Professor Caroline Evans

Profile image of Professor of Fashion History and Theory

Professor of Fashion History and Theory

Central Saint Martins

Biography

Professor Evans studied art history at University of Sussex and taught at a number of London art schools, including Middlesex, Goldsmiths and the RCA, before joining CSM as a cultural studies lecturer in 1994. She has been instrumental in developing the discipline of fashion history and theory, publishing 7 books and over 40 scholarly articles in the field.

Professor Evans has lectured widely at international design schools and universities, including Università Iuav di Venezia, Chicago University, Art Institute of Chicago, Parsons the New School for Design, FIT New York, Universities of Sao Paolo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, National School of Art and Design Oslo, Theatre Academy of Russia, and was a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Fashion Studies at Stockholm University (2010-17).

She has acted as specialist consultant on fashion exhibitions at international museums, including The Victoria & Albert Museum London, Musée Galliéra de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, Museum of London, and Musée de la civilization, Québec, and sits on the editorial/advisory boards of several journals including Fashion Theory, Vestoj,Film, Fashion and Consumption, The International Journal of Fashion Studies, dObra[s], and Fashion Studies (Ryerson), and is an Academic Advisor for the Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive. Professor Evans was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship in 2007-2010.

Research interests

Twentieth-century and contemporary fashion; gender and performativity; fashion and silent cinema; modernism; history of the body; pose and gesture; cultural memory; theories of vision and looking.

Research statement

My research interests are rooted in my long experience of teaching history and theory in the art school. I explored dress, gender and identity in Women and Fashion: A New Look (Quartet Books, 1989), and my continuing absorption in the intellectual and critical framing of contemporary fashion design, and in finding methodologies and voices with which to investigate it, culminated in Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity and Deathliness (Yale University Press, 2003), an examination of the ways in which contemporary fashion is haunted by the ghosts of modernity.

Growing directly from that project, The Mechanical Smile (2013) was a more archival and historical investigation into modernism and the first fashion shows. The research for that book galvanised two new lines of enquiry: the importance of film to fashion; and the performative potential of fashion. I am currently exploring them both in four very different ways.

Firstly, I’m writing a short monograph on ‘fashion gesture’. Secondly, I’m co-editing an Italian anthology with Professor Alessandra Vaccari of Università Iuav di Venezia on fashion and time (Mimesis, 2018), which we hope subsequently to publish in an English-language edition. Thirdly, in the AHRC-funded research project Archaeology of Fashion Film I’ll consider how fashion history might benefit from media archaeological methods. Fourthly, in the AHRC-funded research project Exploding Fashion: Cutting, Constructing and Thinking Through Things, I plan to explore how the cultural idea of technologies of the body might interface with the actual technology of pattern-cutting. 

Students

Current students and thesis titles

Sally Bolton, The Death of the Fashion Image.

Rosemary WallinSustainable Luxury: Technology and Value.

Tamara TyerOf Space and Time: Film and the Female Performer.

Shinsuke NakanoFashion, Memory and History: fashion practice as remembering through craft and digital media.

Vija VilcinsFraming the garden through a nostalgic lens: representations of class and gender in English film during the period 1980 to 1990.

Lauren Downing Peters (Stockholm University), Fashioning the Flesh: Stoutwear and the Discursive Construction of the Fat, Female Body. 1915-1931.

Sara Skillen (Stockholm University), Deconstructing the Fashion Persona: the firm of Christian Dior. 1947-2015.

Completed students and thesis titles

Renate Stauss, (Un)dressing the self: Working with dress on concepts of self in therapeutic settings. 2017.

Ulrika Kyaga, (Stockholm University) Swedish Fashion: Rethinking the Swedish Textile and Clothing Industry. 1930-1959. 2017.

Marco Pecorari, (Stockholm University) Fashion Remains: the epistemic function of fashion ephemera. 2015.

Morna Laing, The ‘Woman-child’ in Fashion Photography, 1990-2015: Childlike Femininities, Performativity and Reception Studies. 2015.

Claire Barratt, Death, memory and mortality in contemporary jewellery (London 1980-2008). 2010.

Francesca Granata, The Bakhtinian Grotesque in Fashion Design from 1980 to the Present. 2010.

Jane Tynan, Representations of Soldiering, British Army Uniform and the Male Body During World War I. 2009.

Lisa Stead, The Emotional Wardrobe. 2006.

Projects, awards and grants

Exploding Fashion: Cutting, Constructing and Thinking Through Things (April 2018- March 2020)
AHRC-funded (£250,625). Principal Investigator (Co-Investigator Professor Alistair O’Neill of CSM, with Esme Young and Patrick Lee-Yow). Exploding Fashion aims to interrogate conventional historical methods and create new forms of understanding about the material culture of the past. It 'explodes' the mystique of the fashion design process, deconstructing the myth of the designer as sole creative genius by uncovering the intriguing role of the patter cutter, and reverse-engineering four historical designs by game-changing designers who were also innovative pattern cutters, digitally reanimating museum objects as moving images which visually narrate how these things were once made, and how they moved on the body.

Archaeology of Fashion Film (September 2017-August 2019)
AHRC-funded (£299,280). Principal Investigator (Co-Investigators Marketa Uhlirova of CSM and Professor Jussi Parikka of Southampton University). The projects explores the hidden history of today’s fashion film by researching the beginnings of cinematic fashion in archives throughout two continents. Combining methods from fashion history, film history and media archaeology, we will explore the value of this legacy for the rapidly changing field of fashion communications today.

‘Skating on Film’, (November 2014-January 2015)
Contributing curator to Fashioning Winter exhibition, Somerset House.

Fashion and film workshops, Stockholm University (7-8 June 2013)
Co-director, with Marketa Uhlirova, of a 2-day series of workshops on fashion and silent cinema hosted by Stockholm University. The project brought together 16 international film, theatre, fashion, and art historians from Europe and North America to investigate the synergies and disparities between fashion in motion and film in the silent period.

Marcel L’Herbier: Fabricating Dreams, 4th Fashion in Film Festival, London (10-19 May 2013)
Co-curator of film festival and symposium with Marketa Uhlirova (CSM) and Dionne Griffith.

Theory Box, Fourth International Festival of Scenography, Prague Quadrennial (June 2011)
Installation in collaboration with Hansjorg Schmidt (Programme Director Lighting Design, Rose Bruford College).

Major Research Fellowship (2007-2010)
The Leverhulme Trust (£117,169)

Fashion & Modernity: stage 2 (July 2001- December 2004)
AHRB-funded (£299,940). Principal Investigator of large project at UAL that expanded and developed Stage 1 by integrating history, theory and practice, bringing together 17 UAL theoreticians, curators and practitioners from both CSM and LCF.

Malign Muses/Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back (2004/5)
Collaboration as researcher/writer with curator Judith Clark, along with fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo and jeweller Naomi Fulmer, on an exhibition looking at recent fashion’s haunting by history. The exhibition used quotes from Evans’s Fashion at the Edge, translated into three-dimensional sets to materialise a genealogy of dress. The exhibition was commissioned by ModeMuseum, Antwerp as Malign Muses: When Fashion Turns Back, and showed as Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back at the V&A, London. 

Wearable Tech: (September 2000- August 2001)
Co-Director of a three-person CSM research project on the interface between new technology and the body in current fashion and product design.

Fashion & Modernity: stage 1 (July 1999-June 2000)
AHRB-funded (£37,646 + £4,529). Principal Investigator of first stage of a CSM project with five researchers who explored the relation of Western fashion to modernity from the late eighteenth-century to the present through a series of interlocking but distinct studies predicated on a critical relationship between theories of modernity and contemporary cultural theory and practice in fashion.

Selected research outputs