Costume Studies: Contemporary Dress (Spring 2015

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Professor Charles E. Colman
NYU Steinhardt, Department of Art and Art Professions
Visual Culture: Costume Studies (ARCS-GE 2064)
“Writings on fashion, other than the purely descriptive, have found it hard to pin down the elusive
double bluffs, the infinite regress in the mirror of the meanings of fashion. Sometimes fashion is
explained in terms of an often over-simplified social history; sometimes it is explained in
psychological terms; sometimes in terms of the economy. Reliance on one theoretical slant can
easily lead to simplistic explanations that leave us still unsatisfied . . . . The attempt to view
fashion through several different pairs of spectacles simultaneously—of aesthetics, of social
theory, of politics—may result in an obliquity of view, even of astigmatism or blurred vision, but
it seems that we must attempt it.”
ELIZABETH WILSON, ADORNED IN DREAMS: FASHION AND MODERNITY 11 (I.B. Tauris 2013)
Required books (all available at NYU Bookstore and/or on Amazon.com):
Fred Davis, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (Chicago 2008)
Anne Hollander, Sex and Suits (Knopf 1994)
Daniel Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion: A Reader (Minnesota 2004)
Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (I.B. Tauris rev. ed. 2013)
Readings in yellow will be provided to you; however, if possible, you should buy a cheap used copy of:
Dana Thomas, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster (2008)
Juliet Ash and Elizabeth Wilson, eds., Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader (1992)
All other required readings, including weekly news articles and other items of interest, will be available
electronically; where no hyperlink appears, look in NYU Classes/Resources. Please read all assignments
in the order in which they are listed, and please bring hard copies to class, as laptops are not allowed.
Participation, Grading, and Written Assignments:
20% of each student’s final grade will be based on the quality of the student’s in-class participation (as
measured by the level of nuanced intellectual engagement with assigned readings, classmates’ comments,
and questions/prompts from the instructor.)
40% (20% + 20%) of the final grade will be based on two papers of roughly 3 to 5 double-spaced pages,
each of which will be assigned at a random point during the semester. These papers must take the form of
scholarly reviews of a designated reading assignment, which will only be announced during the previous
week’s class. Students should use these short papers as an opportunity to (1) demonstrate an ability to
identify and explain with clarity the salient points of the designated reading; (2) engage in serious
analytical dialogue with the designated reading—for example, by highlighting unstated/unsupported
assumptions, flaws/gaps in reasoning, and/or potentially problematic aspects of the author’s methodological
approach/selection of subject matter; and (3) illustrate the student’s familiarity with the readings already
assigned and discussed during the semester, by situating the reviewed reading in its historical, political, and
academic/disciplinary context. (No outside research will be required or allowed for these reviews; thus,
reviews should situate the designated reading only in the context of the materials assigned for the course.)
Four sample scholarly reviews of Gilles Lipovetsky’s Empire of Fashion are posted on NYU Classes; each
has been given a “grade” of A, A-, B+, or B, depending on how well it satisfies the criteria listed above.
40% of the final grade will be based on a final paper of roughly 20 to 25 double-spaced pages, in which
some aspect of fashion (to be selected by the student, in consultation with the instructor) is analyzed in
accordance with/in opposition to/in the context of the works that we have read throughout the semester.

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1: Introduction (Jan. 26) [NOTE: Readings must be completed before first class session.]
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences” (1750), in The Rise of Fashion (pp. 37-48)
-Christian Garve, “On Fashion” (1792), in The Rise of Fashion (pp. 65-71)
-Wilson, Adorned in Dreams (Chapters 2 and 3, “History of Fashion”/“Explaining It Away”) (pp. 16-66)
UNIT 1: LAW AND THE STATE
2: Dress As Law (Feb. 2)
-Daniel Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion: A Reader (Minnesota 2004) (Introduction, 1-19)
-Gary Watt, Dress, Law, and Naked Truth (“Dress Is Law”; “Foundations of the State of Dress”)
3: Laws on Dress (Feb. 9)
-Samuel Simon Witte, “An Answer to the Question: Would It Be Harmful or Beneficial to Establish a
National Uniform?” (1791), in The Rise of Fashion (pp. 72-78)
-Alan Hunt, Governance of the Consuming Passions: A History of Sumptuary Law (1996) (Chapter 2, “A
Short History of Sumptuary Law,” pp. 17-42)
-Ruthann Robson, “Beyond Sumptuary: Constitutionalism, Clothes, and Bodies in Anglo-American Law,
1215-1789,” 2:2 British Journal of American Legal Studies 477-509 (Fall 2013)
NO CLASS FEBRUARY 16 (UNIVERSITY HOLIDAY)
4: Dress and Nationalism/Imperialism (Feb. 23)
-Toby Slade, Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History (2009) (pp. 65-77)
-Lawrence Glickman, “‘Make Lisle the Style’: The Politics of Fashion in the Japanese Silk Boycott, 19371940,” 38 Journal of Social History 573-608 (Spring 2005)
-Mimi Thi Nguyen, “The Biopower of Beauty: Humanitarian Imperialisms and Global Feminisms in an
Age of Terror,” in 36 Signs 359-383 (Winter 2011) (supplement on Foucault’s notion of “biopower”)
UNIT 2: SEX AND GENDER
5: Concerning “Women” (Mar. 2)
-Wilson, Adorned in Dreams (Chapter 6, “Gender and Identity”) (pp. 117-133)
-Michael Zakim, “Sartorial Ideologies: From Homespun to Ready-Made”, 106:5 Am. Hist. Review (2001)
-“The New Costume for the Ladies” and “The New Dress,” The Lily (1851), in The Rise of Fashion
-Friedrich Vischer, “Fashion and Cynicism” (1879), in The Rise of Fashion (pp. 153-162)
-Georg Simmel, “Adornment” (1908), in The Rise of Fashion (pp. 79-84)
-Simone de Beauvoir, “Social Life,” from The Second Sex (1953), in The Rise of Fashion (pp. 126-136)
6: Concerning “Men” (Mar. 9)
-David Kuchta, The Three Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity (2002) (Chapter 6, pp. 133-78)
-Thomas Carlyle, “The Dandiacal Body” from Sartor Resartus (1831), in Rise of Fashion (165-73)
-J.C. Flügel, “The Great Masculine Renunciation and Its Causes” (1930), in Rise of Fashion (pp. 102-108)
-Hollander, Sex and Suits (pp. 30-62)
-Neil Spencer, “Menswear in the 1980s,” in Chic Thrills 40-48 (1992)
NO CLASS MARCH 16 (SPRING BREAK)
7: Recent Theoretical Approaches (Mar. 23)
-Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist
Theory,” 40 Theatre Journal 519-531 (1988)
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-Efrat Tseëlon, “From Fashion to Masquerade: Towards an Ungendered Paradigm,” Body Dressing (2001)
-Vrushali Patil, “From Patriarchy to Intersectionality…,” 38 Signs 847-867 (2013)
UNIT 3: GROUPS AND SIGNALS
8: From “Conspicuous Consumption” to “Symbolic Interactionism” (Mar. 30)
-Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), in Rise of Fashion (pp. 261-288)
-Georg Simmel, “Fashion” (1904), in Rise of Fashion (pp. 289-309)
-Edward Sapir, “Fashion” (1931)
-Herbert Blumer, “Fashion: From Class Differentiation to Collective Selection,” 10 Soc. Quar. 275 (1969)
-Davis, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (“Identity, Ambivalence, Fashion’s Fuel”) (pp. 15-29)
9: The Semiotics of Fashion (Apr. 6)
-Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (1967) (“Structures of Interior Design,” pp. 15-29)
-Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image” (1964) (supplement: Barthes, The Fashion System, pp. 12-18)
-Allison Lurie, The Language of Clothes (1981) (short excerpt to be distributed in class)
-Davis, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (“Do Clothes Speak? What Makes Them Fashion?”) (pp. 3-15)
-Hollander, Sex and Suits (pp. 3-21)
10: “Antifashion” and Oppositional Dress (Apr. 13)
-Hollander, Sex and Suits (pp. 22-29)
-Wilson, Adorned in Dreams (“Oppositional Dress,” pp. 179-207)
-Davis, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (1992) (“Antifashion, The Vicissitudes of Negation,” pp. 159-188)
-Kobena Mercer, “Black Hair/Style Politics,” 3 New Formations 33-54 (1987)
11: Post-Oppositional Fashion? (Apr. 20)
-Davis, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (“Conclusion, and Some Afterthoughts,” pp. 191-206)
-Elizabeth Guffey, Retro: The Culture of Revival (2006) (pp. 9-22, 160-166)
-Charles E. Colman, “Trademark Law and the Prickly Ambivalence of Post-Parodies,” 163 U. Pa. L. Rev.
Online 11 (2014) (Section I only)
UNIT 4: THE MODERN “CONSUMER”
12: The Rise of Modern Fashion; Neo-Marxist Theory and Rebuttal (Apr. 27)
-Ellen Leopold, “The Manufacture of the Fashion System,” in Chic Thrills 101-117 (1992)
-Dana Thomas, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster (2008) (pp. 39-71)
-Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures (transl. 1998) (Chapter 5, pp. 69-86)
-Gilles Lipovetsky, Empire of Fashion: reread four academic reviews distributed at beginning of semester
13: Invoking “Post-Modernism” (May 4)
-Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” (Fall 1982)
-Elizabeth Wilson, “Fashion and the Postmodern Body,” in Chic Thrills 3-16 (1992)
-Kaiser et al., “Fashion, Postmodernity and Personal Appearance,” 14 Symbolic Interaction 165 (1991)
14: Reflections (May 11)
-Albertina Oliverio, “The Hypermodern Individual: An Ideal-Type to Assist Understanding Contemporary
Social Change” 1 Annual Review of Italian Sociology 65-77 (2007)
-Daniel Purdy, ed., The Rise of Fashion: A Reader (Minnesota 2004) (Introduction, 1-19) (reread in full)
FINAL PAPERS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY 2 P.M. ON MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015
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