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Subject: Costume and Dress 2021 for Culture: The Political Body - Dress, Identity and Power

Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University

On 5 – 7 May 2021

The Research Centre for Dress in Sense is excited to announce its third international conference. The role of dress and the body in the embodiment of influence, whether through fashion, history, literature, or other fields, will be the theme of this year.

Throughout history and across cultures, from the purple togas of Roman emperors to the burkas imposed on disenfranchised women by Islamic fundamentalists, the role that dress plays in power and politics has been a common thread. Some aspects of clothing are sufficiently well-established status indicators to include a shorthand to convey power. In life, literature, performance and sculpture. Many studies have explored, through the prism of their own particular discipline, the relationship between dress and power and politics. The fundamental concepts that underpin their distinct understandings will be brought into focus by this meeting.

It is possible to use dress to inspire the wearer, such as the robes and regalia adopted at a coronation by a king. As was the case with the striped suits placed on prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, it could even help to disempower them. Sometimes, both ends can be accomplished by the same style of dress: uniforms are worn as leadership symbols but are often imposed as a means of de-individuation.

Similarly, by both the imposition and the prohibition of clothing, disempowerment will occur. In several fundamentalist countries, as a way of disenfranchisement, the niqab is imposed on women; moreover, women were forced to remove them during the Algerian unrest of the 1950s (McDougall, 2017), and in this sense, removal had a similar disempowering impact. A relationship of some complexity indicates this dual, conflicting function, although common analysis often yields a more simplistic interpretation. In the frequently referenced power-dressing of the 1980s, which has nearly become a cliché, we can see this. It will yield a more rounded and complex view of the relationship by putting together the experiences of numerous disciplines and diverse experience.

A medium for the expression of force is also given by the body, and it can also function in both directions. For example, regulating body weight via anorexia gives the illusion of power; obesity may lead to a feeling of powerlessness at the other end of the scale.

The conference will provide the possibility for deeper insight and a qualitatively richer understanding by bringing together a variety of disciplines and approaches. We will explore the many facets of costume and dress that lead to the appearance and experience of power through presentations, posters and discussion, and consider the implications of this for the individual and community.

For academic papers or posters that discuss the conference subject, we invite submissions from any discipline. Themes include, but are not limited to:

In the workplace, clothes and strength

-Sex, clothes and power

-Wear Ceremonial

-Dress in women's political clothes

-The strength of style

-Strong women and the use of fashion

-Uniforms and the force manifestation

-Fashion and authority

-The body's politics

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 19 February 2021


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