In the Preface to Charlotte Nicklas and Annabella Pollen’s recent volume, Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice, dress historian Lou Taylor revisits what she famously referred to “the great divide” in her benchmark text, The Study of Dress History (2002)—or the fact that there has long existed a rift between object-based dress history and the social and economic study of fashion. Given the global spread of the interdisciplinary and multi-methodological field of fashion studies over the past decade, it is an appropriate place for the editors to begin to in order to gauge if and to what extent we have managed to bridge this so-called divide, as well as to assess how we draw disciplinary borders around the sister disciplines of “dress history” and “fashion studies” today. Optimistically, Taylor ultimately concludes that there is “now little remaining dispute about the vital importance of interdisciplinarity across the field today” (p. xiii). Nicklas and Pollen, on the other hand, argue that there is still work to be done. In the Introduction, the editors explain how, in spite of the great strides made toward legitimizing the study of dress history over the past thirty years, unfortunately, we continue to overlook peoples, objects and histories “marginalized due to ethnicity, geography, gender or social position, or simply because they did not or do not fit neatly into pre-existing categories” (p. 1).
Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice therefore stands as an attempt made by Nicklas and Pollen to reflect on how far we have come, but also, to jettison the study of dress history into the future—to propose new sites and spaces for studying dress history, as well as to interrogate the relationship between theory and practice in order to deepen our appreciation of fashion and dress as multivalent, global phenomena.