I am a historian of late-19th and 20th century American culture and focus on fashion and clothing. My work is primarily one of historical inquiry, yet its scope and its sources give it resonance in other fields—sociology, anthropology, American studies, gender and women’s studies, theatre arts, and art history. My subjects of study are diverse, from overall-clad girl strikers to Italian grandmothers who really made black a “basic.” All of my scholarship has a common goal: to make significant contributions to our understanding of the historical interaction between social change and everyday life—whether in our habits or our habitats.
My research on the history of clothing and fashion demonstrates that what we wear—and why we wear it—is a powerful lens for understanding both how Americans actually lived and how our culture has changed. I aim to bring the study of clothing to the forefront of historical inquiry, as has already been done for food, domestic space, and manners.
I find inspiration in the work of a diverse group of scholars including historians such as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Michael Zakim, Kathy Peiss, Reggie Blaszczyk, and Nan Enstad; experts in material culture including Richard Martin and Claudia Kidwell; and sociologists from the old guard and the new-—Georg Simmel, Erving Goffman, Fred Davis and Diana Crane. These scholars have shown that the study of clothing is not a mere subfield of elite, “fashion” history. I aim to complicate interpretations of fashion change that reduce it to a byproduct of a hegemonic culture system. These theories dismiss the every day and personal meanings of dress, and deny the most powerful engines behind the propagation of clothing trends—the people who choose to wear them.