SOAS University of London

Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies

Miss Lois Barnett



Lois Barnett
Miss Lois Barnett
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Thesis title:
An Investigation of Audience Responses To and Motivations for the Use of Western-Inspired Costume in Japanese Cinema (1923-39)
Internal Supervisors


I have studied at SOAS since 2010, gaining both a BA in Japanese Studies and an MA in Global Cinemas and the Transcultural. 

My interest in the involvement of Western clothing in negotiations of Japanese modernity has been present since the onset of my BA studies, culminating in the extended essay "An Evaluation of Meiji Era Fashion: its Evolution, Variation and Relationship with Japanese National Identity" and the dissertation "Japanese Appropriation of Western Fashion During Meiji & Taishō: Perceptions and Approaches." I then applied my interest in Japanese usages of Western-inspired attire to the filmic context during my MA studies for the dissertation “An Analysis of The Role of Western Costume in Selected Films by Mizoguchi Kenji and Shimazu Yasujirō.” 

I am particularly interested in the semiotics of fashion objects onscreen, audience responses to fashion objects expressed in related media and consumer practices (particularly in regards to gender) and interdisciplinary approaches to discussing the role of fashion on film.

PhD Research

I propose to examine the role of Western-inspired costume in Japanese cinema between 1923 and 1939. This involves exploring motivations for including Western costume in Japanese cinema of this time period, alongside audience responses to its inclusion. I will also engage with debates on modernity's relationship with fashion and cultural means of representing personal and social demographics, consulting discourses concerning the place of modernity pertaining to gender, age and socio-economic positioning. My hypothesis is that the cinema's usage of Western costuming allows for a two-way communication of modernity, with the cinema simultaneously shaping and responding to audience attitudes to the socio-political changes exerting force upon mass culture, within both a global and national context.

Currently, no specific studies of this topic exist. While some works discuss the role of Western fashions and costume within the context of Japanese negotiations of modernity, it is always treated as a peripheral factor and has never before been isolated as a distinct focus for study in its own right, particularly within film studies. By applying a discussion of the appropriation of Western attire's place within modernity directly to a focused context –- that of Japanese cinema of the 1920s and 1930s - and by considering its effect on its respective audience, the project will be able to address the combined direct human effects of both sartorial change and its onscreen representation, addressing a gap in existing scholarship. This examination of fashion and costume‘s influence on society via the visual mass medium of film may also allow it to become a possible basis for further research within other regions or historical contexts; the project presents fashion, costume and the cinema as agents in both formative and continuing processes of social negotiations of the modern situation which are relatable to countless areas throughout the world.