The Mind Blog-gles

Alice Gregory’s article on Hawes, ‘The Most Brilliant American Fashion Designer’, in ‘T’ Magazine, NYTimes, 12th June 2014

Alice Gregory’s article on Hawes, ‘The Most Brilliant American Fashion Designer’, in ‘T’ Magazine, NYTimes, 12th June 2014

They say that the UK is one of the most surveilled nations in the world with CCTV cameras watching almost our every step.  Who’s looking?  Who’s listening?  And what is being watched, or done, or said?

Big Brother, and paranoia, aside, it’s interesting for me, as a blogger, to contemplate who is reading my writing.  Who’s peering at my posts?  Who’s ‘taking a butcher’s’ at my blog?  ‘Audience’, ‘followers’, ‘devotees’, ‘patrons’, ‘habitues’ (call them what you will) are important to a blogger because, much like a good dating agency, one has to work at creating as optimum a match as possible between oneself and one’s ideal, or target, reader.  This alchemy may be assisted by bloggerly tools of the trade such as ‘tag’ words and ‘categories’ that help to cross-reference the preferences and interests of writer and reader.  For a nosey parker like myself, though, it’s the ‘site stats’ toggle-on-my-toolbar (if you will) that is really rather riveting. Perhaps, dear readers, it is me who is ‘doing’ the watching of you?  Quelle voyeur!

It’s fascinating to discover the online search terms that have resulted in visitors being directed to, and arriving at, my blog.  Particularly curious examples include, ‘who is the girl in the apricot advert’ and ‘intoxicating frogs’.  I also seem to have developed a ‘cult following’ in Russia since the turn of 2015, with a second highest ranking (behind the UK and ahead of the USA) for visitors to my site.  Intriguing, huh?

Of course, all of my visitors, whether fleeting, misdirected, hardcore, fanatical or otherwise are highly prized.  But there have been a couple of noteworthy overtures in the past few months that are worth mentioning here and, really, form the inspirations behind this particular blog entry.  The first enquiry came from an image researcher last Summer, who had stumbled across my blog entries about Elizabeth Hawes whilst she was working on a project for the New York Times.  We exchanged a series of emails and an article duly emerged in the Culture Issue of T magazine:The Most Brilliant American Fashion Designer‘.

A second proposal arrived in my email inbox more recently, from Dr Rae Ritchie of the Society for the History of Women in the Americas (SHAW).  Being already familiar with The Style Stakes, Rae encouraged me to contribute a guest blog about blogging for a collaborative project she was leading between SHAW and US Studies Online.  So, that was an invitation to blog, for a blog, about a blog.  And if you’ve managed to follow all of that, blog on over to that very piece to find out more: Blogs on Togs – Dress History Research In an Overseas Archive.


Swans A-Swimming

'Sport in History', the journal of the British Society of Sport History, published by Routledge.

‘Sport in History’, the journal of the British Society of Sport History, published by Routledge.

Fashion designers are said to be only as good as their last collection.  And rock stars, only as good as their last album.  Does the same hold true for academics?  Are we only ever as good as our last article or book or lecture?  I’ll leave you to ponder the answer to that.

It’s a good twelve months (or more) since my last flurry of blog posts.  I wonder, have I been only as good in the ensuing year as my own last blog entry: ‘The Final Cut’?  Again, I’ll leave you to ponder the answer to that.

Just this month, the journal article I was chiselling away at in January 2014 whilst in snowstruck New York City (and reporting on its lumbering progress here) has emerged, swanlike, as a fully-formed publication.   Its swanful grace (if you can call it that) owes a debt of gratitude to the magnificant images that illustrate the piece and that I sourced at the National Sporting Library and Museum, VA.  How fortunate I’ve been to work on their ‘Gerry Webb’ collection, comprising thirteen, large, scrapbooks of sporting (equestrian) photographs.  Many of these were snapped by a professional journalist(s) who, even in the 1930s, produced some crystal clear, and compelling, shots that document fashionable men and women having fun on race day (among other things).  Glorious.

There’s an inevitable no-man’s land, a sort of literary interval, between packaging up a manuscript for a publisher and then, sometimes many, many months later, receiving the final, hold-in-your-hand, bookshelf-ready copy of a publication.  It would be easy to write here how that moment is so satisfying and gratifying (which, of course it is).  But engaging such well-worn cliches about ‘worthwhile effort’ does not capture the full complexity of what it is to go to press (so to speak).  In particular, that interval, that expanse of time, that lull, does peculiar things to written words.   So that – and for fear of getting a bit mystical here – the words that are returned to you in type-set, printing press and glossy cover form seem somehow strange, foreign and unknown.  ‘Did I write that?’ ‘I don’t remember saying that?’ There’s an element of forgetting with the passage of time.  But, too, there are other elements at play to do with ‘taking the ego’ away from the words, loss of immediacy, distance, removal.  At least, that’s what it feels like for me.

So, am I making a case here for writing as anti-climatical and, ultimately, rather disappointing?  Quite the opposite.  I wouldn’t be without it.  And, to ensure this particular blog entry ‘delivers’ as it should, here are all the details of that very journal article (and you may view it here)

Goodrum, A. (2015) ‘The Style Stakes: Fashion, Sportswear and Horse-Racing in Interwar America’ Sport In History 35 (1) pp. 46-80. Special Issue, Kit: Fashioning the Sporting Body.

Abstract: Despite an acknowledgement that, historically, the relationship between horse racing, women and fashion was important, existing literature provides little detail on the actual clothes that women wore as racegoers. The aim of this article is to add missing depth on the clothing of fashionable women at horse races, focusing on the United States during the inter-war period. In so doing, the discussion extends understandings of the history, and the material culture, of sporting spectatorship more generally. The article also introduces original work on the male spectator and his racegoing wardrobe. Climatic considerations to do with dressing appropriately for the great outdoors are discussed along with other influential factors on spectator dress such as contemporary fashion journalism and photography. The industry supplying fashion consumers was in transition at this time also and New York acquired prominence as a centre for a new mode of sporty, all-American fashion that was termed ‘sportswear’. As well as dealing with the clothes and the individuals who wore them, then, the article tells the story of the broader socio-economic conditions of American fashion, sport and sportswear that formed – and informed – their wearing.