The Will to Adorn

Research and Documentation

The Will to Adorn project’s multi-sited collaborative research process is facilitated through the use of hand-held mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets, for ethnographic fieldwork and oral history interviews. These are used alongside standard professional still camera, digital audio, and video equipment.

The project has also created a forum through which community partners and scholars can communicate and share research with one another. This forum is hosted on a private Web site using a social media platform that works similarly to Facebook. On this site, members post blogs, photos, and updates and reflections on their fieldwork. This communication is supplemented with periodic online conference calls that students join using smart phones, tablets, and computers.

Youth Access Project

Through a pilot program developed at the Dr. Beverly J. Robinson Community Folk Culture Program at Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center in New York City and McClarin High School in Atlanta, Georgia, teen interns participate in ethnographic fieldwork within their own communities, learning documentation skills, interviewing techniques, and presentation skills in the process. Their research, which is shared with their home communities through “reciprocal ethnography,” also enriches the Will to Adorn research Web site and Smithsonian archives. With support from the Smithsonian Institution’s Youth Access Grants program, communities from around the country are joining this collaboration. Educators from these locations joined the Festival for a day-long intensive workshop preparing them to work with their students to identify, document, and present dress and body arts traditions of their regions.

At the 2013 Festival, student researchers interviewed visitors and artists, assisted with mobile apps for recording sartorial (style) autobiographies, lead family activities, and shared their own sartorial stories in narrative sessions.

PARTICIPATE! Create your own Sartorial Autobiography

We announce our identities to the world through the way we craft our everyday personal appearance. With the resources at hand, we “curate” ourselves according to our image of ourselves, our aspirations, and our ideas of what is appropriate dress. Our dress and adornment reflect our values, our beliefs—our notions of what makes us look beautiful, powerful, respectable, and connected to others. They visually connect us to the heritage, ideas, social status, or faith with which we identify. They can also reflect resistance to or rebellion against social and cultural ideas that we reject.

We learn from others—or sometimes create—the meanings attached to what we wear as part of groupings as small as our immediate family or as large as a nation, faith, gender orientation, or ethnic group extending across continents.

The Will to Adorn project encourages individuals to see themselves as curators of their own style and to consider what this communicates about themselves. At the 2013 Festival, facilitators helped people to document their stories about dress and identity.

Record your own sartorial autobiography using the Will to Adorn app!
Share your stories and join the conversation!

Join us! Download the Will to Adorn App on your Apple device and add your own story to the Smithsonian’s research.

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