Uniform of Man
Uniform of Man will be a series of videos exploring the history of men's clothing. Using research from museum collections in Stockholm, the project is based around the framework and theme of “uniform,” where the suit is broken into individual components (pants, ties, hats, etc.,) each of which will have its own video. The finished videos will be available to the public online.
The implications of ideas behind a “uniform” provide the questions explored in this project: Why do men have a uniform (the suit) while women do not? How is that related to contemporary views on gender? Are definitions of gender necessarily linked to definitions of sexuality? How have military uniforms informed trends in male fashion? How did male fashion itself turn into a uniform? Why do people think that men don't care as much as women do about clothing, and how does a uniform reinforce that idea?
Most history research focuses on a narrow period of time, but I find the wide political and economic ramifications of fashion are less clear when you only look at one small chunk of it. My research looks at specific garments (like a jacket, or shoes) and how they evolve over longer periods of time.
A Fulbright Grant is funding the research and development phase of this project; the money raised through Kickstarter will go towards video equipment and production costs. My goal for the videos is to hire a professional team to provide animation, music composition, and editing, to best show off this research.
Who is it for? These videos will benefit certainly benefit costume and fashion designers and historians who already have an interest in the subject; but they will also introduce the fascinating background of clothing to more people. Of course people who are interested in gender identity will benefit from a visual interpretation of this subject - but it will also introduce a new audience to what gender identity even means. Men in particular can be very defensive when issues of sexuality or gender come up, but this only underlines how important these ideas are to self-identity.
See more about Sweden, my museum partners, men's suits, masculinity, women in suits, and more on my project website: www.uniformofman.com.
Chloe Chapin is a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She is a fashion historian, a costume designer, and an occasional portrait painter. She has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. See more of her contribution to the study of men's fashion at www.historicalmenswear.com.
Here are some low-tech versions of videos that I've made in the past. Now I have this opportunity to make videos with similar content but with higher production values that would reach a larger audience: