Fashion and Modernism
"It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances." –Oscar Wilde
It is arguable that to be modern is to be in, or a, fashion. It is inarguable that modernists from Baudelaire to Woolf have been invested in fashion. "Fashion and Modernism" examines some aspects in the constellation of English and European sartorial culture circa the mid-nineteenth century through the 1930s, with a few dips into America, accessories, and the contemporary moment. "Fashion" in this context means both clothing and style, and while a major motif of the course is the consumption of female fashion, we will also explore the history of the dandy, theories of ornamentation, surrealist fashion, emergent forms of urbanism, spatiality, and embodiment.
Topics will include shopping/the rise of the department store; anti-ornament and anti-fashion; the flâneur/flâneuse; fashion of the historical avant-garde (Italian Futurism, Surrealism), and literary and visual archival instances foregrounding the fashion industry. Readings will range from the literary, the contextual, the theoretical, and the sociological(ish). We will visit the Henry Art Gallery Costume Collection, and you will emerge with a professional sense of how to productively visit an archive.
"F&M" is a reading-intensive seminar. Students will be responsible for some class presentations, responding to a CFP (call for papers), and presenting then turning in a conference paper employing material from the modernist era, for instance culling from a period Vogue. In this way, you'll both become acquainted with the field of fashion studies and modernism, and emerge with professional tactics that will serve you well in the future.
NOTE: Students are ideally to have taken at a previous course (whether in grad school or college) in Anglo-American or European modernism. The methodology will be an historical one focused on the specified time period; this class does not take contemporary fashion as its focus. Prior to the first class, have (re)read Andreas Huyssen, "Mass Culture as Woman" from After the Great Divide, and make a dent in Zola's wonderful novel Au Bonheur des dames (The Ladies’ Paradise), in the Nelson translation (Oxford World Classics, ISBN 978-0199536900). This is summer reading at its greatest, by the way. All readings will be in English.