When we first started profiling just some of the impressive and astounding women that we’ve come to know through ELSA AND ME, we knew that we had to feature Kim Jenkins. Kim is a professor of fashion history and teaches at both Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design in New York. She also, for the moment at least, calls the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick home--which is the location of ELSA AND ME’s current base in Brooklyn.
One of the things we love about Kim’s style is her frequent incorporation of unique jewelry, both vintage and costume, into whatever she’s wearing. “My costume jewelry collection keeps me connected to my past,” she explained in a recent conversation with ELSA AND ME, “and my vintage pieces enable me to appreciate and present dress from another era.”
You can read our Q&A with Kim, as well as watch a video feature of her discussing her journey to fashion anthropology below.
Was there an older woman in your life that inspired you?
I think of my "cousin" Mary. Cousin Mary was a woman on my mother's side of the family who moved from St. Louis to Detroit, Michigan (where my mother grew up and where I was born). She spent a couple of decades working for a well-to-do family there as a nanny, and was considered part of their family. Aside from dressing impeccably alongside her husband, Jimmy (I have photos of them), the family for which she worked showered her with furs and jewelry. She understood the power of self-presentation, taking pride in how she looked at all times, and I inherited her chest of costume jewelry and trinkets. I wear many of those items in my everyday life and, as if by transference, I sense and radiate the pride of adorning myself with beautiful things as she did.
What do you love about what you do?
I'm grateful to have a career that I've essentially shaped for myself–teaching, researching and holding conversations about fashion history and why we wear what we wear. It's rewarding to spend my days in a classroom full of students introducing them to moments and figures in history, and deepening their understanding about the role of dress in both society and personality.
What do you think makes this country great?
The freedom to express myself.