Dr Barbara Brownie is a design theorist who considers the relationship between clothes and the body, most recently concentrating on the dressed body in microgravity.
As Assistant Dean (Education) in the School of Communication, Barbara joined the RCA to implement the new MA model within the School and across the RCA.
Barbara’s research is often interdisciplinary, straddling the disciplines of fashion, product design, film and television, and engineering. She is concerned with the temporal and behavioural aspects of the relationship between the body and designed objects, particularly dress. She also considers how these behaviours are represented on screen.
Her most recent monograph, Spacewear: Weightlessness and the Final Frontier of Fashion, considers the behaviour of clothes and the dressed body in microgravity, and identifies key considerations for design for weightless environments. This research has been the basis for several student/staff collaborations and student projects. Working with the UK Space Agency and Blue Abyss astronaut training teams, Barbara led projects on the theme of microgravity design for students on Fashion, Interior Architecture and Product Design programmes.
Alongside design theory, Barbara also conducts pedagogical research. In 2020, she curated an exhibition entitled Educator/Maker that examined the dual identity of academics in the creative arts as educators and makers, and showcased artefacts produced by lecturers in the process of teaching. She has also explored creative arts students’ approaches to academic reading across several projects including Reading Hacks (2018–19).
‘Reading Hacks: new approaches to textual learning’. University of Hertfordshire Learning and Teaching Innovation Awards (2019)
‘Animating Theory’. University of Hertfordshire Learning and Teaching Awards (2018)
Going Global: Enhancing international cultural, social and professional perspectives with the student experience (2016)
Current and recent projects
Creative practice for spaceflight
Barbara has expanded her investigation into design for weightlessness to more broadly consider the roles that creative practitioners can play in space exploration. She is exploring the place of the visual arts in the emerging commercial spaceflight industry, and the ways in which microgravity alters approaches to visual arts practice. She is particularly concerned with the ways in which post-gravity thinking prompts critical reflection on existing approaches to practice.
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Brownie, B. (2021). A Sense of Space: the separation of dress and body in microgravity. The Senses and Society, 16 (3).
Brownie, B. (2020). Dressing the Weightless Body: Subjective verticality and the disoriented experience of dress in microgravity Clothing Cultures, 6 (3).
Brownie, B. (2019). Spacewear: Weightlessness and the Final Frontier of Fashion, London: Bloomsbury.
Brownie, B. (2019). Clothes as Pseudo-Events: Ballyhoo, Rapture Bombs and Reginald Perrin. In: Sitbon, C. and Crossley, L. eds., Deception: Spies, Lies and Forgeries. Netherlands: Brill.
Brownie, B (2016). Dictionary Dressings. In: De Vries, F. & Hoette, R. (eds.), Dictionary Dressings: Re-Reading clothing definitions towards alternative fashion perspective. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.
Brownie, B. (2016). Acts of Undressing: Politics, Eroticism, and Discarded Clothing. London: Bloomsbury.
Brownie, B. and Graydon, D. (2015). The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fiction and Fact, London: Bloomsbury.
Brownie, B. (2015). Fluid Typography: Transforming Letterforms in television idents. Arts and the Market, 5 (2).
Brownie, B. (2015). The Masculinisation of Dressing Up. Clothing Cultures, 2 (2).
Brownie, B. (2014). Transforming Type: New Directions in Temporal Typography. London: Bloomsbury.
Brownie, B. (2014). A New History of Temporal Typography: Towards fluid letterforms. Journal of Design History, 26 (4).
External collaborations and activities
(2020–present) Member, Space Habitats Committee, International Astronautical Federation.