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Stephanie Benjamin

MA work

This dissertation explores the meanings invested in corporate femininity and practices of ‘dressing for success’ in late twentieth-century Britain. The focus presents power dressing as distinct from the American context popularised in film and television drama and introduces the particularities inherent in a local case study. The project situates power dressing as a technique manipulated by ‘real’ women working in the corporate sector, a mediated rhetoric of executive fashionability and an ideological strategy implemented by organisations such as British Airways and Midland Bank Group to regulate the working body. Highlighting the dynamics of work clothing allows the various potentialities invested in corporate gender roles, and the ways in which those roles were manifested in contemporary design and culture, to be revealed.

Power dressing and corporate femininity in this dissertation are not equated with synthetic glamour, but emerge as specific political, social and economic discourses related to frameworks of aspiration, interpretation and control. Power dressing materialises as a form of high-fashion and mass-market fashion ‘play’ characterised by embodied performativity and a preoccupation with corporate branding. The thesis argues that the power invested in the symbolic consumption of career clothing simultaneously marked the corporate female as a subject and as a body subjected to mechanisms of sartorial discipline, but in any case as a chic, engaged agent seeking access to power relations within late twentieth-century corporate structures.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2009

  • Contact

  • This dissertation explores the meanings invested in corporate femininity and practices of ‘dressing for success’ in late twentieth-century Britain. The focus presents power dressing as distinct from the American context popularised in film and television drama and introduces the particularities inherent in a local case study. The project situates power dressing as a technique manipulated by ‘real’ women working in the corporate sector, a mediated rhetoric of executive fashionability and an ideological strategy implemented by organisations such as British Airways and Midland Bank Group to regulate the working body. Highlighting the dynamics of work clothing allows the various potentialities invested in corporate gender roles, and the ways in which those roles were manifested in contemporary design and culture, to be revealed.

    Power dressing and corporate femininity in this dissertation are not equated with synthetic glamour, but emerge as specific political, social and economic discourses related to frameworks of aspiration, interpretation and control. Power dressing materialises as a form of high-fashion and mass-market fashion ‘play’ characterised by embodied performativity and a preoccupation with corporate branding. The thesis argues that the power invested in the symbolic consumption of career clothing simultaneously marked the corporate female as a subject and as a body subjected to mechanisms of sartorial discipline, but in any case as a chic, engaged agent seeking access to power relations within late twentieth-century corporate structures.

  • Degrees

  • MA History of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, USA, 2007; BA (Hons) History of Art, Indiana University, USA, 2004
  • Experience

  • Professional Curatorial Assistant, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2008-9; Curatorial, Collections Management & Research Assistant, Historical Textiles and Apparel Collection, The University of Texas at Austin, USA, 2006-7; Registrar and Curatorial Assistant, Massachusetts Audubon Society Visual Arts Center, Boston, USA, 2004-5; Education Assistant & Registrar, Bloomington Area Arts Council & John Waldron Arts Center, USA, 2003-4
  • Exhibitions

  • John Galanos, The University of Texas at Austin, USA, 2007; Christian Dior: 1950-1970, The University of Texas at Austin, USA, 2007
  • Awards

  • M K Hage Endowed Scholarship in Fine Arts, 2006; Robert E Burke Award for Excellence in History of Art, 2004; Basil Taylor Memorial Prize, 2008