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Behind the Display: Fashion within the Fabric of Identity

Tanya Srivarodom image

Tanya Srivarodom with book ‘Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary’ within Stuart Hall Library, 2023

Our recent placement student Tanya Srivarodom reflects on her research project focused on fashion resources at Stuart Hall Library. 

Growing up, I have always loved clothes. My mom would take me to the mall every weekend – granted, that was all anyone could really do in my small suburban town at the time. We would browse through the hundreds of clothing racks in the department stores, try to find something reasonably priced, and either go home with a new wardrobe or nothing at all. It wasn’t until I got older that I started taking a closer look at my clothes: their material, the silhouette, and how they made me feel. When I moved to New York, I was even more shocked at the level of detail those walking the streets of Soho or 5th Avenue had for their complete outfit. The university that I attended was known for their arts and design program and the students in those courses didn’t disappoint when it came to making life their runway.

My university became hell and a source of inspiration when New York Fashion Week occurred each year. After that I became interested in understanding how the fashion industry functions and its origins. I’d ask my friends who were in the design courses what they were learning in class and how it impacted their own work process. For many of them, they were focused on the design aspect rather than the sociological. At the time, I had very little understanding of fashion in a global context. Especially, in terms of how it is so embedded in the history of class, identity, gender, race, and so much more.

When I first visited Stuart Hall Library, my eyes quickly gravitated to the journals collection. One journal in particular caught my interest as a fashion enthusiast and interdisciplinary major – Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body, and Culture. It was from this that I knew that for my research project I would focus on fashion. For this task I went about finding books, journals, and zines in Stuart Hall’s library collection that centered around different aspects of fashion to serve as a guide for other readers. The major topics that the resources include are: Fashion Theory, Globalization, Cultural Identity, and Art.


The Body and Social Theory by Chris Shilling explores the physical body as a whole and its relationship to society. It does not touch on fashion specifically, but more so an understanding of how others view the body and the implications of existing within a visual society.

Fashion Theory: A Reader edited by Malcom Barnard is a collection of essays which focus on the ‘inception’ of fashion and its major origins. It is suitable for readers who have a general understanding of fashion as a concept or to the specialist reader as it has dedicated sections to particular disciplines that have impacted or helped the concept of fashion. Disciplines such as: anthropology, gender studies, and sociology to name a few.

Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body, and Culture was first launched in 1997. The journal was created due to the fact that the study of fashion suffered from a lack of critical analysis; especially in fields like anthropology, cultural studies, and sociology. The journal covers a wide range of research that interest me and the volumes I would like to highlight are: 1) Volume 7 Issue 3/4 Double Issue (Fashion and Orientalism), Volume 9 Issue 2 (Dress & Gender), and Volume 16 Issue 2 (Body Parts).

Globalization/Capitalism & Cultural Identity

Clothing: A Global History by Robert Ross is a book which includes a detailed analysis of how “Western dress” came to be from Europe and later on nineteenth century North America. Ross uses a global perspective and investigates not only the symbols associated with clothing, but also the process of production and distribution.

Consuming Fashion: Adorning the Transnational Body edited by Anne Brydon and Sandra Niessen draws on ethnographic knowledge that connects theory to practice. Thee book explore the “links between material culture, social and economic forces, and personal performance to explain clothing choices through time and across cultures” (Brydon and Niessen, 1998).

The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization edited by Eugenia Paulicelli and Hazel Clark is a collection of essays that “investigate[s] local and global economies, cultures and identities” (Paulicelli & Clark, 2009). The book was the first in its time that included detailed case studies from countries around the world and the culturally significant pieces of clothing that are held dear to those places.

The Dressed Society by Peter Corrigan focuses on how the act of dressing shapes and “is shaped by social processes and phenomena” (Corrigan, 2008). Corrigan presents an analysis on the hyper-visibility of dress and how the act becomes a visual cue for others to assume identities associated with a particular item of clothing (i.e hijab). Corrigan also writes on the construction of the body in fashion magazines as well as the role of the internet in creating fashion trends.


Pink Arab created by artist Dafy Hagai is a zine that includes a number of photographs of a woman wearing bright-coloured hijabs against a neutral background. The zine explores the hyper-visibility of what it means to wear a hijab and uses art and fashion as a way to showcase that to viewers.

Fashion Library Memor Zine: not just about the cardigans and spectacles was created by library staff from the London College of Fashion. The zine explores the psychological impacts of clothing and the memories we have to specific items like a cardigan or a hat.

The items that I have highlighted are not the only resources that Stuart Hall Library has in its collection when it comes to fashion studies. The purpose of my research was to find items in the library that can be used as a guide for those with varying interests; I’d like to reiterate that this research came from my own curiosity in the field and that I am not an expert. Therefore, I would recommend perusing through the collection at your own time within the library and see what areas of research you gravitate towards.


Tanya Srivarodom is currently a postgraduate student at University College London, studying an MA in Library and Information Studies. She recently completed her work placement at iniva. At present, her research interests focus on the origins of library classification for genres and subgenres within popular music.


Barnard, M. (ed.) (2007). Fashion Theory: A Reader. Routledge Publications.

Brydon, A. & Niessen, S. A. (ed.) (1998). Consuming Fashion: Adoring the Transnational Body. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Corrigan, P. (2008). The Dressed Society: Clothing, the Body, and Some Meanings of the World. Sage Publications.

Hagai, D. (2014). Pink Arab. Self published.

Paulicelli, E. & Clark, H. (ed.) (2009). The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization. Routledge Publications.

Ross, R. (2008). Clothing: A Global History. Polity Press.

Shilling, C. (1993). The Body and Social Theory. Sage Publications.

Stewart, K., Lelkes, J., Penfold-Ericsson, C., Casaro, M., Santic de, M., Davies, H., Ace, A., Smith, R., Burzynska, J., Huggs, L., Johnston, L., Boreham, C., Arscott, T. (2017). Fashion Library Memor Zine: not just about the cardigans and spectacles. London College of Fashion.

Watch the Behind the Display presentation