My main research is in the discourse of fashion, so I’m mostly interested in how we talk about fashion, how the media and various public discourses make fashion meaningful in everyday life. That could be anything from advertising to magazine articles as well as social media.
I have three different ways that I explore this concept. I look at how we talk about sustainability in fashion, how we assess fashion through professional criticism, and fashion’s relationship to gender. I would say that in the sustainability track that the most interesting finding is really how fashion media has turned sustainability into a luxury. So it has become an exclusive sort of thing, something you have to pay more for rather than this very inclusive movement which is actually what it needed in order for the fashion industry to change.
If you weren't working at WVU, what's the most likely alternative?
I would probably say that I’d work in a museum setting, so working with the preservation and storytelling of fashion.
Moment you knew what you wanted to study?
It was my sophomore year when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree. I had been a psychology major and was all set to go through the whole rigmarole of becoming a psychiatrist. I decided that really wasn’t the life for me. When I was flipping through the program catalog at the University of Missouri, I discovered that you can actually major in fashion. It hadn’t really occurred to me that that was a thing. I took one class and discovered I really enjoyed talking about fashion and exploring it not just from a consumer standpoint but as an entire industry and all the cultural aspects. I worked in the industry for about a year before recognizing that while I really like fashion, I don’t necessarily want to do the drudgery of the day-to-day of working in the industry. What I really love is talking about fashion in an intellectual way and intellectualizing fashion. It took about a year after my undergrad to realize where I really wanted to be was academia.
Moment you knew your current role was right for you?
Unfortunately, there are not a whole lot of opportunities in terms of doing history and culture as your main focus in fashion. Most of the jobs that come available are either in merchandising, teaching students about the business of fashion, or in design, teaching students how to make fashion. While both of those pursuits are noble in their way, it’s not what I’m interested in. When this job became available it was absolutely the perfect opportunity to live and breathe the things that I'm most interested in with fashion - to talk to students every day about why what they put on their bodies matters.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Oh, Paris without a doubt. Hands down. There’s the aspect of it as a fashion city, but that’s actually the least interesting part of Paris to me. What I love about Paris is that it’s a very human scale city, you know, you don’t really have the towering buildings. It’s incredibly walkable, and you can dwell. Paris was built as a city to dwell in, so the pace is for walking and for sitting at cafes for hours. You stroll along avenues for hours. And it has all of the amenities that a city offers. I have a very romantic 19th century idea of Paris; the nice thing about Paris is that it’s preserved a lot of those things. The pastries, of course, that’s really what it’s about.
Favorite part of social distancing?
The best part is I’m back with my spouse. He has been working on his Ph. D. at the University of Missouri, so we’ve been living apart for the last three years. This actually kind of allowed us to reunite and be together, so I’m actually in Missouri right now and have been since the social distancing measures were put in place. It was a quicker end to our separation than we expected. So that has been the silver lining for us.
Least favorite part of social distancing?
Not being able to go to coffee shops has been really hard because I do my best thinking and work there. Again, the 19th century way of living. It’s been difficult to kind of adjust to always being at home and trying to work at home.
Just for Fun
Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice, Beloved
Favorite movie/tv show: Amélie
Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: 1930’s jazz, instrumental chill (whatever that means)
Favorite local restaurant: Saigon Pho
Favorite local activity: Walking in the West Virginia Botanical Gardens