Culture With Context
Like with much of Western history, the history of fashion is often told through a white lens—despite the inventions and contributions of BIPOC creators to the industry. But the history is clear, and these platforms and podcasts are providing a comprehensive, holistic, and accurate context.
Follow and listen to learn about the BIPOC fashion icons who have and continue to shape so much of fashion and culture.
1. Fashion and Race Database
Kimberly M. Jenkins has been working on the online Fashion and Race Database since she started teaching more than seven years ago. A part-time lecturer at Parsons School for Design, Jenkins created a “Fashion and Race” course, which then grew into an exhibit featured at the college in 2018. She now works as an Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto and has relaunched a public online platform with all of the information she has sourced over the years. (The platform grew from a project called “The Fashion and Race Syllabus,” created in collaboration with fellow scholar Rikki Byrd in 2017.)
According to the website, “The Fashion and Race Database is filled with tools that expand the narrative of fashion history and challenge mis-representation within the fashion system.” Through well-researched pieces, a wealth of helpful resources, and a weekly newsletter, the database aims to provide an accessible and academic look at decentralizing fashion history. In addition, a recent round of successful funding has made it possible for the team to compensate BIPOC who wish to contribute to the site. Check out their submission guidelines here.
Learn More About the Fashion and Race Database
2. Unravel: A Fashion Podcast
Unravel: A Fashion Podcast was born in 2015 to fill a gap in the “canon and lexicon of fashion.” It aims to educate the public on the importance of fashion history as a means of understanding history and culture at large and expand traditional teachings through collaboration with experts. “Our purpose is to be a conduit for understanding fashion and its place in the world in the past as well as the present,” explains hosts Jasmine Helm, Dana Goodin, and Joy Davis.
All three hosts have spent significant time studying areas which often go overlooked within their field: Goodin, a textile conservator, researches the Comanche Nation (Numunu) while Helm, a fashion scholar, focuses on the dress and textile culture of the Afro-Indigenous groups in the Bluefields coastal region of Nicaragua. Davis, a fashion and history scholar, researches fashion and race analysis in Spanish colonial paintings. (They aptly use the hashtag #fashionnerd to describe themselves and loyal listeners.)
Listen to Unravel: A Fashion Podcast
3. Fashion History Timeline
In 2015, the Fashion History Timeline was launched as a pilot project between art history faculty and students from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Today, the platform functions as “an open-access source for fashion history knowledge,” including original content and curated information from museums and experts worldwide. It aims to make this content accessible to students, scholars, or anyone interested in fashion.
The platform currently operates with designated sections for BIPOC and LGBT essays alongside their century overviews, fashion dictionary, garment analysis, designer features, and more. Have something you’d like to add to the site? You can find detailed guidelines for contributing here.
Learn More About The Fashion History Timeline
4. Dressed: The History of Fashion
Dressed: The History of Fashion is on a mission to explore the “who, what, when of why we wear” behind fashion. Hosted by Fashion Institute of Technology alumni April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary, the show airs new episodes each week discussing everything from the history of leopard print to modern fashion happenings.
As recent events have unfolded, the two cis-gendered white women have investigated commonly accepted fashion narratives. In an episode from June, they addressed the need for more inclusive fashion history, including invaluable resources for further learning outside of their podcast. With many degrees between the two, each episode takes a holistic approach to understand fashion through the years.
Listen to Dressed: The History of Fashion
5. Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom
Writer and historian Jonathan Michael Square started Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom as a digital humanities project on Tumblr and Instagram. However, after rapidly amassing followers, he expanded to a website, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and now a zine.
Square believes in “the power of social media as a platform for radical pedagogy” and has harnessed that power to publicly explore and educate on the intersection of fashion and slavery. According to the site Afrosartorialism, “he argues that dress and adornment were an entry point into the experience of the enslaved [as it was] one of the few arenas in which slaves could possibly exert a modicum of control.” With many impressive degrees, including a Ph.D. in history from NYU, and bylines under his belt, Square is truly a fountain of knowledge.
Learn More About Fashioning The Self
6. Psychology of Fashion
An important pillar of fashion history is psychology—in order to unpack the cultural, political or sociological significance of clothing over time, we must look at why we wear what we do. Founded by fashion journalist Anabel Maldonado, The Psychology of Fashion™ is a platform that explores exactly that.
Alongside her team, Maldonado uses her psychology background to examine dynamics within the fashion industry and the connection between identity, mood, and aesthetics. The Psychology of Fashion™ features well-researched writing on current industry trends and thoughtful pieces on clothing and the self.
Learn More About the Psychology of Fashion
What are some of your favorite resources for fashion history? Share in the comments below!
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.