ECCE Speaker Series: Behind the Beautiful Clothes: A History of Exploitation in the Garment Industry
From Cody Pope
Recorded Oct. 20, 2021
Behind the Beautiful Clothes: A History of Exploitation in the Garment Industry | Erika Holst | Recording Available November 1
What comes to mind when you think of 19th century fashion? Perhaps it is the image of long dresses with yards of billowing fabric, or sober wool suits. Yet behind the romantic appearance of historic clothing lies the darker story of the American textile and ready-made clothing industries, which provided money-making opportunities for a few and exploited the labor of countless others. This talk will explore the economic and social costs of the beautiful clothes of the past and chart the evolution of the modern garment industry in an effort to better understand the cost of “fast fashion” today.
Erika Holst is the Curator of History at the Illinois State Museum. Her most recent exhibition is Fashioning Illinois, 1820-1900, which explores the personal experience of wearing and caring for clothing in the 19th century.
Holst has worked in the public history field for more than 15 years, during which time she has curated more than a dozen exhibitions. She is currently an Illinois Humanities Council Road Scholar who presents on the topic of the social and economic context of the 19th century clothing industry.
Holst’s publications include Wicked Springfield: Crime, Corruption, and Scandal During the Lincoln Era, Edwards Place: A Springfield Treasure, and Historic Houses of Lincoln’s Illinois, as well as several scholarly and popular articles. Holst holds a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture.