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Title: How can material culture analysis of fashionable menswear augment biographical and museological interpretations? : a critical analysis of three wardrobes of menswear at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Fashion Museum, Bath
Author: Whyman, Benjamin David
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 323X
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis challenges the continuing dearth of clothing as biographical evidence in telling life-stories; which, I argue, has an adverse effect on the interpretability of people’s lives. The biography of objects is a burgeoning area of research, through which theorists and practitioners have become increasingly aware of the power of objects to hold narratives. But the analysis of the biography of the clothes worn by subjects is seldom described or displayed. I build on theory around the biography of objects as a tool to expand biographical and museological interpretations of three wardrobes of menswear at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Fashion Museum, Bath. The thesis objectives propose and demonstrate a research framework combining methods from material culture, fashion studies, museology and life-writing fields. I focus on masculine clothing (including rarely preserved items such as shirts, belts and shoes) as objects, to expand on limited research in the field of fashion studies, and demonstrate my claim that analysing collecting practices enhances life story narratives. I examine how three subjects constructed masculine identities and representations of self through their clothes. In so doing, I broaden the debate around the biographies of objects, examining individual garments from these men’s collections to exemplify how, under analysis, clothing is tangible evidence of context, space, physical presence and patterns of behaviours. I interrogate masculine collecting practices and the biography of collections from museological perspectives to present ways of using insight about patterns of male collection, or “post-private” wardrobes as I term them, to enhance the life-stories. What emerges from my research findings is the value of clothing as biographical evidence, focusing on how the physical material impact of clothing on the body, and vice versa, when analysed alongside other research methods, presents original insights into someone’s life-story, and how ephemera found within garments adds to life-narratives. I show, through my evaluative framework, how establishing a layered research methodology can augment our understanding of the biography of dress, identity and interpretation of life-stories. Through this framework, I produce original perspectives on constructions of masculine identities and representation, biographical research, and fashion collecting practices, in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fashion History & Theory