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Fiona E. Cox

Working thesis title: 'Dressing The Part: Costuming of Lesbian Identities in Contemporary Visual Cultures'

Supervisor: Stella Bruzzi

I am investigating the role of costume in shaping representations of lesbian identity and desire in recent film, television, and photographic images. I will also explore, through consumer interviews, ways in which these constructions of sexual identity reverberate around lesbian culture and contribute to the politics of personal dress-sense.

Integrating theoretical research, interviews with relevant costume designers and other contributors, textual analysis and audience responses, I aim to trace the process of the production of several such images. I will be questioning whether contemporary visual cultures have helped to move society towards a post-lesbian politics of clothing in which new sartorial rules apply to the culturally constructed/informed gay woman.

Texts, characters, and media personalities I will be examining are: Robin Gallagher (Julie Benz) in Desperate Housewives (ABC, USA, 2004-), Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) and Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) in Deadwood (HBO, USA, 2004-2006), Carol McCardy (Kate Norby) and Joyce Ramsay (Zosia Mamet) in Mad Men (AMC, USA, 2007-), Nic and Jules Allgood (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) in The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, USA, 2010), and various characters from Gillery’s Little Secret (T.M. Scorzafava, USA, 2006), The L Word (Showtime, USA, 2002-2008) and Lip Service (BBC, UK, 2010-), as well as Sue Perkins and Ellen DeGeneres.

My work so far has included a research trip to Los Angeles, where I met with and interviewed Catherine Adair and the Desperate Housewives costume design team, Janie Bryant (costume designer for Deadwood and Mad Men), Mary Claire Hannan (costume designer on The Kids Are All Right), Tina Scorzafava (writer and director of Gillery's Little Secret), and Cynthia Summers (costume designer for The L Word). I also travelled to Glasgow to interview Lesley Abernethy and Niamh Morrison, costume and hair/make-up designers, respectively, for Lip Service, and met with broadcaster and comedienne Sue Perkins to conduct an interview for a case study within the thesis.


Published work:

'Closet Cases: Costuming, Lesbian Identities and Desire, Hollywood Cinema and the Motion Picture Production Code', The International Journal of the Image (Common Ground publishing), Volume 1, Issue 4 (2011), pp. 43-56. Available to download here:

'“So Much Woman”: female objectification, narrative complexity and feminist temporality in AMC’s Mad Men', Invisible Culture (Universtiy of Rochester, New York), Issue 17 “Where Do You Want Me to Start?” Producing History through Mad Men.