Dr. Toby Slade

Dr. Toby Slade

Associate Professor

University of Tokyo


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1. Lectures:

What is fashion? How does it work? This course seeks 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
Week 2: The Origin of Clothes
Week 3: Fashion Systems
Week 4: The Suit, Male Sartorial Modernity
Week 5: Flappers, Female Sartorial Modernity
Week 6: Class and Clothes
Week 7: The Dandy
Week 8: Japanese Fashion
Week 9: Cosmetics & Make-up
Week 10: Hats & Ornament
Week 11: Explanations for fashion
Week 12: Presentations
Week 13: Presentations

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. 

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 3. Readings 

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. 

5. Assessment

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 (5 minutes) 30%

Group discussions 20%

Term paper:

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: 

  1.  How do clothes resemble, and differ to, other sorts of human artifacts— utilitarian and aesthetic? What qualities are unique and specific to clothing?
  2.  What are models? Are they necessary? What effect to they have on us? What are the differences between male and female ideals of beauty? 
  3. Discuss how the modern is present in the male three-piece suit.
  4. How should poets and artists look? Compare male and female examples of each.
  5. Why do we wear clothes? Discuss and compare the main reasons which have traditionally been advanced to explain the existence of clothes.
  6. Discuss and compare two different ways in which the modernisation of women’s dress has been imagined in Western Europe since the 19th Century. 
  7. Compare the cosmetic practices of the West with those of one non-western tradition.
  8. Why did hats disappear? Discuss both men’s and women’s hats.
  9. Compare Japanese fashion to Western fashion throughout the 20th Century. 
  10. Discuss the relation between the dandies of the 19th century and modern ideas about ‘looking cool’. 
  11. What is fashion? Where did it start? Why does it exist? What does it do? 
  12. 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 last two weeks. Because of the numbers in the course these presentations will have to be short and succinct (about 3 minutes). Please rehearse and polish your presentation to cover your ideas effectively in the short time.

Copyright © 2016, Toby Slade. All rights reserved.