A One-day symposium exploring ageing and dress

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18 October 2013

Royal College of Art,

Lecture Theatre 1, Kensington Campus, London

Registration is now CLOSED

Delegate Rate – £25           Student Delegate Rate £10

Issues explored include: the constitution of age identities in dress; the fashion industry and the ageing demographic; clothing, shoes and ageing across the life-course.


9.30 – 10.30 Registration (please come to the Jay Mews Entrance at The Royal College of Art, Kensington Campus)

10.30 – 10.35 

Welcome and introduction to the day – Jo-Anne Bichard Senior Research Fellow, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, RCA

10.35 – 11.05   Professor Julia Twigg, University of Kent

Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life

Clothes have traditionally been age ordered, with certain sorts of dress though suitable – or more significant unsuitable – for people as they age. Older women in particular have been subject to pressure to tone down and adopt self-effacing forms of dress. The rise of consumption culture and shifts in the social location of some, at least, older people, however, has begun to erode this. The presentation explores the changing nature of dress for older women, and the meaning of the persistent language of ‘moving younger’ that marks this field. It draws on ESRC funded study published this year as Fashion & Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life.

11.05 – 11.35   Professor Jenny Hockey, University of Sheffield

The temporal landscape of shoes; ageing, identity and footwear

This paper argues for an understanding of dress through its temporal relationship with items worn on or about the body throughout the life course. Using the example of shoes it identifies four different orientations towards time, chronological age and the body via data from a 3 year project on footwear, identity and transition.

11.35 – 12.00 Tea & Coffee

12.00 – 12.35 Dr Christina Buse and Professor Julia Twigg, University of Kent

The way we wear: implications of clothing and dress for people with dementia

This paper explores the role of clothing in the everyday lives of people with dementia, their carers and care-workers, and considers the design implications of everyday difficulties with dress. These issues are examined drawing on findings from an ESRC funded study ‘Dementia and dress’, which used ethnographic and qualitative methods to explore experiences of dress for people with dementia in care home and domestic settings. Findings illustrate how clothing can continue to be important for people with dementia, acting as ‘biographical’ and ‘memory’ objects (Ash 1996; Hoskins 1998), and supporting identity at an embodied level. However, there was often a disjuncture between the significance of clothing to narratives of identity, and the ability to independently enact identity through dress. Changing bodies and care needs associated with living with dementia could also result in difficulties with dress, which could disrupt continuity in dress and identity. This paper goes on to consider the design implications of these issues, and discusses some practical challenges with dress which could be addressed with design solutions.

12.35 – 1.35 Lunch

1.35 -1.55 Introduction to afternoon session and the work of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design – Jo-Anne Bichard HHCD, RCA

1.55 – 2.25pm Dr Sonja Iltanen, Aalto University, Helsinki

Internal conflicts within the work of designers

Based on three empirical studies on design of clothing, ageing and dementia, this presentation demonstrates internal conflicts within the work of designers. The designers’ attitudes towards ageing range from overly positive images of baby boomers to negative associations of dementia. The beneficent intentions to serve the needs of ageing people are often in conflict with the decisions made in the complex real-life design processes. As a result, the garments designed for ageing people are seen as failing to address their social needs – in some cases, even ethically problematic. In the presentation, suggestions are made to overcome these challenges in the fashion industry.

2.25 – 3.25 Open Session Delegates will sign up to speak for 3-5 minutes on their own work.

3.25 – 3.45 Tea & Coffee

3.45 – 4.15 Professor Jane McCann, University of South Wales

Dressing the active ageing through co-design with industry stakeholders

This paper will report on recent collaborative cross-disciplinary research in the area of smart clothes and wearable technologies for the active ageing. it will describe how academia and industry were brought together to identify and address the clothing needs of older users. it will discuss the adoption of an iterative co-design process that led to the development of a functional garment ‘layering system’ with the potential to promote healthy exercise. It will site some early uptake of practical research findings. The project ‘Design for Ageing Well’ was funded by the UK joint Research Councils under the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme (2009-2012).

4.15 – 4.45 Closing Speaker Beth Butterwick CEO Bonmarche

4.45 –  5.00pm Discussion and Closing thoughts and observations Jo-Anne Bichard & Julia Twigg

5.00 – 7.00pm drinks reception and launch of Professor Julia Twigg’s book ‘Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life’,  (Bloomsbury)

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With Thanks to the British Sociological Association for their support of this event.

For more information please contact jo-anne.bichard@rca.ac.uk

One response to “A One-day symposium exploring ageing and dress

  • Karen Kelly

    This looks like a fascinating programme. Will there be lecture notes avilable online? I cannot make this but would love to read more about it. Thank you.

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