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Exhibiting Transformative Fashion

costume journal jacket cover
costume journal jacket cover

Written by
Pearline Yeo
Published date
26 May 2021

Written by Pearline Yeo, 10 May 2021

What started off as research for Pearline’s MA Fashion Curation master’s project eventually found its way into the latest issue of the Costume Society’s The Costume Journal, Volume 55, Issue 1. The article, Exhibiting Transformative Fashion: Digital Interventions to Enhance Display and Interpretation evaluates the existing displays of transformative dress and expounds the effective use of digital technology within displays to enhance interpretation and reading.

costume journle jacket

Cover of Costume Journal Volume 55. Image credit: Edinburgh University Press

Exploring the term “phygital”, my project explored the efficacy of digital technological uses within the physical exhibition space (hence “phygital”). I applied this presentation concept to case studies, presenting them phygitally. The submission of my master’s project includes a physical toolkit, where a display model was presented for each selected garment researched. For each model, there was a quick response (QR) code that opened a link to videos demonstrating how the display of selected garments could be further enhanced with the suggested application of digital technology. Since becoming an article in Costume, the accompanying physical toolkit has now been revised and was included as links and additional information in the Journal’s supplementary material.

moving image of opening a box

Physical toolkit set up demonstration. Image credit: Pearline Yeo

While the issues of displaying fashion in motion in museum exhibitions has been addressed with various interventions to animate displays, the challenge of successfully presenting transformative fashion in exhibitions has received less attention. (The transformation is the physical change to a garment’s form or colour, performed tangibly, regardless of the ability to return to its previous appearance.). As more contemporary designers create conceptual fashion that is transformative and technological in nature, I felt that traditional methods of display were not adequate enough for such garments. I wanted to explore how current knowledge of how digital media functions, when applied appropriately, can be used to greater effect to enhance the performance of transformation in the presentation of fashion.

The article discusses  proposals for a series of digital interventions to best display these garments. It additionally aims to demonstrate the use of digital technology to improve and advance opportunities for inclusivity and accessibility in reading fashion in exhibitions.

mobile phones in black border with QR code

Collage of Fredrik Tjaerandsen garment intervention to access the digital interventions toolkit via the quick response (QR) code, intervention 2, 2020.  Image credit: Pearline Yeo

During the submission process of the article to Costume, I faced interesting challenges that I did not have to consider when merely conducting research for the university submission. Since it was going to be in an academic journal, I had to consider clearing all copyright rights and image licensing for any use of images in my article that was not mine. Images, though for demonstrative/illustrative purposes, had to be clear and in high resolution as this was for both a physical and online journal version. With two of the garment case studies being old designs of high profile designers - namely McQueen and Chalayan - securing permissions and high resolution images of their garments was time-consuming. I came up with a creative solution of illustrating them digitally, therefore making the images my own and circumventing the issues of copyright and having to pay a large fee for image licensing.

mannequin in sleeveless maxi dressmannequin in flared patterned skirt with arms outstretched to the sides

Digital illustrations of Chalayan SS16 and McQueen SS1999. Image credit: Pearline Yeo

The article is available to read at https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/cost/current.