Fashion Nerds Converge

“I always sit in the front row,” I overheard a young woman tell her friend. “I’m a nerd.”

I could relate. A nerd myself, I arrived early at Convergence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fashion, Ryerson University’s first Fashion Studies graduate symposium that took place last November, and observed the over-caffeinated presenters as they organized their notes, unpacked their laptops and scurried about.

Other snippets of conversation that could be appreciated by WORN readers surrounded me:

“What are you wearing? I can see the Peter Pan collar!”

“There has to be a certain number of left-handed desks in the room. It’s called equity.”

“I’m going to wear my hat during my talk. I’m going to wear it until Wednesday.”

“You have every right to squeal; tutus are a sight to behold.”

“I’m not putting a name tag on silk.”

As the students, professors and guests took their seats, Sarah Portway, a Ryerson graduate student and one of the presenters, discovered her PowerPoint presentation would not load properly.

“It’s like I tell my students,” she said. “If there’s one thing that will screw you up, it’s technology. Late last night, I decided to be funny and create a pictogram. This is my punishment. Maybe it’s because my computer’s made of wood.”

I asked her if this was true. “Yeah, the outside is bamboo. My talk is about sustainability, so I should put my money where my mouth is.”

During her introduction, Associate Professor Dr. Alison David Matthews explained the title of the symposium. ‘Convergence,’ she said, means to ‘bend towards.’ It was a good metaphor for the diverse but overlapping topics discussed throughout the day.

Caroline O’Brien inspects a tutu for her talk on the Ballerina in Western Culture

From harem pants in interwar Paris to style blogs in the digital age, the presentations touched on the conflicts inherent in the study of fashion. Is fashion decorative or protective? Superficial or indispensable? Frivolous or feminist?
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