swimsuit, c. 1950 w swatches.jpg

A colorful, pattered play suit with side sash...and a cover up. As women re-evaluated social norms about just how much body they could show, clothing with "cover up" options were both practical and "appropriate." 


East Coast/West Coast:

A History of the American Fashion Industry

For more than a century, New York and Los Angeles have defined American fashion. East Coast/ West Coast considers how these cities came to be both centers for the seemingly endless production of actual garments, but also style centers. How can place (in this case New York and Los Angeles, but it could be absolutely anywhere else) shape what we wear? 

New York City was the petri dish for manufacturers to "test" fashions. So the taste of New Yorkers literally determined what was sold in retailers across the country. Los Angeles? Innovative design and the winds of cultural change powered that city to national prominence in a period of 20 years (1920-1940). Boom. In both actual garments and cultural sway, the Los Angeles clothing industry is one of the great success stories of the twentieth century.

East Coast/West Coast tells the story of how New York and Los Angeles became the fashion capitals of the United States and how their cultural, social, and economic influence determined what most Americans wore every single day of their lives. This book is about business and history, technology and consumerism, and clothes. 

 I use both archival documents and material culture, including: Chamber of Commerce papers; business records of manufacturers and department stores; oral histories; and the garments themselves—printed rayon culottes, silk beach pajamas, and wool jersey swimsuits.

Expected completion: Spring 2020