Vanessa is the author of 'Cool Shades: the history and meaning of sunglasses', published by Bloomsbury Academic (2014). Her work is characterised by a multi-disciplinarity that is increasingly necessary to untangle the web of historical and contemporary associations, ideologies and loosely held beliefs which do so much to constitute the potential meanings of images and things, which in turn can help to answer the big questions for fashion culture - why do so many people want to be 'cool'? How do taste and power relate to one another? More general areas of knowledge are modernity, postmodernity; twentieth century design history (special additional interest in pattern/illustration); fashion theory, popular culture, advertising, celebrity culture, material culture.
She has also explored femininity, feminism and the image of the ideal 1950s housewife (published in Polkey and O'Donnell 2000), kitsch, cool and the tastes of a British subcultural elite . She is currently working on the slippery relationships between 'cool' and 'fashion'; and a new co-authored project about the meaning of surface in baking and patisserie practices.
Vanessa is also interested in innovation in teaching and learning, and has developed a range of innovative strategies to encourage diverse design students to aim high in their research and writing and to find new ways to reach an audience outside academia with ideas about culture.