VALERIE FAHNESTOCK STEELE, your pioneering work as a fashion historian has shaped our understanding of the industry’s import through academic discourse, while broadly emphasizing its role as a reflection of our humanity.
Valerie Steele '78 received an honorary degree from Dartmouth at its 2015 Commencement Ceremony. (Photo by Rob Strong ’04)
As a daughter of Dartmouth you applied the tools of the historian to your passion, looking beyond fabric and color to identify the social underpinnings of the clothing industry. You came to believe that fashion could be studied alongside other aspects of our culture and brought greater intellectual rigor to the field, while at the same time making it more accessible. As director of the Fashion Institute of Technology, rather than design exhibitions targeted solely at other scholars, you crafted creations accessible to all, regardless of background.
Celebrated as the “Freud of Fashion,” and the “High-Heeled Historian,” and remembered as one of the first Dartmouth students brave enough to walk across an icy Green in pumps, you’ve had a career defined by uncommon tenacity and enthusiasm. As author or co-author of more than a dozen books, you have sparked a transformation in the way attire is viewed and analyzed. As founder and editor-in-chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, you have provided a platform for the insightful study of the sociological, anthropological, and historical foundations of the industry.
For your exploration of the deeper relevance of fashion; for your numerous celebrated and highly accessible exhibitions; and for your paramount contributions to academic literature, we are proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts.
President Philip J. Hanlon