Previous Work

As part of my undergraduate degree in Fashion Marketing and Retail Design. I completed projects on merchandising, marketing, brand identity and changing consumer markets.

Below are extracts of my undergraduate dissertation and final major project.

All views are my own

Dissertation

I titled my dissertation “Fashion as a means of defining the social role of women in the country music genre – How do female music artists negotiate fashion and identity in a traditionally male dominated genre?”. Within this I examined the ideas of femininity and dress with both traditional and contemporary country music, as well as conducted a case study on Dolly Parton.

The introduction gives an overview of the piece:

“This dissertation will investigate the cultural construction of American female country music artists, by exploring why a female artist’s styling and fashion choices differ within the country music genre and why specifically in the sub-genres of traditional and contemporary country music. It will include a discussion on the challenges encountered from the “distinct gender roles from men and women” (McCuster/Pecknold: 2004) that have been continuously present within American society, and how female artists sought to dispel those stereotypes and break into the country genre. Finally I will chart if, and why, there were any significant changes in female artists’ clothing choices during the period when they rose from obscurity to national recognition.

Country music is stereotypically perceived to be a male dominated genre, the preserve of rural hillbillies either with their slide guitars singing at barn dances or strumming their banjos whilst rocking back and forth on their front porches. It is largely assumed that men wear cowboy hats and checked shirts and are the main characters within this particular music style, with the lyrics and content being very male orientated. Women are often portrayed as secondary objects dressed in shorts, bikini tops and cowboy boots with suntanned skin or airbrushed physiques. This is often shown in male artists lyrics and also music videos. The genre as a whole is often accused of portraying women as objects, for their male counterparts to dress them up and show them off as simple accessories as is shown in the music videos of artists such as Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. This dissertation aims to challenge this stereotype and explain that this is not the format for all women in the country music genre. It aims to show that women are not necessarily always pushed to the side-lines, but have taken charge of their own careers and pushed through the masculine ‘bro-country’ attitude and its associated cultural and social stereotypes. Many female country artists perform and write music that has real social and emotional content, whilst incorporating clothing to create additional meaning and attitude to reinforce the lyrics and message conveyed.

In addition to appraising the female artists who have been successful in the separate sub-genres of country music, this dissertation aims to look at the view that female artists are able to successfully transcend between both the traditional and contemporary country music scene. This will include a case study of Dolly Parton, a female artist who became just as famous for her personality and choice of clothing, as her music within the country genre. From her initial appearances on ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ between 1967–72, Dolly Parton has typified what many observers believe to be the stereotypical image of a female country music artist. Over her long career however, Dolly Parton has constantly changed and evolved her image to reflect her changing status both within the country music genre and society itself. This singular example illustrates the role and impact of the fashion style adopted by many female artists in order to make a breakthrough and lasting impact in the genre. This dissertation will also consider whether or not Dolly Parton has become a ‘prisoner’ of her own creation. She is now an enormously successful international artist, hence we may ask whether it is it still necessary for her to conform to the stereotypical image of the ‘Dolly’ created by herself in her early career.

This dissertation aims to explore how female clothing and style of dress has changed throughout the evolution of country music. Although there have been changes due to general fashion styles many artists now wish to control and define their own personality, to separate themselves from the stereotypical image within the musical genre.”

Final Major Project

This project took 3 months to complete with a website, social media outlets, range and buying plans as well as an event concept as part of the final outcomes.

Below is the project rationale of my work:

“Country music is an American phenomenon, most often associated with guitars and lyrics that capture the issues of everyday life in rural and small town America. The country music genre is one of the most well known in America, with more than 98 million country fans, which is 42% of the American population (CMA World: 2013), with the country genre growth being around 2,882,000 new consumers per year (CMA World: 2013). The genre has a very large percentage of the music market in the United States whereas in the United Kingdom the country genre is far from the mainstream music charts. In the UK artists such as Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton often have success within the charts.

Folk music is the closest popular music genre to country and it has events such as the Cambridge Folk Festival which is one of the leading music events in Europe (Mintel: 2013).  Although various types of country music artists have performed at the festival in the past. A study by the Performing Rights Society revealed that Cardiff, Wales is the second most musical city in the UK (Thomas, M: 2010). Country music has recently been showcased in Cardiff by performances in June 2014, where Dolly Parton performed a concert at the Motorpoint Arena and more recently in October 2015, British country duo The Shires performed at The Glee Club in Cardiff Bay.

 In the United Kingdom the stereotypical look associated with both male and females in country music fashion is cowboy boots, a checked shirt and a cowboy hat but what many people do not realise is that the city that this style is most closely associated with is a trendy, modern and fashionable hub. Nashville most famously known as ‘Music City’, retains its own unique sense of style, whilst even though stereotypical ‘country’ garments are worn, there are numerous up and coming fashionable boutiques and organisations helping fashion and style to become more prominent in a town saturated with country music and a thriving community of musical talent (TN Vacation: 2015). The unique culture and vibe that exists in Nashville is what makes the genre of country music and the fashion it is associated with so dynamic and interesting.”