This semester-long course provides students with an introduction to the key silhouettes and style changes that made up fashionable European and American clothing during the nineteenth century. This will be achieved through the use of selected images and texts, combining to create an overview of the significant cultural and political events and attitudes that contributed to the changing shape of suits, dresses, skirts, blouses, and accessories. The aim is for students to learn to recognize these changes and talk with some authority around the reasons for style inceptions, quoting key influences and learning where to source further primary and secondary information.
It will also provide a guide for undertaking extended “detective work” and strategies resulting in an ability to “read” a historical garment. It is vital for students of both historical and contemporary fashion, and those exploring broader aspects of cultural studies, to be able to identify an era through clothing and to provide a reliable context. From this, students can branch out to explore related historical and contemporary perspectives on ideas surrounding art, design, sociology, politics, and economics. At the very least, the course will encourage an ability to pinpoint an era though key fashionable traits shown in images and described through text.