Unravel Podcast is the fashion nerd podcast you never knew you needed. Until now that is. Jasmine Helm, Joy Davis and Dana Goodin talked with us a bit about what Unravel is and why fashion history is an important field of study.
JH: My name is Jasmine Helm. I’m from La Puente, CA, a mostly Latinx suburb outside of Los Angeles, but grew up in New York City. I’m Mexican and Afro-Nicaraguan. I studied drawing and painting and have a BA in art history from Cal State Fullerton and a MA in Fashion and Textile History from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). That’s where I met Joy and Dana. Currently, I work as an archivist for a fashion agency and have curated exhibitions in both Los Angeles and in New York.
JD: Joy Davis from Maryland, outside of Baltimore, also known as the county. I currently live in New York but spent almost 10 years of my life in Baltimore, MD. I am African American. I have studied History and Media Theory at University of Maryland Baltimore County where I received two degrees. I moved to NY four years ago to attend FIT and work on my MA in Fashion and Textile History. Currently, I am a freelance writer and fashion archivist. I am also working on proposals for curatorial projects around people of color, craft, and fashion.
DG: I’m Dana Goodin from Rockville, MD, the DC suburbs. I am an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, which is headquartered in Oklahoma. I currently live in Manhattan but will be moving to Ames, Iowa in the Fall to pursue my Phd. in Apparel, Merchandising and Design at Iowa State University, with a focus in Fashion History and Conservation. I recently earned my M.A. in Fashion and Textiles studies from Fashion Institute of Technology, where I focused in fashion and textile conservation. I am currently researching Comanche dress history and identity in the twentieth-century, a topic that will hopefully become my dissertation.
How did this podcast begin and where did you all meet?
JH: Dana and I both chatted with Joy individually about wanting to start a fashion history podcast. She encouraged us to link up. My husband records music and had equipment that we could use so I contacted Dana about starting the podcast and that’s how we began in 2015. Joy was guest on one of the earliest episodes and recorded with Dana when they attended the Costume Society of America Symposium in May 2016. We were so happy to have her join us later that year.
JD: I met them both at FIT, Fashion Institute of Technology, where we went to graduate school for Fashion Studies. Jasmine was a year ahead of me and was very inspiring to me, still is! Dana and I went through the grind of graduate school together. I was happy to come on the show for the first episode and when they asked me to be on the show I was ready. I hope I am adding to our success!
DG: The summer after graduate school I was slightly underemployed and listening to a lot of podcasts and, apropos of nothing, thought it was something I could do. I also noticed there was a lack of fashion history podcasts and told Joy I wanted to do a fashion history podcast with her. I was then pleasantly surprised when Jasmine contacted me about doing the podcast in September! Joy’s first guest episode was the next February and then we went to CSA together and then she officially joined the podcast September 2016.
What are the intentions of the show?
JH: The show intends to share the history of fashion and to include a variety of aspects, people, and cultures. We want to give the same thoughtful attention to the history of African-American women’s hair stories as we do to haute-couture designers like Mainbocher. Ultimately, our goal is to expand and diversify the narrative of fashion history which has centered on European and American fashion cities and stories and to share the rich history of fashion with as many listeners as possible.
JD: When I joined I just wanted us to push ourselves. Jasmine does the majority of editing. Jasmine and Dana are more diligent about research, which is the most important thing: content. I am more enthusiastic about meeting folks and creating partnerships. This was at least in the beginning. We are all better at everything now and getting better. As we have grown, I see us breaking through general conversations about fashion and points in fashion history to a more nuanced approach to people of color, representation, and fashion theory.
DG: Early on, I think I described the podcast as “Stuff You Missed in Fashion History.” We wanted to do topics that aren’t really covered in traditional fashion history classes, which tend to focus on the European upper class. I initially went to graduate school for Fashion History because I was frustrated by the lack of attention Comanche dress history received in fashion history scholarship. I eventually realized that I would just have to write the book I wanted myself, and for me, the podcast is an extension of that.
What are your favorite episodes so far? And why?
JH: Our costume in horror films episodes have a special place in my mind and have become an annual tradition. It’s a really fun episode to record and we can discuss the link between clothing and symbolism in films and in life. Another favorite episode was the Fashion & Body in Casta Paintings with Babelito (Emmanuel Ortega) from the podcast Latinos Who Lunch. The episode combined my two favorite things painting and fashion. It was great to hear Joy’s thesis research on Casta paintings and to get Babelito’s expertise on Spanish Colonial art. The episode is a good example of how we use dress as a lens to discuss culture and history at large. Through dress we talked about subjects like aesthetics, colonialism, and the racial systems that still have affect in Mexico and Latin America today.
JD: Yes! The Babelito episode was in some ways healing. The first episode I did with Jasmine and Dana we discussed my research on slave dress. I am most proud of our CSA series where we interviewed scholars. Making information more available is important to me.
DG: I am obsessed with film and television and automatically love any episode we do that involves costume in films or television shows, the episode on Interview with the Vampire was really fun. I really loved the first episode the three of us did together, The Enslaved Body, which covered African-American and slave dress. The interviews we conduct at CSA are maybe not the most relaxing, but I personally really like learning a lot about a topic I wouldn’t necessarily research on my own. Also, I think it is important to make current dress and fashion history research accessible, especially since the cost of the conferences are so high.
What future themes are you all looking to cover?
JH: We will be starting a new minisode series called Fashion Shorts in which we talk about brief history of one specific garment, accessory, or textile. By creating these focused short episodes we’re hoping to make fashion more accessible to broader audiences. The Fashion Shorts will be released in between our longer form episodes. We’re excited that upcoming episodes will cover a range of themes like cultural appropriation, fashion during WWII, cults and dress, Native American and First Nation’s fashion, and so much more!
JD: We are also hoping to bring in more of our podcasting friends to the show with our Three Wardrobes series, our first exploration discussed Selena, Rihanna, and J-Lo with the lovely ladies of Locatora Radio. We have a lot of series so it is easy to follow along. I like this about us, we are like several podcasts in one!
DG: We have a few episodes regarding the museum exhibition Native Fashion Now and cultural appropriation coming up, as well as all of the CSA 2017 interviews. We also are working on a Halloween episode – so stay tuned.
Anything we should know about?
JH: Currently, we’re looking to build the section of our website called Unravel Review to include fashion writing, theory, and scholarship. We are always looking to collaborate and engage with fashion enthusiasts and listeners. Feel free to contact us to contribute to the Review or our episodes. We’ve also hosted local NY events with Fashion Studies Journal and hope to begin supporting community-driven initiatives and events. We’d like to get sponsorships and become financially sustainable so we will be starting a Patreon in the upcoming months.
JD: I would love to meet more people in our field. Please reach out to us! Creating a network of scholars, creators, and writers is important to strengthening Fashion Studies as a serious subject to be studied. Being financially sustainable is key for us. Meaning, we need funds to keep going.
DG: Listeners should feel free to contact us through social media and email! We want to make fashion history as accessible and inclusive as possible. To add to the importance of being financially sustainable: we love what we do, but producing a podcast takes a huge amount of time and we all work full- time. Becoming more financially sustainable would mean we could provide more content and do more research.