Fashion Studies: Writing reviews for academic journals
Before being asked to write a review of a fashion exhibition for an issue of a journal that my course leader, Shaun Cole, was guest editing, I had no idea that a Master’s student could get something published in an academic journal. For some reason I thought I would have to wait until I had completed my dissertation, and so I hadn’t looked into the possibility.
I had already planned a visit to Les Arts Decoratifs while I was on a day trip to Paris, in order to see an underwear exhibition entitled La Mécanique Des Dessous, Une Histoire Indiscréte De La Silhouette (5 July–24 November 2013 Les Arts Decoratifs, Paris), and I was asked if I would be willing to write a review for Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion. Once I had accepted, I was put in touch with the reviews editor who emailed me the deadline, word count and a link to the publisher’s style guide, plus a sample review to give me an idea of the sort of tone and format they were looking for.
I took plenty of notes whilst in the exhibition space and then carefully prepared my review in time for the deadline. The style guide and example review proved to be extremely useful at this stage, so I kept them safe in case I decided to submit another review to the same publisher. A couple of months later I was sent a document with minor suggested edits and a copyright release form. Two months later, I received a first proof to check for any errors during the copy editing and typesetting processes. The following month, I received my copy of the issue in the post and saw my name in print for the first time!
It’s a much slower process than submitting to non-academic publishers, but I have found the process of writing a review for a more academic audience to be extremely useful for ensuring I get the most out of my visit. Since then, I have reviewed a number of other exhibitions:
- Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! (Somerset House, London, 20 November 2013–2 March 2014) for Russian Fashion Theory, no.32.
- Exposed: A History of Lingerie (The Fashion and Textile History Gallery, Museum at FIT, New York City, 3 June–15 November 2014) for Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, Volume 2 Issue 1.
- Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style (Imperial War Museum, London, 5 March–31 August 2015) for Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, Volume 3 Issue 1.
- Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear (Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 16 April 2016–12 March 2017) for Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, Volume 4 Issue 1.
- Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 27 May 2017–18 February 2018) for Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, Volume 17 Issue 1.
If you are currently studying at Master’s level or thinking of applying for a PhD and have visited an exhibition that inspired you, I’d definitely recommend approaching the reviews editor of an academic journal and asking if they would be interested in a review of it. Of course, someone else may already be writing one for them, but I’ve got round this by offering reviews of extremely popular exhibitions to more specialist titles (some folk didn’t even know that La Mécanique Des Dessous and Undressed featured men’s underwear). It’s a great way to practice your academic writing skills – maybe one day I’ll find the time to submit something for peer review!
A version of this article was first published on [In]Tangible in May 2014.