On November 12, 2013, the BGC hosted its second of four “Conservation Conversations” this 2013-2014 year. The new speaker series, part of the Cultures of Conservation initiative, pairs a material conservator and a professor of material culture for a public research dialogue around a particular theme. Fashion was the theme of this evening, and the room was packed to capacity to hear our distinguished guests share their ideas about issues in the conservation of fashion objects.

The first speaker of the evening, Dr. Giorgio Riello, is Professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick. Riello presented a paper entitled, “Ghost of Fashion Past: Material Culture and the Debris of History,” the core issues of which were summarized as follows:

“What is the role of artifacts in understanding the past? We are presented with a multitude of objects from the past presented behind protective glass in museums, sold at auction houses, passed down from our forefathers or simply forgotten or discarded. Together they form a specific way to engage with the past that is far from un-mediated. This presentation focuses on fashion and considers the different story lines of three artifacts: a fan made of fragile feathers, a car with only 1500 miles on its clock, and a pair of battered shoes. These objects might appear at first sight rather distant from glamour or fashion, yet they reveal in different ways the challenges and opportunities of conservation and the problems that fashion encounters in becoming old and transforming itself into the Ghost of Fashion Past.”

The second speaker of the evening was Sarah Scaturro, Head Conservator at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who presented a paper based on her conservation practice entitled, “The Materiality of Fashion: A Subjective View.” Her paper investigated the following issues:

“What happens when fashion fails? Not the fashion system, not the fashion image, but the actual fashion object? When faced with a broken, decaying, and damaged garment, how and why do conservators attempt to bring it ‘back to life’? Fashion was never meant to endure, so what does it mean when we try to make it persist longer than intended? For costume conservators, these questions are paramount when faced with the impending de-materialization of the fashion object they are charged with protecting. Recent conservation efforts in The Costume Institute involving a Charles Frederick Worth gown and the works of the Anglo-American couturier Charles James demonstrate how conservators approach the limits of fashion’s materiality.”

To watch the stimulating presentations and lively conversation, you may click here and stream the event through the BGC archive of live-streamed events, where the first “Conservation Conversation” event is also archived for remote viewing.

Join us for the third event of this series on February 11th at 5:45pm!