Following Argentina’s revolution in 1810, the dress of young patriots inspired a nation and distanced its politics from the relics of Spanish colonialism. Fashion writing often escaped the notice of authorities, allowing authors to masquerade political ideas under the guise of frivolity and entertainment. In Couture and Consensus, Regina A. Root maps this pivotal and overlooked facet of Argentine cultural history, showing how politics emerged from dress to disrupt authoritarian practices and stimulate creativity in a newly independent nation.
Drawing from genres as diverse as fiction, poetry, songs, and fashion magazines, Root offers a sartorial history that produces an original understanding of how Argentina forged its identity during the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas (1829–1852), a critical historical time. Couture and Consensus closely analyzes military uniforms, women’s dress, and the novels of the era to reveal fashion’s role in advancing an agenda and disseminating political goals, notions Root connects to the contemporary moment.
An insightful presentation of the discourse of fashion, Couture and Consensus also paints a riveting portrait of Argentine society in the nineteenth century—its politics, people, and creative forces.
As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so absolutely unbearable that we have to alter it every six months.” And yet it serves to make us beautiful, or at least make us feel beautiful. In this book, Mari Grinde Arntzen asks how and why this is—how can fashion simultaneously attract us to its glamour and repel us with its superficiality and how being called “fashionable” can be at once a compliment and an insult.
Arntzen guides us through the major figures and brands of today’s fashion industry, showing how they shape us and in turn why we love to be shaped by them. She examines both everyday, affordable “fast fashion” brands, as well as the luxury market, to show how fashion commands a powerful influence on every socioeconomic level of our society. Stepping into our closets with us, she thinks about what happens when we get dressed: why fashion can make us feel powerful, beautiful, and original at the same time that it forces us into conformity. Stripping off the layers of the world’s fifth largest industry, garment by garment, she holds fashion up as a phenomenon, business, and art, exploring the questions it forces us to ask about the body, image, celebrity, and self-obsession.
Ultimately, Arntzen asks the most direct question: what is fashion? How has it taken such a powerful hold on the world, forever propelling us toward its concepts of beauty?
In this innovative collaborative ethnography of Italian-Chinese ventures in the fashion industry, Lisa Rofel and Sylvia J. Yanagisako offer a new methodology for studying transnational capitalism. Drawing on their respective linguistic and regional areas of expertise, Rofel and Yanagisako show how different historical legacies of capital, labor, nation, and kinship are crucial in the formation of global capitalism. Focusing on how Italian fashion is manufactured, distributed, and marketed by Italian-Chinese ventures and how their relationships have been complicated by China's emergence as a market for luxury goods, the authors illuminate the often-overlooked processes that produce transnational capitalism—including privatization, negotiation of labor value, rearrangement of accumulation, reconfiguration of kinship, and outsourcing of inequality. In so doing, Fabricating Transnational Capitalism reveals the crucial role of the state and the shifting power relations between nations in shaping the ideas and practices of the Italian and Chinese partners.
Winner of the 2002 Berkshire Prize, presented by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
Fabricating Women examines the social institution of the seamstresses’ guild in France from the time of Louis XIV to the Revolution. In contrast with previous scholarship on women and gender in the early modern period, Clare Haru Crowston asserts that the rise of the absolute state, with its centralizing and unifying tendencies, could actually increase women’s economic, social, and legal opportunities and allow them to thrive in corporate organizations such as the guild. Yet Crowston also reveals paradoxical consequences of the guild’s success, such as how its growing membership and visibility ultimately fostered an essentialized femininity that was tied to fashion and appearances. Situating the seamstresses’ guild as both an economic and political institution, Crowston explores in particular its relationship with the all-male tailors’ guild, which had dominated the clothing fabrication trade in France until women challenged this monopoly during the seventeenth century. Combining archival evidence with visual images, technical literature, philosophical treatises, and fashion journals, she also investigates the techniques the seamstresses used to make and sell clothing, how the garments reflected and shaped modern conceptions of femininity, and guild officials’ interactions with royal and municipal authorities. Finally, by offering a revealing portrait of these women’s private lives—explaining, for instance, how many seamstresses went beyond traditional female boundaries by choosing to remain single and establish their own households—Crowston challenges existing ideas about women’s work and family in early modern Europe. Although clothing lay at the heart of French economic production, social distinction, and cultural identity, Fabricating Women is the first book to investigate this immense and archetypal female guild in depth. It will be welcomed by students and scholars of French and European history, women’s and labor history, fashion and technology, and early modern political economy.
This volume addresses many of the complex issues raised by North American integration through the lens of one of the largest and most global industries in the region: textiles and apparel. In part, this is a story of winners and losers in the globalization process, especially if one focuses on jobs lost and jobs gained in different countries and communities within North America, defined here as: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. However, it would be a mistake to view the industry solely in these zerosum terms. The North American apparel industry is an excellent illustration of larger trends in the global economy, in which regional divisions of labor appear to be one of the most stable and effective responses to globalization.The contributors to this volume are an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars who have all done detailed fieldwork at the firm and factory levels in one or more countries of North America. Taken together the essays offer theoretical and methodological innovations built around the intersection of the global commodity chains and industrial districts literatures, as well as innovative approaches to studying the impact of cross-national, interfirm networks in terms of production and trade issues, and local development outcomes for workers and communities.
"An excellent and often impressive book that advances our understanding of the internationalization of production and the ways in which it is actually implemented in specific sites."
--Saskia Sassen, Department of Urban Planning, Columbia University
This collection of original essays examines the social and political consequences of the globalization of the apparel industry in Asia, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States. The contributors analyze the countries' trade policies, the apparel industry's network of capital ad labor, working conditions in garment factories, and the role of workers, especially women. Written by scholars of various nationalities and from different disciplines, this volume provides a look at the industry from the perspective of participants within each country and illustrates a general trend toward the internationalization of production and global economic restructuring.
"[C]ontains an impressive array of good case studies on a variety of regions and countries, with special focus on how the United States apparel industry relates to globalization in each case."
--Journal of American Ethnic History
Monitoring Sweatshops offers the first comprehensive assessment of efforts to address and improve conditions in garment factories. Jill Esbenshade describes the government's efforts to persuade retailers and clothing companies to participate in private monitoring programs. She shows the different approaches to monitoring that firms have taken, and the variety of private monitors employed, from large accounting companies to local non-profits. Esbenshade also shows how the efforts of the anti-sweatshop movement have forced companies to employ monitors overseas as well. When monitoring is understood as the result of the withdrawal of governments from enforcing labor standards as well as the weakening of labor unions, it becomes clear that the United States is experiencing a shift from a social contract between workers, businesses, and government to one that Jill Esbenshade calls the social responsibility contract. She illustrates this by presenting the recent history of monitoring, with considerable attention to the most thorough of the Department of Labor's programs, the one in Los Angeles. Esbenshade also explains the maze of alternative approaches being employed worldwide to decide the questions of what should be monitored and by whom.
When we donate our unwanted clothes to charity, we rarely think about what will happen to them: who will sort and sell them, and finally, who will revive and wear them. In this fascinating look at the multibillion dollar secondhand clothing business, Karen Tranberg Hansen takes us around the world from the West, where clothing is donated, through the salvage houses in North America and Europe, where it is sorted and compressed, to Africa, in this case, Zambia. There it enters the dynamic world of Salaula, a Bemba term that means "to rummage through a pile."
Essential for the African economy, the secondhand clothing business is wildly popular, to the point of threatening the indigenous textile industry. But, Hansen shows, wearing secondhand clothes is about much more than imitating Western styles. It is about taking a garment and altering it to something entirely local, something that adheres to current cultural norms of etiquette. By unraveling how these garments becomes entangled in the economic, political, and cultural processes of contemporary Zambia, Hansen also raises provocative questions about environmentalism, charity, recycling, and thrift.
"A brilliant and beautiful book, the mature work of a lifetime, must reading for students of the globalization debate."
"Slaves to Fashion is a remarkable achievement, several books in one: a gripping history of sweatshops, explaining their decline, fall, and return; a study of how the media portray them; an analysis of the fortunes of the current anti-sweatshop movement; an anatomy of the global traffic in apparel, in particular the South-South competition that sends wages and working conditions plummeting toward the bottom; and not least, a passionate declaration of faith that humanity can find a way to get its work done without sweatshops. This is engaged sociology at its most stimulating."
". . . unflinchingly portrays the reemergence of the sweatshop in our dog-eat-dog economy."
---Los Angeles Times
Just as Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed uncovered the plight of the working poor in America, Robert J. S. Ross's Slaves to Fashion exposes the dark side of the apparel industry and its exploited workers at home and abroad. It's both a lesson in American business history and a warning about one of the most important issues facing the global capital economy-the reappearance of the sweatshop.
Vividly detailing the decline and tragic rebirth of sweatshop conditions in the American apparel industry of the twentieth century, Ross explains the new sweatshops as a product of unregulated global capitalism and associated deregulation, union erosion, and exploitation of undocumented workers. Using historical material and economic and social data, the author shows that after a brief thirty-five years of fair practices, the U.S. apparel business has once again sunk to shameful abuse and exploitation.
Refreshingly jargon-free but documented in depth, Slaves to Fashion is the only work to estimate the size of the sweatshop problem and to systematically show its impact on apparel workers' wages. It is also unique in its analysis of the budgets and personnel used in enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Anyone who is concerned about this urgent social and economic topic and wants to go beyond the headlines should read this important and timely contribution to the rising debate on low-wage factory labor.
Robert J.S. Ross is Professor of Sociology, Clark University. He is an expert in the area of sweatshops and globalization. He is an activist academic who travels and lectures extensively and has published numerous related articles.
For the past few decades, the U.S. anti-sweatshop movement was bolstered by actions from American college students. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) effectively advanced the cause of workers’ rights in sweatshops around the world. Strategizing against Sweatshops chronicles the evolution of student activism and presents an innovative model of how college campuses are a critical site for the advancement of global social justice.
Matthew Williams shows how USAS targeted apparel companies outsourcing production to sweatshop factories with weak or non-existent unions. USAS did so by developing a campaign that would support workers organizing by leveraging their college’s partnerships with global apparel firms like Nike and Adidas to abide by pro-labor codes of conduct.
Strategizing against Sweatshops exemplifies how organizations and actors cooperate across a movement to formulate a coherent strategy responsive to the conditions in their social environment. Williams also provides a model of political opportunity structure to show how social context shapes the chances of a movement’s success—and how movements can change that political opportunity structure in turn. Ultimately, he shows why progressive student activism remains important.
Americans have been shocked by media reports of the dismal working conditions in factories that make clothing for U.S. companies. But while well intentioned, many of these reports about child labor and sweatshop practices rely on stereotypes of how Third World factories operate, ignoring the complex economic dynamics driving the global apparel industry.
To dispel these misunderstandings, Jane L. Collins visited two very different apparel firms and their factories in the United States and Mexico. Moving from corporate headquarters to factory floors, her study traces the diverse ties that link First and Third World workers and managers, producers and consumers. Collins examines how the transnational economics of the apparel industry allow firms to relocate or subcontract their work anywhere in the world, making it much harder for garment workers in the United States or any other country to demand fair pay and humane working conditions.
Putting a human face on globalization, Threads shows not only how international trade affects local communities but also how workers can organize in this new environment to more effectively demand better treatment from their distant corporate employers.
The coveted “Made in Italy” label calls to mind visions of nimble-fingered Italian tailors lovingly sewing elegant, high-end clothing. The phrase evokes a sense of authenticity, heritage, and rustic charm. Yet, as Elizabeth L. Krause uncovers in Tight Knit, Chinese migrants are the ones sewing “Made in Italy” labels into low-cost items for a thriving fast-fashion industry—all the while adding new patterns to the social fabric of Italy’s iconic industry.
Krause offers a revelatory look into how families involved in the fashion industry are coping with globalization based on longterm research in Prato, the historic hub of textile production in the heart of metropolitan Tuscany. She brings to the fore the tensions—over value, money, beauty, family, care, and belonging—that are reaching a boiling point as the country struggles to deal with the same migration pressures that are triggering backlash all over Europe and North America. Tight Knit tells a fascinating story about the heterogeneity of contemporary capitalism that will interest social scientists, immigration experts, and anyone curious about how globalization is changing the most basic of human conditions—making a living and making a life.
America searched for an answer to "The Labor Question" during the Progressive Era in an effort to avoid the unrest and violence that flared so often in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the ladies' garment industry, a unique experiment in industrial democracy brought together labor, management, and the public. As Richard Greenwald explains, it was an attempt to "square free market capitalism with ideals of democracy to provide a fair and just workplace." Led by Louis Brandeis, this group negotiated the "Protocols of Peace." But in the midst of this experiment, 146 mostly young, immigrant women died in the Triangle Factory Fire of 1911. As a result of the fire, a second, interrelated experiment, New York's Factory Investigating Commission (FIC)—led by Robert Wagner and Al Smith—created one of the largest reform successes of the period. The Triangle Fire, the Protocols of Peace, and Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New York uses these linked episodes to show the increasing interdependence of labor, industry, and the state. Greenwald explains how the Protocols and the FIC best illustrate the transformation of industrial democracy and the struggle for political and economic justice.
Changes in the global economy have real and contradictory outcomes for the everyday lives of women workers. In 2001, Nancy Plankey-Videla had a rare opportunity to witness these effects firsthand. Having secured access to one of Latin America's top producers of high-end men's suits in Mexico for participant-observer research, she labored as a machine operator for nine months on a shop floor made up, mostly, of women. The firm had recently transformed itself from traditional assembly techniques, to lean, cutting-edge, Japanese-style production methods. Lured initially into the firm by way of increased wages and benefits, workers had helped shoulder the company's increasing debts. When the company's plan for successful expansion went awry and it reneged on promises it had made to the workforce, women workers responded by walking out on strike.
Building upon in-depth interviews with over sixty workers, managers, and policy makers, Plankey-Videla documents and analyzes events leading up to the female-led factory strike and its aftermath—including harassment from managers, corrupt union officials and labor authorities, and violent governor-sanctioned police actions. We Are in This Dance Together illustrates how the women's shared identity as workers and mothers—deserving of dignity, respect, and a living wage—became the basis for radicalization and led to further civic organizing against the state, the company, and the corrupt union to demand justice.