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Geknipt voor het moderne : beoordelingscriteria, tijdspolitiek en materialiteit in geschreven modejournalistiek

(2015)
Author
Promoter
(UGent) and Rudy Laermans
Organization
Abstract
Over the past two decades, the academic study of fashionable dress has blossomed drawing attention from a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. The research strand that studies the practices, values and conceptions of professionals involved in the material and symbolic production of fashionable dress has mainly analyzed the practices of designers, but it has only to a lesser extent studied the opinions of other professionals (such as journalists) involved in creating meaning and value in the world of high-end fashion. This dissertation examines the discourse and review practices of fashion journalists. In particular, it studies reviews of fashion collections in two high-quality newspapers, The New York Times (NYT) and The International Herald Tribune (IHT) between 1949 and 2010. In their writings fashion journalists play a role in determining the double symbolic boundaries of fashionable dress. This means that they decide on what counts as fashion, what does not and what counts as good fashionable dress and what does not. Moreover, fashion reporters have to justify to the readership why it should believe a particular (element of) dress to fall within these boundaries. In so doing, however, fashion reporters cannot rely on objective and universal criteria. Careful analysis of the criteria used in their reviews, therefore, allows us to explore their conceptions of the nature and function of high-end fashion as well as the way in which these views evolved over time. This study traces changes and continuities in the criteria and conceptions that underlie fashion journalists’ review practice. The main objective of the first part of the dissertation (chapter 1 – 4) is to offer a long-term map of the (dis)continuities in the criteria that journalists rely on to review designer fashion collections. The first chapter briefly discusses the historical development of the position of fashion journalists as the guides and experts on fashionable dress. The chapter also introduces the qualitative study. It ends with an analysis of an important conceptual tool throughout the thesis, namely the idea that conceptions on the nature and function of luxury fashionable dress underlie the review practice. The legitimacy of these conceptions depends on their resonance with the common beliefs of the field of designer fashion production. The second chapter discusses the current literature on the structure and organization of the field of fashion production by focusing on the work of sociologists Howard Becker and Pierre Bourdieu. The chapter further considers why scholars are generally skeptical of the critical and transformative capacity of fashion journalism. It examines the field position of the fashion journalists writing for the selected (mainly high-quality newspaper) publications. These fashion reporters maneuver two fields, i.e. the field of designer fashion production and the field of journalism. The analysis therefore takes into account that the fashion journalists’ positions may differ depending on the field to which they look for recognition. The third chapter offers a concise historical overview of the changes in the Parisian field of designer fashion production after World War II. During this period the emphasis of the industry gradually shifted from material fashion production to an image-centered symbolic production of designer fashion. Focus on the quality, production process and materiality of the fashion product made way for an emphasis on the image of the product. This historical background helps to make sense of the results of the qualitative study presented in chapter 4. Over the past sixty years the use of criteria such as beauty, functionality and craftsmanship has significantly decreased in the NYT and IHT, while the use of temporal criteria (tradition, the future, the past) and criteria such as intellectuality and the expression of the designer’s personal style has increased. I conclude that the conceptions that underlie the review practice reflect the changes in the wider field of production. The second and third part of the dissertation seek to answer a different set of questions about the contribution of fashion journalism to the construction of the symbolic boundaries of designer fashion. These chapters ask whether and how fashion journalists aim to influence the public’s conception and experience of designer fashion. I also take into account the goals journalists aim to achieve through such intervention. The second part of the dissertation seeks to understand the temporal criteria that journalists increasingly rely on in the late twentieth century. Chapters 5 and 6 offer important background about the role of time in fashion. Chapter 5 discusses the concept of ‘fashion’. Scholars often liken ‘fashion’ to the concept of ‘the modern’. I argue that both concepts share a temporal structure of transcendence and a temporal political nature by which the transcended pole (i.e. the old-fashioned) is regarded as the lesser version of the privileged pole (i.e. the fashionable). Chapter 6 traces the historical development of the temporal organization of the fashion system. Specifically the chapter explores the introduction of the autumn/winter and spring/summer fashion season which gave a chronological structure to fashion change. The rhythm imposed by this seasonal calendar was crucial for the economic development of the budding fashion system and the field of designer fashion production, because it let fashion producers know the right time to present new fashions and because it offered the public a frame to deal with previous anxieties surrounding fashion change (one still did not know what the next fashion will be, but at least one could expect the moment to change one’s dress). The fashion press played an important role in turning the chronological structure of the field into a common-sense feature, because every fashion season it announced publicly that the time for change had come. In chapter 7 I examine journalists’ attempts to interfere in the creation of the temporal symbolic boundaries of designer fashion. I also analyze the rhetorical strategies they use to do so. Chronology is an important tool in the rhetorical strategy that journalists put forward. I argue that the temporal political nature of the concept of ‘fashion’ translates into the structural operations of the field of designer fashion production. The understanding of the concept of ‘fashion’ also influences the fashion review practice of journalists. At the end of the twentieth century these reporters operate in a predominantly postmodern fashion culture that is characterized, for instance, by an explicit recognition of designer fashion as a commercial endeavor, by a challenge to the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural production and by a growing interest in reviving the history of fashion without changing much to the inspirations taken from the past (i.e. vintage fashion, retro fashion). The chapter concludes that, against this postmodern fashion attitude, fashion journalism in high-quality newspapers seeks to defend the ‘older’ modernist boundaries of time in which fashion design was seen to change in a linear manner, always heading for the nearby future by transcending or negating whatever fashions came before it. By defending modernist temporal boundaries NYT en IHT journalists, first, do not reflect the explicit postmodern recognition of commerciality, but they still seek to enhance the commercial strength of the designer fashion system in a subtle manner. Second, they seek to defend the idea that the field of designer fashion production still sets the terms for all other types of fashion production as much as they seek to protect their own position as the legitimate experts on what constitutes fashion. The third and final part of the dissertation further analyzes the criteria, first described in chapter four, by which newspaper fashion journalists support the shift in the field of designer fashion from an orientation on the material product to a focus on fashion as an image product. I examine how in written fashion journalism the material frame that puts large emphasis on the fabrics designers use, on the required technical skills and on the relationship between fashionable dress and the clothed body suffered serious delegitimation after the 1970s. This occurred in the context of the rise of the image-oriented postmodern fashion culture and the structural dominance of designer ready-to-wear fashion. From the 1990s onwards the material journalistic conception of designer fashion was replaced by an intellectual frame. Fashion reporters of the NYT and IHT employed the frame of intellectualization in a culturally modernist manner. In so doing, they aim to spur a process of re-artification of designer fashion. They resist the postmodern development in which luxury fashion currently receives wide recognition as a serious business instead of as an artistic practice. I argue that by borrowing a modernist cultural discourse from the visual arts they guard the division between the artistic and the commercial and between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural production. The chapter finds that through this negation of the idea that designer fashion is primarily a commercial and material endeavor journalists again aim to protect the commercial strength of designer fashion in a subtle manner. The thesis concludes that by the end of the twentieth century fashion journalism in high-quality newspapers cultivated a cultural modernist attitude both in its construction of the temporal symbolic boundaries of designer fashion (part II) and in its insistence on a strict divide between the tangible stuff of fashion design and intellectuality and between commerciality and artistry (part III). The review practice of high-end fashion journalism at the end of the twentieth century indicates a different conception of the nature and function of designer fashion than the postmodern one that currently dominates fashion production and consumption. Hence, the study argues that the current discourse of this particular segment of the fashion press reflects the structural changes of the larger field in its criteria used to justify the review practice, while it also seeks to resist the dominant postmodern symbolic boundaries of designer fashion. The discourse of written fashion journalism reproduces and seeks to change the structuring values of the field at the same time. Fashion scholars doubt the critical and transformative capacity of the fashion press in the current field of high-end fashion production. Journalists are only thought to reflect the opinions of the larger field of production. Yet the findings in this dissertation suggest that one may regard fashion journalism in high-quality newspapers as a (less-recognized) political practice that aims to guide the readers’ experiences and conceptions of designer fashion and its place in the modern world.

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MLA
Van de Peer, Aurélie. Geknipt Voor Het Moderne : Beoordelingscriteria, Tijdspolitiek En Materialiteit in Geschreven Modejournalistiek. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, 2015.
APA
Van de Peer, A. (2015). Geknipt voor het moderne : beoordelingscriteria, tijdspolitiek en materialiteit in geschreven modejournalistiek. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, Gent ; Leuven.
Chicago author-date
Van de Peer, Aurélie. 2015. “Geknipt Voor Het Moderne : Beoordelingscriteria, Tijdspolitiek En Materialiteit in Geschreven Modejournalistiek.” Gent ; Leuven: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Van de Peer, Aurélie. 2015. “Geknipt Voor Het Moderne : Beoordelingscriteria, Tijdspolitiek En Materialiteit in Geschreven Modejournalistiek.” Gent ; Leuven: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen.
Vancouver
1.
Van de Peer A. Geknipt voor het moderne : beoordelingscriteria, tijdspolitiek en materialiteit in geschreven modejournalistiek. [Gent ; Leuven]: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen; 2015.
IEEE
[1]
A. Van de Peer, “Geknipt voor het moderne : beoordelingscriteria, tijdspolitiek en materialiteit in geschreven modejournalistiek,” Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, Gent ; Leuven, 2015.
@phdthesis{6898263,
  abstract     = {{Over the past two decades, the academic study of fashionable dress has blossomed drawing attention from a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. The research strand that studies the practices, values and conceptions of professionals involved in the material and symbolic production of fashionable dress has mainly analyzed the practices of designers, but it has only to a lesser extent studied the opinions of other professionals (such as journalists) involved in creating meaning and value in the world of high-end fashion. This dissertation examines the discourse and review practices of fashion journalists. In particular, it studies reviews of fashion collections in two high-quality newspapers, The New York Times (NYT) and The International Herald Tribune (IHT) between 1949 and 2010.
In their writings fashion journalists play a role in determining the double symbolic boundaries of fashionable dress. This means that they decide on what counts as fashion, what does not and what counts as good fashionable dress and what does not. Moreover, fashion reporters have to justify to the readership why it should believe a particular (element of) dress to fall within these boundaries. In so doing, however, fashion reporters cannot rely on objective and universal criteria. Careful analysis of the criteria used in their reviews, therefore, allows us to explore their conceptions of the nature and function of high-end fashion as well as the way in which these views evolved over time. This study traces changes and continuities in the criteria and conceptions that underlie fashion journalists’ review practice.
The main objective of the first part of the dissertation (chapter 1 – 4) is to offer a long-term map of the (dis)continuities in the criteria that journalists rely on to review designer fashion collections. The first chapter briefly discusses the historical development of the position of fashion journalists as the guides and experts on fashionable dress. The chapter also introduces the qualitative study. It ends with an analysis of an important conceptual tool throughout the thesis, namely the idea that conceptions on the nature and function of luxury fashionable dress underlie the review practice. The legitimacy of these conceptions depends on their resonance with the common beliefs of the field of designer fashion production. The second chapter discusses the current literature on the structure and organization of the field of fashion production by focusing on the work of sociologists Howard Becker and Pierre Bourdieu. The chapter further considers why scholars are generally skeptical of the critical and transformative capacity of fashion journalism. It examines the field position of the fashion journalists writing for the selected (mainly high-quality newspaper) publications. These fashion reporters maneuver two fields, i.e. the field of designer fashion production and the field of journalism. The analysis therefore takes into account that the fashion journalists’ positions may differ depending on the field to which they look for recognition.  The third chapter offers a concise historical overview of the changes in the Parisian field of designer fashion production after World War II. During this period the emphasis of the industry gradually shifted from material fashion production to an image-centered symbolic production of designer fashion. Focus on the quality, production process and materiality of the fashion product made way for an emphasis on the image of the product. This historical background helps to make sense of the results of the qualitative study presented in chapter 4. Over the past sixty years the use of criteria such as beauty, functionality and craftsmanship has significantly decreased in the NYT and IHT, while the use of temporal criteria (tradition, the future, the past) and criteria such as intellectuality and the expression of the designer’s personal style has increased. I conclude that the conceptions that underlie the review practice reflect the changes in the wider field of production. 
The second and third part of the dissertation seek to answer a different set of questions about the contribution of fashion journalism to the construction of the symbolic boundaries of designer fashion. These chapters ask whether and how fashion journalists aim to influence the public’s conception and experience of designer fashion. I also take into account the goals journalists aim to achieve through such intervention. 
The second part of the dissertation seeks to understand the temporal criteria that journalists increasingly rely on in the late twentieth century. Chapters 5 and 6 offer important background about the role of time in fashion. Chapter 5 discusses the concept of ‘fashion’. Scholars often liken ‘fashion’ to the concept of ‘the modern’. I argue that both concepts share a temporal structure of transcendence and a temporal political nature by which the transcended pole (i.e. the old-fashioned) is regarded as the lesser version of the privileged pole (i.e. the fashionable). Chapter 6 traces the historical development of the temporal organization of the fashion system. Specifically the chapter explores the introduction of the autumn/winter and spring/summer fashion season which gave a chronological structure to fashion change. The rhythm imposed by this seasonal calendar was crucial for the economic development of the budding fashion system and the field of designer fashion production, because it let fashion producers know the right time to present new fashions and because it offered the public a frame to deal with previous anxieties surrounding fashion change (one still did not know what the next fashion will be, but at least one could expect the moment to change one’s dress). The fashion press played an important role in turning the chronological structure of the field into a common-sense feature, because every fashion season it announced publicly that the time for change had come. In chapter 7 I examine journalists’ attempts to interfere in the creation of the temporal symbolic boundaries of designer fashion. I also analyze the rhetorical strategies they use to do so. Chronology is an important tool in the rhetorical strategy that journalists put forward.  I argue that the temporal political nature of the concept of ‘fashion’ translates into the structural operations of the field of designer fashion production. The understanding of the concept of ‘fashion’ also influences the fashion review practice of journalists. At the end of the twentieth century these reporters operate in a predominantly postmodern fashion culture that is characterized, for instance, by an explicit recognition of designer fashion as a commercial endeavor, by a challenge to the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural production and by a growing interest in reviving the history of fashion without changing much to the inspirations taken from the past (i.e. vintage fashion, retro fashion).  The chapter concludes that, against this postmodern fashion attitude, fashion journalism in high-quality newspapers seeks to defend the ‘older’ modernist boundaries of time in which fashion design was seen to change in a linear manner, always heading for the nearby future by transcending or negating whatever fashions came before it. By defending modernist temporal boundaries NYT en IHT journalists, first, do not reflect the explicit postmodern recognition of commerciality, but they still seek to enhance the commercial strength of the designer fashion system in a subtle manner. Second, they seek to defend the idea that the field of designer fashion production still sets the terms for all other types of fashion production as much as they seek to protect their own position as the legitimate experts on what constitutes fashion.
The third and final part of the dissertation further analyzes the criteria, first described in chapter four, by which newspaper fashion journalists support the shift in the field of designer fashion from an orientation on the material product to a focus on fashion as an image product. I examine how in written fashion journalism the material frame that puts large emphasis on the fabrics designers use, on the required technical skills and on the relationship between fashionable dress and the clothed body suffered serious delegitimation after the 1970s. This occurred in the context of the rise of the image-oriented postmodern fashion culture and the structural dominance of designer ready-to-wear fashion. From the 1990s onwards the material journalistic conception of designer fashion was replaced by an intellectual frame. Fashion reporters of the NYT and IHT employed the frame of intellectualization in a culturally modernist manner. In so doing, they aim to spur a process of re-artification of designer fashion. They resist the postmodern development in which luxury fashion currently receives wide recognition as a serious business instead of as an artistic practice. I argue that by borrowing a modernist cultural discourse from the visual arts they guard the division between the artistic and the commercial and between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural production. The chapter finds that through this negation of the idea that designer fashion is primarily a commercial and material endeavor journalists again aim to protect the commercial strength of designer fashion in a subtle manner. 
The thesis concludes that by the end of the twentieth century fashion journalism in high-quality newspapers cultivated a cultural modernist attitude both in its construction of the temporal symbolic boundaries of designer fashion (part II) and in its insistence on a strict divide between the tangible stuff of fashion design and intellectuality and between commerciality and artistry (part III). The review practice of high-end fashion journalism at the end of the twentieth century indicates a different conception of the nature and function of designer fashion than the postmodern one that currently dominates fashion production and consumption. Hence, the study argues that the current discourse of this particular segment of the fashion press reflects the structural changes of the larger field in its criteria used to justify the review practice, while it also seeks to resist the dominant postmodern symbolic boundaries of designer fashion. The discourse of written fashion journalism reproduces and seeks to change the structuring values of the field at the same time. Fashion scholars doubt the critical and transformative capacity of the fashion press in the current field of high-end fashion production. Journalists are only thought to reflect the opinions of the larger field of production. Yet the findings in this dissertation suggest that one may regard fashion journalism in high-quality newspapers as a (less-recognized) political practice that aims to guide the readers’ experiences and conceptions of designer fashion and its place in the modern world.}},
  author       = {{Van de Peer, Aurélie}},
  language     = {{dut}},
  pages        = {{XV, 334}},
  publisher    = {{Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte ; KU Leuven. Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen}},
  school       = {{Ghent University}},
  title        = {{Geknipt voor het moderne : beoordelingscriteria, tijdspolitiek en materialiteit in geschreven modejournalistiek}},
  year         = {{2015}},
}