New for 2022: LCSHs for fashion, textile & costume librarians

Art Libraries Society of North America colleague and interim associate director of the New York Public Library‘s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs Deirdre Donohue sends out monthly topical additions related to Art & Architecture Library of Congress Subject Headings. Here is a 2022 roundup of those that may be of interest to fashion, textile and costume librarians.

150 African American women costume designers [May Subd Geog]
150 Armor [May Subd Geog]
150 Chaps (Clothing) [May Subd Geog]
150 Costume design–African American influences
150 Costume design–African influences
150 Decoration and ornament [May Subd Geog] 
150 Decoration and ornament, Prehistoric [May Subd Geog]
150 Decoration and ornament, Primitive CANCEL HEADING 
–682 This authority record has been deleted because the heading is covered by the subject headings Decoration and ornament (DLC)sh 85036229 and Decoration and ornament, Prehistoric (DLC)sh 
150 Embroidery–China–History–To 221 B.C
150 Gauntlets (Gloves) [May Subd Geog]
150 Grills (Jewelry) [May Subd Geog]
150 Gu embroidery [May Subd Geog] 
150 Helmets [May Subd Geog]
150 Material culture [May Subd Geog]
–680 Here are entered works on the objects made or used by people, especially the folk artifacts produced by traditional methods, as well as techniques of their production. Works on the material culture of particular ethnic groups are entered under the name of the group with the subdivision Material culture, e.g. Indians of North America–Material culture. ADD FIELD
150 Purépecha embroidery [May Subd Geog]
150 Purépecha masks [May Subd Geog]
150 Purépecha textile fabrics [May Subd Geog] 
150 Tarasco embroidery CHANGE HEADING
150 Tarasco textile fabrics CHANGE HEADING
150 Tarasco masks CHANGE HEADING
150 Women costume designers–United States

What goes into making a brassiere for warfighters?

In the Spring 2022 issue of Army AL&T Magazine, Maureena Thompson, a writer with the U.S. Army Futures Command, writes that the U.S. Army involves soldiers at all levels to provide feedback about the development and designing of new gear and equipment in order to modernize and better equip the American soldier.

Soldier touch points, as the Army calls them, are immersive testing and feedback mechanisms through which Soldiers can provide valuable insights on how certain tools or equipment undergoing development will be used practically in the field. The Army is using these touch points as it pursues a series of signature modernization systems to ensure any new solutions that are embraced are functional, durable and expertly tailored to the needs of Soldiers.

Besides weapon systems, the U.S. Army also has scientists, engineers and designers who provide warfighters with uniforms and clothing items. Within the last couple of years the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) has, thanks to feedback from the field, produced and now issues specific undergarments for pregnant and nursing women. However the most basic of undergarments for many, the brassiere, is still purchased off the rack by soldiers themselves to worn for daily use, both at home and in the war zone. Current Army regulations states:

Brassieres and underpants (female).
(1) Type. Brassieres and underpants are a one-time cash allowance purchase as part of the initial clothing bag allowance.
(2) Description. Brassieres and underpants may be of a commercial design, in white, black, or other neutral colors that are not readily apparent when worn under the uniform. The category of brassieres also includes sports bras.
(3) How worn. Females will wear brassieres and underpants with all uniforms.

Army scientists are hoping to rectify this and are working to create a tactical brassiere specifically designed for professional soldiers.

Last year DEVCOM, using the touch point system, issued out four different prototypes of the Army Tactical Brassiere (ATB). Hyegjoo E. Choi-Rokas, an engineering psychologist, reports that the process started with assessing commercial off the shelf “sports brassieres were assessed to investigate the effects of different design features on fit, mobility…and comfort.” Prototypes were then built and tested in a controlled setting before being sent out to the field for testing by 200 soldiers in four different geographic locations earlier this year.

Thompson continues:

ATB development began with seeking input from female Soldiers
on what type of functionality and preferences should be considered during initial prototype design. Given that the ATB is a tactical rather than sportswear item, it will need to integrate well with equipment and body armor, providing enhanced protection and performance in addition to an ideal fit. This means that designers are evaluating options such as the inclusion of flame retardant fabrics and expertly layered compression, structural and protective materials while also taking into account the importance of accurate sizing, reliable comfort, moisture management and breathability.

“The overall goal is to produce garments that not only protect the user, but reduce the cognitive burden on the female Soldier caused by discomfort and ill fit,” said Ashley Cushon, clothing designer and project lead for the ATB at the DEVCOM Soldier Center. “Achieving this will improve the Soldier’s overall readiness and performance levels, allowing them to focus on their mission,” she explained.

Reaching this goal is a multiphase process that requires the involvement of designers, subject matter experts and Soldiers.

“Developing well-fitting patterns is a skill that exists at the crossroads of technical art and science,” Cushon said. “It requires
understanding body shape, growth points and the relationship
between 2D elements and 3D objects. Just as commercial sports
brassiere items tend to cater to targeted consumer groups, designers worked closely with the anthropometrists and engineering
psychologists to conduct pilot studies that helped to validate the
size tariff within the female Soldier population and extract body
scan dimensions to build out the first prototypes to fit the Army’s
median size. Understanding that sports brassieres incorporate
various structural elements as they increase or decrease in sizing,
final results from the studies will inform [the Program Executive
Office for] Soldier and ultimately the Army Uniform Board, so
that a determination can be made on the Army’s path forward
for best equipping female Soldiers for their missions.”

While the ATB is still in the development phase, the prototype team hopes to present it to the Army Uniform Board later this year, said Jeff Sisto, a public affairs officer with Soldier Center, according to a report by the Army Times.

Header photo: U.S. Army photo courtesy U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center.

Brilliant Bodies: Fashioning Courtly Men in Early Renaissance Italy [Review]

by Timothy McCall. The Pennsylvania State University Press, February 2022. 240 p. ill. ISBN 9780-271-09060-3 (h/c), $109.95.

Reviewed for ARLIS/NA Reviews July 2022 by Shira Loev Eller, Art & Design Librarian, George Washington University, doi:10.17613/kw4v-6794.

Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, is said to have removed his armored doublet before entering mass on December 26, 1476, because it made him look “too fat;” he didn’t make it out alive. Although this utterance may be apocryphal, and the garment would not likely have deflected his assassin’s blows, this episode typifies the high stakes of men’s quattrocento fashion in Timothy McCall’s Brilliant Bodies. McCall uses evidence from artwork, correspondence, inventories, etiquette books, and a few extant pieces of clothing to show how Italian lords used their appearance (and decked-out entourages) to project status and authority.

The book is divided into four main themes: the incorporation of metals into men’s attire, including armor and brocades; adornments, such as jewels, pearls, chains, and spurs; the idealized male body, with a focus on how the doublet and hose displayed slender torsos and elegant legs; and how “fairness” was equated with beauty.

Italian signore were hyper-conscious of their appearance and were constantly on display; artworks were a way to proliferate and enhance their image. McCall hones in on the details of men’s clothing represented in portraits and wall decorations, providing the reader with new perspectives on many well-known artworks. Techniques for producing various types of materials are explained, as well as how lordly buying habits influenced local and foreign industries. The use of emblems and colors (think two-toned stockings) to broadcast alliances is also elucidated. McCall aims to counter assumptions about beauty being the realm of women only, and to problematize how fashion has been employed by the powerful to legitimize and maintain their authority. He also explores the racial dimensions of the fifteenth-century obsession with “brilliance,” which included not just gold and jewels but also light hair and skin. Although modern conceptions of race were not yet calcified, the author asserts that Renaissance ideals of whiteness are worthy of critique.

Brilliant Bodies expands upon McCall’s past scholarship and joins a growing conversation on the topic of early modern men’s fashion; Elizabeth Currie’s Fashion and Masculinity in Renaissance Florence (Bloomsbury, 2017) is one recent example. The book is printed on glossy paper and is generously illustrated, with many high quality full- and half-page color images. It includes a glossary of commonly misunderstood terms, endnotes, an extensive bibliography, and an index. McCall writes in approachable and often entertaining language, and weaves captivating incidents into his analysis. This text would be a valuable addition to collections supporting scholarship in art history, fashion history, and decorative arts and design history, and is appropriate for undergraduate students and above.

Deep Costume History: an unexpected resource for unique research  

Alt: colored cylinders lie atop a lighting and design chart showing the placement and timing of dancers with hand written notes and drawings.  
Colored cylinders lie atop a lighting and design chart showing the placement and timing of dancers with hand written notes and drawings.  

The Ohio University Libraries Archives and Special Collections (Athens, OH) holds the Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Collection, a gift of Murray Louis. The libraries’ connection is via principal dancer Gladys Bailin who went on to head the Ohio University School of Dance until 1995. This extensive group of papers, photos, videos, sketches, and even a set of 3d costume models gives us insight into the design and choreography of this influential 20th C dance troupe.  

The Nicolais/Lewis Dance Company, (@1948-1993), was known for pure movement and intriguing choreography that mixed movement, costume, and setting in new ways. Alwin Nikolais directed the dance school at the Henry Street Playhouse in New York in 1948 and went on to create the music, dance steps, lighting, staging, and costumes for his creations. Murray Louis came on as a dancer but soon was as involved with creation as his partner. Their many years of collaboration resulted in iconic works such as Tensile Involvement, Crucible, and Shadow Dance. (Others are findable on YouTube).  

The book The Nikolais/Louis dance technique : a philosophy and method of modern dance / Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis, 2005, describes their methods and philosophy. The Nikolai/Lewis Foundation perpetuates their vision.  

“The Nikolais/Lewis technique is based on the philosophy that the undertaking of dance training is not a simple or singular event, but a lifelong investment in personal enrichment.” – The Nikolais/Lewis Dance Technique 

OU libs recently received an NEH grant to plan for the digitization of the media herein. Currently there are a few teaser files in our Digital Collections folders. Over 400 more cubic feet of shelving and boxes wait to be explored.  

Alt: Brown boxes line a long long  library shelf, each with a label about the Nikolais /Lewis collection of OU Libraries.  
Brown boxes line a long long  library shelf, each with a label about the Nikolais /Lewis collection of OU Libraries.  

Looking into just the “sketches” folder of the online items yields doodles and color studies and lighting charts that might be the beginnings of costumes. Many research projects could be imagined from these resources: I had to restrain myself from getting lost tracing a costume from the doodle to the design to the model to the lighting charts to the stage. 

Alt: red dancers in many poses sketched on a faded green background with yellow and blue spots. 
Red dancers in many poses sketched on a faded green background with yellow and blue spots. 


blue, red, black, green swirls on white paper, like a doodle
Blue, red, black, green swirls on white paper, like a doodle.

A small wooden 3-d figure wears a red body stocking and is encircled by a white cloth. 
A small wooden 3-d figure wears a red body stocking and is encircled by a white cloth. 

We invite researchers interested in the history of the evolution of dance and dance costume to contact Greta Suiter, Manuscripts Archivist, for a chance to see these materials in person and build your own story. 

Talking with textile librarians: Tracy Meserve

During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I stopped by the Textile Museum’s Arthur D. Jenkins Library at George Washington University to talk with textile librarian and associate editor of The Textile Museum Journal Tracy Meserve about her professional practice. Meserve earned her MLIS from the University of Maryland, and practiced at public libraries in Virginia and the District of Columbia before arriving at the Textile Museum library in 2018.

Tracy Meserve (Photo courtesy of The George Washington University)

The Textile Museum collects global textiles and historical dress. It was founded by George Hewitt Myers, as an independent museum in 1925 and later merged with GWU in 2015. The library, according to its collection policy, “prioritizes materials on the historical textiles and dress of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and indigenous America as well as on contemporary fiber art and contemporary social issues related to textiles. Textile arts of Europe are of secondary priority, as The Textile Museum Collection does not focus on the textile arts of Europe.”

Major divisions of the library include rug history, technique/textile history, textile and costume history, and others—most of which are subdivided geographically. Besides the more than 20,000 monographs, the collection also includes periodicals, and the archives of textile and ethnographic scholars such as islamic art specialist Mehmet Aga-Oglu and ethnographer of the Kyrgyz Klavdiya Antipina. According to Meserve, the library is the largest collection of recorded textile information in North America.

AML: What are some items in collection that interest you personally?
TM: We have a rare book collection—it’s small but mighty. I’m currently conserving a book called Les costumes populaires de la Turquie en 1873, based on an exhibition presented at the World’s Fair in 1873 in Vienna by Sultan Abdülaziz of the Ottoman Empire to showcase the many various costumes of the empire. Of the 300 printed, we have probably the only hand-colored version, so it is certainly one of a kind. We also have an 18th century book of tapa cloths collected by Captain Cook from Polynesia and has the actual cloth samples in the book—it’s extremely rare. We also have about a dozen other rare titles that I’ve been trying to get funding to conserve and hopefully digitize them so I can highlight our collection. 

AML: Who are your library’s designated communities?
TM: We serve the GW community—made up of students and faculty, textile scholars from all over the world, and the general public.

AML: Tell me about your current research!
TM: I’m getting a second masters in decorative arts and design history, and I am focusing on textiles. I’m in the William Morris Society, so I definitely am interested in his scholarship and scholarship relating to him. I also have an interest in textiles and sustainability, which is definitely something that the students at GWU are also very interested in, so there has been a push for the museum to spearhead this on campus, and I have become more involved with that.

AML: What are you reading professionally?
TM: Right now—well I am giving a presentation in July on Marimekko, so I have been reading up on Marimekko and some of the global influences behind Marimekko. I’ve been reading about Japanese Art Nouveau textile artist Yumeji Takehisa, and also have gone into a Jane Jacobs phase and have been reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities—I am always dabbling in architecture and urban design, another interest of mine.

Besides the library, the museum also hosts the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center, and the Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center. The Textile Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the library is open to walk-in visitors on Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

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