Studies Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice MA Program; Speaker - Maria Ilinceva; Accessories Designer – Craft Explosion

Saturday 4th November 14:00-17:00 GMT

Keynote Speaker - Mikel Rosen, International Style & Fashion Consultant; Speaker - Alexis Walker, Associate Curator, Dress, Fashion & Textiles McCord Stewart Museum; Speaker - Dr Katherine Reed, Associate Professor, Musicology School of Music California State University, Fullerton; Guest Speaker - Juliana Sissons, Course Leader of MA Fashion Knitwear Design at Nottingham Trent University, Guest Speaker - Nishi Bassi, Bata Shoe Museum

Wednesday 8th November 19:00-20:30 GMT

Guest Speaker - Philip Warren and special guest, Chair of The Costume Society and Collections and Learning Manager Leicestershire County Council Libraries & Heritage Team; Speaker- Chloe Dawson, Postgraduate Researcher in Sociology at Keele University; Speaker - Vidita Gupta, Kingston University and Janie Lightfoot Textiles, Speaker - Sandy Higgins, Historical and Vintage Knitting, Guest Speaker - NJ Stevenson, Associate Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies, London College of Fashion

Your ticket will cover access to all four sessions and discounts are offered for members of The Costume Society and registered students. 

For full details, please see our provisional programme document at the bottom of this page.

The conference will cover four key themes: 

1. High Fashion: In a decade which saw the resurgence of Paris Haute Couture; the high profile of British
designers and the world’s attention on Diana Princess of Wales as an ambassador for British design; the rise
of some of the ‘enfants terribles’ of designer fashion, the debuts of ground breaking and influential Japanese
designers on European catwalks and the establishment of American designers on the world stage we want to
explore the impact of luxury clothing during the 1980s.

2. High Street: The decade saw the transformation of the British high street with the emergence of new brands
and designer collections which created a vibrant ready to wear sector with a focus on fashion forward styling
and attainable ‘looks’. International brands appeared on local highstreets and in newly developed city centre
and out of town shopping centres, changing the UK shopping experience for the next forty years.

3. Street Style: From the ‘Blitz Kids’ to the Mod revival, New School Hip-Hop to Acid House, Lesbian and
Gay identities, gender ambiguity, protest clothing and the emergence of sportswear as a style statement; the
decade saw the celebration of personal and group identities outside of the mainstream fashion markets.

4. Image is everything: Fashion journalism, styling, photography and publishing was transformed during the
1980s with an increasing number of magazines aimed at different audiences for the latest fashions. Not
limited to the news-stands fashion on the big and small screens reflected and influenced styles and trends,
whilst actors, pop stars and models helped create instant sensations from padded shoulders to white cotton
boxer shorts.


Image credit: Next plc and an additional credit of The Next Archive, Leicestershire County Council Museums Service 


Speakers will be expected to register for the Conference and will be given access to all the sessions in addition to their own. Contributors to the conference may also have the opportunity to submit pieces to our journal Costume. Published by Edinburgh University Press, Costume features articles that are primarily object-based, from a broad chronological period and with a worldwide remit; it maintains a balance between practice and theory and concentrates on the social significance of dress. Applicants will be notified by Monday 11th September 2023

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