Sportswear and Hybridity: the Star, the Cinema and Middle-class Leisure Fashions in 1930s Japan

Key information

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Russell Square: College Buildings

About this event

Lois Barnett

The thesis research examines the role of Western-inspired fashion items (as opposed to indigenous garments such as the kimono) in the Japanese cinema of the 1920s and 1930s, and the co-operation between the cinema, fashion-related industries and print media in encouraging the commercial activities of the audience member as consumer. With a theoretical basis rooted in Miriam Bratu Hansen's concept of the classical cinema as an immersive 'sensory-reflexive horizon' and Mary Ann Doane's work on consumerism and female spectatorship, here I present the role of Japan's cinema system during the 1930s in marketing the state-supported concept of "bunka seikatsu," a "cultured life," to the middle-class man and woman who could participate via their sartorial and cosmetic purchasing choices. I particularly focus on the role of sports and leisure time within this "cultured life," both due to the influential role of the (later cancelled) 1940 Tokyo Olympics and its correspondence with state-endorsed eugenics initiatives which promoted a strong (and often Western-styled) body both for men and women via spectacles such as beauty contests. I use star case studies, print media and film analysis in order to discuss the promotion of a "hybridised" dress and body aesthetic, composed of elements presented as both "Western" and "Japanese," with the sporting world acting as its locus.

About the Speaker:

Lois Barnett is a third-year PhD Film Studies candidate at SOAS funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation researching the thesis "An Investigation of Audience Responses To and Motivations for the Use of Western-Inspired Costume in Japanese Cinema (1923-39)." Her work examines the interaction between the consumer-as- audience-member and Japan's transnational film and fashion industries, taking an interdisciplinary approach which considers the role of dress and the cinema in articulating modernity. Themes appearing in her work include the Modern Girl and Modern Boy, the effect of the onset of sound cinema on costume in the Japanese cinema and the role of body image in marketing sportswear onscreen in the 1930s.