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Isabelle Held
Visiting Fellow, Bard Graduate Center

In 1939, DuPont unveiled nylon stockings to the public at two US world’s fairs. DuPont’s “Wonder World of Science” exhibitions featured a figure known as “The Test Tube Girl,” who embodied the latest in scientific developments including nylon.   

In this talk Isabelle Marina Held examines The Test Tube Girl and other similar imagery through the lenses of race, gender, and sexuality. Drawing on examples of visual and material culture related to nylon, she shows how whiteness was presented as the unmarked norm. Held’s archival research also presents a counter-history, highlighting how in ensuing decades individuals pushed back against these exclusionary practices and crafted nylon hosiery for a wider range of consumers, including Black, queer, and trans people. 

Isabelle Marina Held is an interdisciplinary design historian. Employing an intersectional approach, she focuses on the body, fashion, materiality, and technology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. During her Fellowship at Bard Graduate Center, she will be working on her forthcoming book, Atomic Bombshells: How Plastics Shaped Postwar Bodies, solicited by Duke University Press. The UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded her PhD in history of design from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art. She has been awarded fellowships at the Smithsonian, Science History Institute, and Hagley Museum and Library. She has lectured at London College of Fashion, University for the Creative Arts, and the Royal College of Art and has curated exhibitions that explore design, science, material culture, and the body. Her writing is featured in publications including Design Issues, the Towner, Under the Influence, and Baron Books.

Tuesday, October 11, 12:15 pm
38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall

Lunch will be served starting at noon. Registration required..

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