ONCE WORN: AMBER BUTCHART

If you study, follow or work in the field of fashion then you're probably familiar with Amber Butchart, the seriously hip fashion historian/DJ/lecturer/TV personality and author. Butchart's career is booming with opportunity so we were thrilled  to steal a few minutes of her time to talk fashion history and personal style.  From her latest book Nautical Chic to fashion facts you'll be surprised to learn, Amber shares some must read updates and insights about her stellar career as a fashion historian. Follow @AmberButchart on Instagram.

 

Why did you pursue a career in fashion history

I started off as a buyer for the vintage chain Beyond Retro (http://www.beyondretro.com/en/) back when the word 'vintage' was only just finding its way into fashion magazines. So it was really working with the items themselves that fueled my interest. I also did the MA in History & Culture of Fashion at London College of Fashion (where I'm currently an Associate Lecturer), which gave a theoretical basis to the work I was doing at Beyond Retro, and the rest is history!

What genre, era or mode of fashion do you find most interesting

I find most eras interesting, choosing a favourite is difficult! But I think if I had to choose one I would choose the long 18th century - from the Restoration through to Victoria's reign. That's a pretty long century, to be fair, but covers so much change that's it's fascinating to study.

How has studying fashion history influenced your personal style

I'm lucky in that all the work I do involves research, from our Jazz FM show (http://jazzfm.com/onair/programmes/peppermintcandy/) that focuses a lot on forgotten women of the jazz age, to the writing and lecturing that I do on different aspects of fashion history and the cultural life of dress. I find it all inspirational and definitely take elements on board when I can, for example I was influenced by Russian Constructivist design for the outfit I recently wore to speak about Soviet fashion. I like to use a literal interpretation of what I'm discussing where possible. 

Who are your style icons

Janelle Monae, many of the Advanced Style women and the art teacher in the film Ghost World. (http://advancedstyle.blogspot.co.uk/)

Tell us about an exciting project you’re working on

I'm just finishing my latest book, Nautical Chic, for Thames & Hudson. It's a look at the history of high style on the high seas, from officers and sailors to fishermen and pirates. It will be out in Spring 2015 published by Thames & Hudson in the UK and by Abrams in the States. 

Share a fashion history fact that we’d be surprised to learn

High heels were originally worn by men for horse riding, and in the 17th century King Louis XIV - the Sun King - was a big fan. The colour red – at the time costly to produce – was favoured by the king for his heels. Only those admitted to his court were allowed to wear such markers of virility, wealth and status. It just goes to show that our ‘gendering’ of clothing changes over time.

Is there a fashion collection or exhibition you’ve been wanting to see

I'm looking forward to seeing the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty show when it comes to the V&A next year. I'd also love to get to New York this autumn for the Met exhibition on mourning dress.

How do you see this industry evolving in the future

Fashion is becoming more popular both in a museum setting and in an academic context. To me this makes sense, as I think it's an area of design history that can tell us a lot about our past, as clothing has a visceral relationship to our bodies, and has also had a huge impact on society, from the economic - such as driving the industrial revolution - to allowing us to express our cultural beliefs. So I hope to see the area growing and becoming ever more popular! 

Any advice you'd like to share with young people looking to get into the field

Don't give up! There's a lot of hard work involved, but if you love it you should stick with it.