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Carly Eck

MA work

In 1938 Life reported that the estimated sales figures for the Californian playwear industry was worth $25,000,000. Despite this contribution to the American economy, and since the term ‘play-clothes’ is no longer in contemporary parlance, this historical genre of clothing remains ambiguous and overlooked. With reference to primary-source material of surviving dress and media representation this dissertation explores Southern Californian women’s play-clothes between 1936 and 1959.

Play-clothes embodied the aspirations of the ‘good’ life promoted by the media and booster industries as an idealised conceptualisation of the Southern California leisured, sun-laden and al fresco lifestyle. The argument of the dissertation suggests that play-clothes were a metaphor for the California dream. The dissertation situates play-clothes in three different locales: the beach, backyard and beyond California. It looks at how play-clothes worn by women enabled them to negotiate between the ludic spaces of the beach, the swimming pool and the home. From the late 1940s play-clothes increasingly shifted from a regional identity and embodied an international identity in a growing globalised fashion industry. This is illustrated in the collaborations between Southern Californian play-clothes designers and European fashion designers. Also addressed is how the design and media representation of play-clothes acted as an ‘imagined community’ and created a desire for otherness. Finally, play-clothes are explored in Britain to consider the influence of Californian, later more generally American, playwear design.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2009

  • In 1938 Life reported that the estimated sales figures for the Californian playwear industry was worth $25,000,000. Despite this contribution to the American economy, and since the term ‘play-clothes’ is no longer in contemporary parlance, this historical genre of clothing remains ambiguous and overlooked. With reference to primary-source material of surviving dress and media representation this dissertation explores Southern Californian women’s play-clothes between 1936 and 1959.

    Play-clothes embodied the aspirations of the ‘good’ life promoted by the media and booster industries as an idealised conceptualisation of the Southern California leisured, sun-laden and al fresco lifestyle. The argument of the dissertation suggests that play-clothes were a metaphor for the California dream. The dissertation situates play-clothes in three different locales: the beach, backyard and beyond California. It looks at how play-clothes worn by women enabled them to negotiate between the ludic spaces of the beach, the swimming pool and the home. From the late 1940s play-clothes increasingly shifted from a regional identity and embodied an international identity in a growing globalised fashion industry. This is illustrated in the collaborations between Southern Californian play-clothes designers and European fashion designers. Also addressed is how the design and media representation of play-clothes acted as an ‘imagined community’ and created a desire for otherness. Finally, play-clothes are explored in Britain to consider the influence of Californian, later more generally American, playwear design.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Fashion History and Theory, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, 2006
  • Experience

  • Research Assistant, Royal College of Art/Screen Archive South East, 2009; Volunteer for the exhibition Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2007-9; Volunteer in the Costume Collection, Museum of London, 2004-6