No matter what our cultural background, clothes are the objects and fashion the art form closest to our selves. Historians of art, including those specializing in the study of textiles and dress, have developed a variety of ways of talking about clothing that illuminate the rich cultural matrix from which it emerges. An understanding of the history of fashion, and the way that dress has been represented in various contexts, can also provide an important tool for analyzing other works of art, including portraits and the visual culture of exploration. This course is divided into four principal methodological approaches: design history, material culture, constructions of gender, and fashion theory. It includes readings based on the study of textiles, historical items of dress, representations of costume and the discourses of fashion. While concentrating on the development of fashion in the West, processes of adoption and adaptation of extra-European commodities and ideas are also emphasised. Drawing on a variety of topics ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day, the course explores the intersection of the world of fashion with cultural exchange, consumption, class formation, and changing definitions of masculinity and femininity.
Assessment: 100% coursework.