Costuming Potential: Accommodating Unworn Clothes

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Carrie Hertz


Mindful of theoretical discourses developed in anthropology, folklore, and material culture studies, this article uses preliminary findings from an ethnographic case study conducted in Bloomington, Indiana amongst recent college graduates to examine not only the "why" of keeping unworn clothing in America, but more importantly the "how." Previous studies of kept clothing—as well as of saved belongings more generally—have almost exclusively highlighted the positive emotional and existential benefits of keeping for owners. This article complicates that picture by focusing on objects characterized by their owners as burdens. By attending closely to the historical, geographical, and socially-situated reality of its subjects, this exploratory investigation offers new insights into practical strategies for manipulating normative values attached to clothing and easing feelings of ambivalence connected with their continued accommodation.


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Author Biography

Carrie Hertz, Indiana University

Doctoral Student, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology Carrie Hertz is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. Her research focuses on museum and material culture studies, with a special emphasis on the study of clothing and self-adornment. She is currently conducting ethnographic research on wedding dresses in the Midwest for her dissertation.