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Fashion: The Art, the Politics, the Performance

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1919
Section 001
Instructor Rhonda Garelick
Days T
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM


Section 1 reserved for students who have completed a Practicum in Fashion Business. Prerequisite: PRACT-UG 1301. Section 2 restricted to sophomores and juniors. All others permission of the instructor required (


This seminar is devoted to the modern legacy of fashion, to understanding how the 19th and 20th centuries shaped fashion and how fashion shapes us today in the 21st. We shall explore the sexual politics of fashion, its philosophical relationship to temporality (its relentless and impossible pursuit of the ‘now’), and its relationship to certain modernist art movements. Fashion, as opposed to traditional dress based on one’s social class or occupation, is a fairly recent phenomenon. Historians place the beginning of fashion in the early fifteenth century, concurrent with the burgeoning wool and silk trades of Flanders and Italy. One result of the increased trade and travel of this era was a new, growing awareness of what people were wearing beyond one’s own small community. A new desire was born: the wish to look like a figure in a picture, to imitate someone you might never have seen in person. The everyday act of dressing turned into a version of costuming the self, inhabiting a theatrical role, based on an imagined relationship to an image. Fashion, in other words, finds its roots in performance. This performance now plays out on a global stage and has become a multi-billion- dollar industry, raising a host of aesthetic, philosophical, and political questions: Can one opt out of this performance? For whom is fashion performed? How do we experience the duality or split implied by the daily creation of a ‘fashioned self’?


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)