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Fashion Talks at AUP: Francesca Granata on Fashion Criticism

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On Thursday, December 9, 2021, The Fashion Talks at AUP lecture series, which in this academic year takes the subtitle “Between Consumption, Criticism and Activism,” hosted an online talk by guest speaker Francesca Granata, editor of Fashion Criticism: An Anthology (Bloomsbury 2021). The anthology brings together English-language writings on fashion criticism from the late 19th century to the present, from Oscar Wilde to Vanessa Friedman. The Fashion Talks lecture series is organized by Professor Renate Stauss and Professor Sophie Kurkdjian (Fashion Studies, Department of Communication, Media and Culture). 

In her talk, Granata introduced the rationale behind her fashion criticism anthology, discussing both her approach to the project and some of the challenges of this overlooked area of study. She argued that starting in the late 19th century, a period in which the fashion press proliferated, newspapers typically relegated fashion coverage to the so-called “women’s pages,” alongside the rest of the “Four F’s”: food, family, and furnishings. These topics were all considered soft news, in part because of their gender specificity. Fashion criticism has therefore not been taken as seriously as other fields of cultural criticism and has sometimes been dismissed as frivolous.  

In spite of this, fashion criticism historically has helped define fashion ideals and, in the process, has occupied a central role in negotiating shifting gender roles and evolving understandings of race. It has both chronicled and, especially in the last two decades, helped open up norms of beauty and fashionability. Francesca Granata talked us through these “interwoven discourses” of fashion criticism, from gender to electoral politics. You can watch her entire lecture in the recording below. 

About Francesca Granata 

Francesca Granata is Associate Professor of Fashion Studies in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons School of Design. Her research centers on modern and contemporary visual and material culture with a particular focus on fashion history and theory, gender and performance studies. Her monograph Experimental Fashion, Performance Art, Carnival and the Grotesque Body examines the way experimental fashion at the turn of the twenty-first century mediated shifting gender norms and the AIDS crisis. Her edited collection Fashion Criticism: An Anthology was published by Bloomsbury in February 2021. She is the editor and founder of the journal Fashion Projects