Costume and Fashion - ART502

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 30 (15)







The art historian Aby Warburg – an avid reader of Thomas Carlyle's philosophical novel about clothes Sartor Resartus (1836) – said that a good costume, like a good symbol, should conceal as much as it reveals. This module will take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of costume and fashion – the art that can be worn – in order to explore their roles in drama, film and the visual arts. The social values encoded by clothes, their relation to class or sexual identity, will be discussed, along with how these assumptions inform the use of costume in adaptations or stagings of texts, or how they colour our view of a character, or of a director’s interpretation (for example, using deliberate anachronism). The role of clothing and costume in the history of art will be analysed from artists’ representation of clothes, contemporary or otherwise, to their involvement in fashion design.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 50
Private study hours: 250
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed 100% by coursework:

• Creative Portfolio (2000-4000 words) (40%)

• Critical Essay (2500 words) (40%)

• Fashion Show (20%)

Indicative reading

Barthes, R. (2013) The Language of Fashion, trans. Andy Stafford, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Breward, C. (1995) The Culture of Fashion, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Bruzzi, S. (1997) Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies, London: Routledge.
Doy, G. (2002) Drapery: Classicism and Barbarism in Visual Culture, London and New York: I. B. Tauris.
Hollander, A. (1993) Seeing Through Clothes, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press,(first published 1975).
Jeffers McDonald, J (2010), Hollywood Catwalk: Exploring Costume and Transformation in American Film, London and New York: I. B. Tauris.
Laver, J (2012) Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th edition, London: Thames & Hudson.
Nadoolman Landis, D. (ed.), (2013) Hollywood Costume, London: V&A Publishing.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. demonstrate a broad knowledge of the history of costume and fashion, particularly in Europe from the Renaissance period to the present day.
2. demonstrate a familiarity with representative examples of costumes from different historical periods in collections such as the V&A, their material culture, and the purposes for which they were made and contexts in which they were used.
3. analyse key examples of the representation of costume in art works, notably in portraits, and the connections between fine art and fashion design.
4. analyse key examples of the use of costume in stage productions, and their relation to stage design and to the interpretation of dramatic texts.
5. analyse key examples of the use of costume in films, for example in adaptations, or as a narrative device.
6. show a knowledge of a range of thinkers and critics who have studied costume and fashion (e.g. Carlyle, Baudelaire, Barthes etc) and to the work of a range of representative fashion designers.
7. apply a knowledge of 1-6 above through examples of creative design appropriate to an I level practice-based module within the School of Arts (e.g. in the fashion show described at 16 below).

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