The rise of the stylist – London 1980-1985: etymology, social history and status

Clarke, Philip John (2022) The rise of the stylist – London 1980-1985: etymology, social history and status. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The fashion stylist, an occupation primarily based on that of the magazine fashion editor, achieved recognition as a distinct freelance role in Britain in the 1980s. The acknowledgment of styling coincided with the ascendancy of ‘style press’ publications and with a heightened awareness of the currency of stylistic difference in postmodern culture. This research project centres on the adoption of the job title ‘stylist’ by those performing particular tasks in the production of fashion image; the study triangulates a critical evaluation of literature, both in fashion studies and related fields, with an etymology of key terms and with analysis of data drawn from editorial content and oral history accounts.

An etymology of the word ‘stylist’, both as an occupational title and in other contexts, defines the various historical uses of the term and the range of practices and responsibilities with which it is associated. The evolution of related terms is also explored, focusing on the prominent use of ‘style’ in the contexts of subcultural and postmodern debate.

The study discusses the factors, both within London in the 1980s and in the broader field of postmodern culture, that contributed to the emergence of the role and its status in the field of fashion image-making. Data drawn from oral history interviews with stylists and their peers describe the social context and creative scene of London at that time.

Analysis of editorial content, comprising a range of British fashion and style publications from 1980 to 1985, compares the crediting of editorial and freelance personnel within each magazine and examines evidence of styling in fashion photography. The specific nature of the stylist’s role is identified in relation to that of other creative occupations, locating discussion of fashion styling within existing theoretical debates. Oral history accounts provide further identification of the stylist’s working processes, their interaction with other creative roles and the perception of their status within the production network.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
A. > School of Media and Performing Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 36550
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 15:45
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2023 15:00

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