Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Writing on and Critiquing Fashion Today: Art History, Theory, and Practice
This course introduces students to the varied discourses and theories on dress and fashion from the nineteenth-century to contemporary times (with a focus on European and North American cultures). Each week will take as its case study the oeuvre of a prominent fashion designer. The goals of this course are to train students in the terminology and interpretative skills necessary to describing and critiquing art and fashion. How can we elevate the discourse surrounding the sartorial and create an intellectual framework through which to examine fashion’s complexity and ephemerality in an age when anyone with a blog can become a "fashion critic"?
During the first phase of the course, we will think critically about how fashion, as the most visible form of consumption, enables and supports social roles and structures by communicating a person’s class, gender, and ethnicity. We will read key theoretical texts from philosophers, psychologists, critics, and poets such as Charles Baudelaire, Thorstein Veblen, J. C. Flügel, Roland Barthes, Valerie Steele, and Elizabeth Wilson. During the second phase of the course, we will examine how professional critics today, such as Suzy Menkes, analyze fashion. How have the digital age and the rise of the blog contributed to and affected the way we read about and understand fashion and the fashion industry? How are the boundaries of art and fashion blurred by the popularity of fashion exhibitions at prominent art museums? What is the impact of globalization on fashion and its consumption? Students will contribute to a class-operated blog that critically analyzes the semiotics of dress in contemporary society, fashion exhibitions, seasonal haute couture collections, and the role of artists/designers in the creation process.