The Concise Dictionary of Dress
Judith Clark and Adam Phillips
In this deeply idiosyncratic collaboration between a psychoanalyst and a costume curator, Adam Phillips re-describes dress in terms of anxiety, wish and desire, while Judith Clark’s installations raise issues of equivalence with Phillips’ definitions and bring garments and other items from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s archive to life in unexpected ways. Published in parallel with an Artangel commission at Blythe House, location of the V&A’s vast reserve collections, and designed by Studio Frith, The Concise Dictionary of Dress examines the nature of dictionaries, archives and dress curation and adds a stunning visual essay recording two overnight tours through Blythe House by renowned photographer Norbert Schoerner. Phillips’ definitions for words commonly associated with fashion and appearance – such as armoured, conformist, essential, provocative – were paired with eleven stations created by Clark on a walk through this vast building, from its rooftop to an underground coal bunker. Here in print, extending beyond the works at Blythe House, Phillips adds more words, more definitions and an overarching essay asking broader questions about what dictionaries are, how we use them and why they matter. Judith Clark herself also presents a written analysis of the Dictionary in response to questions posed anonymously by authorities in fields as varied as cultural theory, fashion history, arts curation and architecture, as well as a comprehensive illustrated catalogue of references used in creating the installations.