RESEARCH

In 1965, Donyale Luna was noted as the first black woman to appear on the cover of a mainstream fashion publication. It was a sketch, not a photograph.

This page includes updates on my research for Black, The Color We Wear: Representing Blackness in American Fashion. 

My research interests include, but are not limited to: African American studies, fashion studies, hip hop, hip hop and fashion, representation, women and gender studies, performance studies, African American self-liberation,

ABSTRACT

My thesis project explores how black bodies and blackness are represented in American fashion. At different times and in different places, there is a struggle over blackness in American fashion between black cultural agents and white cultural agents. My thesis project investigates that struggle and asks whom has the right to represent blackness and what are the strategies and consequences that evolve from using a cultural form so entangled in the construction of a race of people affected by a brutal history with America. I use three significant eras—1960s and 1970s, early to mid-1990s and the mid-2000s—and argue that they are representative of a heightened visibility of blackness among Black Americans and/or in American fashion. Using theories of representation and bodily capital in tandem with methodologies such as image and textual analysis, ethnographic research and interviews, this project unpacks how the construction of racial identity is perpetuated in American fashion via image making and text. This thesis project combines African American Studies and Fashion Studies and contributes to the expansion of both fields. It strengthens the development of a deeper and necessary commitment to the study of race in Fashion Studies in order to create a diversified body of research and more inclusive academic discipline. It widens the scope of African American Studies to include research on fashion, which provides further explorations of theories and concepts on racial representation and performance through black styling practices and other potential research possibilities.

UPDATES:

4/20/17

I gave a guest lecture on Fashion and Race in the Fashion and Culture course at Fontbonne University 

4/18/17

I gave a guest lecture, “I’m a Slave to It: Kanye West vs. the Fashion Industry,” in the course The Politics of Kanye West at Washington University – St. Louis 

4/5/17

I spoke on a panel titled Black Style Matters at Parsons School of Design. See EVENTS for more info. 

2/24/17

I was invited as an industry expert for Black History Month at Lindenwood University. I discussed the conversation surrounding fashion and race in the fashion industry. 

1/25/17

I was invited to give Brown Bag Lunch presentation at Washington University’s African American Studies Department. 

10/20/16

I launched the Fashion and Race Syllabus with my colleague, Kimberly Jenkins. 

10/16/16

My paper, “On the ‘Black Designer,'” was published in The Fashion Studies Journal. You can read it online here

6/21/16

I moderated a panel at the Missouri History Museum on culture and couture, featuring bloggers from the local community. 

(Forthcoming)

I was recently appointed guest editor of a special section on Black Fashion Studies in the International Journal of Fashion Studies, which will be published in Spring 2017.

6/7/16

I will be speaking on a panel at the Missouri History Museum on the history and future of the St. Louis fashion industry. 

5/17/16

My paper, “Looking the Part: The Liberation and Criminalization of Black Masculinity Through Style and Adornment,” was published in BIAS: Journal of Dress Practice in May 2016. You can read it online here

5/13/16

I presented research from my thesis project at the Parsons’ Festival Art, Design, History and Theory Graduate Symposium. 

10/4/2015

My paper, “Looking the Part: The Liberation and Criminalization of Black Masculinity Through Style and Adornment,” has been accepted into the Popular Culture Association’s National Conference, which will take place in March in Seattle. This will be my second year presenting at the conference. You can read a first draft of the paper on Academia.edu. 

3/17/2015

I was recently awarded the Parsons Graduate Travel Grant, which supports students who have been accepted to present their research at national conferences. 

1/12/2015

“So often, blackness—and its gruesome history—can be rendered a garment that can easily be shed when a season no longer begs for its use. Regardless of its trendiness, its historical oppression and misrepresentation continues to be worn and experienced by those that it most truly represents­–black Americans.”

An excerpt from my research published in Parsons online journal, Notices. You can read the full piece here.

9/25/2014

My paper titled, Black the Color We Wear: The Temporality of Blackness in the Fashion Industry, has been accepted into the 2015 Popular Culture & American Culture Association Conference. I will be presenting in the Fashion, Style, Appearance, Consumption, and Design area of the conference in April in New Orleans.

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