What is fashion? How does it work? This course will examine the canonical and other advanced theories of fashion to seek to understand the role of clothing and fashion in our personal lives and in society at large. It will examine the psychology of why we wear clothing and how we choose it and judge it; how it affects economies and politics, and how it is linked to greater art movements and aesthetics.
Some ideas that will be emphasized include gender, sexuality, identity politics, cosmetics, cool and camp, Bohemia, dandyism, fashions role in modernity, fashion photography and advertising, and the need for novelty in form. We will also examine the special and unique history of Japanese fashion.
Week 1: Guidance & Introduction: What is Fashion? By way of introduction this class will start to think about possible philosophical or metaphysical definitions of fashion.
Week 2: Origins: Archeology, Anthropology and Fashion. This class will examine the reasons why human beings are the only animal to wear clothing. We will look at the first examples of clothing and try to imagine fashion from the point of view of thousands of years.
Week 3: The Mechanics of Fashion: Production Chains and Structural Sociolinguistics. Here we will look at the physical and conceptual construction of clothes. How these two processes overlap will be the focus here, using the ideas of Rolland Barthes.
Week 4: Periodisation: Modernity, Pre & Post. The Logics of Time. Through the primary example of suits we will examine how fashion is link the time it is situated within.
Week 5: Sex and Gender. Via the example of flappers we will look at fashion as a battleground for the conceptualisation of sex and gender.
Week 6: Material and Materialism. The week will examine socioeconomic understandings of clothing, especially Marxist thought and the Veblen's idea of conspicuous consumption.
Week 7: The Psychology of Clothes: Dandyism and Desublimation. This class will examine the psychological approach to fashion. The shame of nudity, the culturally constructed ideas of modesty and the development of personality from childhood will be examined in relation to the body and how we cover it.
Week 8: Orientalist and Occidentalism: Fashion the Other. Here we will examine Japanese fashion history and the assumptions of orientalism within it. In creating an encompassing idea of an unknown other academic understandings commit a logical mistake. We will examine this essentialism and how it can be avoided.
Week 9: Identity and the Body Social. Through an examination of facial adjustment will look at socio-anthological understandings of fashion. We will look at the ideas of Georg Simmel and examine the self-decoration of first peoples.
Week 10: Ornamentals & Minimalism: Directionality in Fashion. As a primal function of modernism, anti-ornamentalism still governs much of design theory. We will look at the onset of anti-ornamentalism in the early twentieth century and the idea of an avant-guard within fashion.
Week 11: Style and Genius: The Mechanics of History. In this class we will examine the concept of style and how it has changed over time. Looking at the related ideas of genius and transcendence.
Week 12: Postmodernity. Though the work of Jean Baudrillard and Jacques Derrida we will examine the key ideas of postmodernity and how it applies to fashion.
Week 13 & 14: Final Student Presentations. Students will present their final philosophical projects.
Week 15: Feedback.
2. Objects for discussion:
To ground ideas in something physical most weeks we will discuss an actual fashion, person, magazine or idea in fashion. Discussion will be in small groups and I will try to join each group for a short while.
Most weeks there will be a companion reading to the lecture theme. We will discuss the readings in groups each week. All the readings are in the class reader which costs ¥1000.
4. Group discussions
In groups of a few people each week we will discuss parts of the course: the readings, the lectures, and specific objects. Sometimes a group will be asked to present their conclusions about a certain subject.
There will be a final term paper and companion short presentation at the end of the semester. Because of the size of the class these will have to be short and succinct.
Term paper (2000 words) 50%
Presentations (10 minutes) 30%
Group discussions 20%
A term paper of around 2000 words (although the word limit is loose) will be due in the last week of class.
Some possible topics are:
How do clothes resemble, and differ to, other sorts of human artifacts— utilitarian and aesthetic? What qualities are unique and specific to clothing?
What are models? Are they necessary? What effect to they have on us? What are the differences between male and female ideals of beauty?
Discuss how the modern is present in the male three-piece suit.
How should poets and artists look? Compare male and female examples of each.
Why do we wear clothes? Discuss and compare the main reasons which have traditionally been advanced to explain the existence of clothes.
Discuss and compare two different ways in which the modernisation of women’s dress has been imagined in Western Europe since the 19th Century.
Compare the cosmetic practices of the West with those of one non-western tradition.
Why did hats disappear? Discuss both men’s and women’s hats.
Compare Japanese fashion to Western fashion throughout the 20th Century.
Discuss the relation between the dandies of the 19th century and modern ideas about ‘looking cool’.
What is fashion? Where did it start? Why does it exist? What does it do?
A topic of your choice.*
*If in any doubt about your choice of topic please check with me. Your topic must be philosophically complex enough. ‘The History of Uniquo’ is not a good topic. I am not really interested in anything you can copy from wikipedia. I want original thought.
There will be a short presentation on the same topic as your essay in the second to last two weeks. Please rehearse and polish your presentation to cover your ideas effectively in the short time.
Selected Course Bibliography
Cultural and Social History
Ash, Juliet and Lee Wright (eds), Components of Dress: Design, Manufacture and Image-making in the Fashion Industry (London, 1988)
Ash Juliet and Elizabeth Wilson ( eds), Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader (Pandora, 1992)
Breward, Christopher The Culture of Fashion (Manchester, 1995)
Hall, Stuart and Tony Jefferson (eds), Resistance through Rituals: Youth subcultures in Post-War Britain (London, 1976)
Hebdige, Dick, Subculture: The Meaning of Style Methuen & Co, (London, 1979)
Jessica Munns and Penny Richards (eds), The Clothes that Wear Us: Essays on Dressing and Transgressing in Eighteenth-Century Culture (London, 1999)
Polhemus, Ted and Lynn Proctor, Fashion and Anti-Fashion: anthropology of clothing and adornment (London, 1978)
Polhemus, Ted and Lynn Proctor, Pop Styles (London, 1984)
Polhemus, Ted, Streetstyle: from Sidewalk to Catwalk (London, 1994)
Key Course Text: Fashion and Modernity
Christopher Breward and Caroline Evans (eds)
Cumming, Valerie, Understanding Fashion History (London, 2004)
Barthes, Roland, The Fashion System (London,1985)
Breward, Christopher and Caroline Evan, Fashion and Modernity (Oxford, 2004)
Carlyle, Thomas, Sartor Resartus (London, 1838)
Carter, Michael, Fashion Classics from Carlyle to Barthes (Oxford, 2003)
Kawamura, Yuniya Fashion-ology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies (Oxford, 2005)
Konig, Réné, The Restless Image (London, 1973)
Veblen, Thorstein, The Theory of the Leisure Class (London, 1899)
Wilson, Elizabeth, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (London, 1985)
Johnson, Kim KP et al (eds), Fashion Foundations: Early Writings on Fashion and Dress (Oxford, 2003)
Key Course Text: Being Prepared
Aspects of Dress and Dressing
(Sydney, 2017 )
Bell, Quentin, On Human Finery (London, 1947)
Flügel, Johann Carl, The Psychology of Clothes (London, 1930)
Langner, Lawrence, The Importance of Wearing Clothes (London 1959)
Laver, James, Modesty in Dress: An Enquiry into the Fundamentals of Fashion (London, 1969)
Laver, James, Taste and Fashion (London, 1945)
Rudofsky, Bernard, The Unfashionable Human Body (London, 1972)
Lurie, Alison, The Language of Clothes (New York, 1983)
Key Course Text: Overdressed: Barthes, Darwin and the Clothes That Speak
Gender and Sexuality
Burman, Barbara and Carole, Turbin, Material Strategies: Dress, and Gender in Historical Perspective (London, 2003)
Cole, Shaun, Don We Now Our Gay Apparel (Oxford, 2000)
Cunnington, C Willet, Why Women Wear Clothes (London, 1941)
D'Aurevilly, Jules-Barbery, Who's a Dandy? (London, 2002)
Ekins, Richard and Dave King (eds), Blending Genders (London, 1996)
Ekins, Richard, Male Femaling (London, 1997)
Fillin-Yeh, Susan, Dandies: Fashion and Finesse Art and Culture (New York, 2001)
Gaines, Jane and Charlotte Herzog (eds), Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body (London, 1990)
Glynn, Prudence, Skin to Skin: Eroticism in Dress (London, 1982)
Hollander, Anne, Sex and Suits (New York, 1994)
Harvey, John, Men in Black (London, 1995)
Kidwell, Claudia, Brush and Valerie Steele Men and Women: Dressing the Part (Washington, 1989)
Kuchta, David, The Three-Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity (Berkley and Los Angeles, 2002)
Steele, Valerie, Fashion and Eroticism: Ideals of Feminine Beauty from the Victorian Era through the Jazz Age (New York, 1985)
Steele, Valerie, Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power (Oxford, 1996)
Marcuse, Herbert, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (London, 1955)
Key Course Text: Pretty Gentlemen
Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth-Century Fashion World
(New Haven, 2018)
Arnold, Janet, A Handbook of Costume (London, 1973)
Taylor, Lou, The Study of Dress History (Manchester, 2002)
de la Haye, Amy and Elizabeth Wilson, Defining Dress: Dress as Object, Meaning and Identity (Manchester, 1999)
Küchler, Susanne and Daniel Miller, Clothing as Material Culture (Oxford, 2005)
Breward, Christopher et al (eds), The Englishness of English Dress (Berg, 2002)
Crane, Diane, Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class, Gender and Identity in Clothing (Chicago, 2000)
Davis, Fred, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (Chicago, 1992)
El Guindi, Fadwa Veil: Modesty, Privacy & Resistance (Oxford, 1999)
Hooks, Bell Black Looks: Race and Representation (London, 1992)
Arnold, Rebecca, Fashion, Desire and Anxiety: Image and Morality in the 20th Century (London, 2001)
Binder, Polly, Muffs and Morals (London, 1953)
Emberley, Julia V., Venus and Furs: the Cultural Politics of Fur (London, 1998)
Evans, Caroline, Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity and Deathliness (London, 2003)
Ribeiro, Aileen, Dress and Morality (Oxford, 2003)
Clark, Judith, Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back (London, 2004)
Hollander, Anne, Seeing through clothes (New York, 1978)
Mackrell, Alice, Art and Fashion: The Impact of Art on Fashion and Fashion on Art (London, 2005)
Martin, Richard, Fashion and Surrealism (London, 1990)
Muller, Florence, Art and Fashion (London, 2000)
Squire, Geoffrey, Dress, Art and Society 1560-1970 (London, 1974)
Key Course Text: Thinking Through Fashion
A Guide to Key Theorists
Agnès Rocamora and Anneke Smelik
Welters, Linda and Lillethun, Abby, Fashion History: A Global View (London, 2018)
Riello, Giorgio and McNeil, Peter, The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives (London, 2010)
Jansen, M. Angela and Craik Jennifer, Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity through Fashion (London 2016)
Eicher, Joanne, and Evenson, Sandra, The Visible Self: Global Perspectives on Dress, Culture, and Society (New York, 2015)
Key Course Text: Fabricating Consumers
The Sewing Machines in Modern Japan