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How Jazz Influenced Fashion

March 17, 2015

Jazz gained mainstream popularity during a volatile period of racial segregation and gender inequality in the decades that followed its late 19th century inception.  Against adverse conditions, jazz performers discovered the power of distinctive dress as a visual tool used to defy mainstream societal constructs, shaping a new fashion and style aesthetic. Fashion Design Professor Alphonso McClendon’s new book, Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation, looks at these relationships in the evolving jazz and fashion subcultures. In celebration of Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation month, we’ll host a book launch event open to the public on April 20, and Professor McClendon will give a talk exploring the social and political entanglements of jazz and dress.

The book launch and talk will take place at 6:00pm in URBN Center Room 349 (3501 Market Street). Professor McClendon’s book (Bloomsbury Publishing) draws on fashion studies and cultural theory to unpack a number of previously underexplored areas of jazz culture, such as modern dandyism, a correlation between drug use and fashionable dress, and the prominence of and nostalgia for jazz aesthetics in media and popular culture. From April through June, McClendon will exhibit photography from the book by renowned jazz photographer and musician Charles Peterson, courtesy of Don Peterson. The photography can be viewed in the Charles Evans Library exhibition window on the third floor of the URBN Center.

McClendon’s research was conducted at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History, the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University and the Free Library of Philadelphia.