Costume and Fashion - ART502

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
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5 30 (15) DR BDH Thomas
Canterbury Spring
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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

• The module will be delivered by means of a weekly lecture (two hours) and a weekly seminar/workshop (two hours). During trip week there will be an organised visit to a relevant exhibition, performance etc.

• As a 30 credit module students should carry out 300 hours of study. Lectures and seminars over 11 weeks will come to 44 hours with 6 hours for the trip. This means that each student should do 250 hours of independent learning.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed 100% by coursework:

• A creative portfolio (40% of final mark) comprising of 1) the analysis of a historical costume in a museum collection (e.g. the V&A costume collection) or in a work of art studied during the module 2) the analysis of costume designs for a specific theatrical production or film studied during the module 3) seminar notes and reflective commentary on costumes seen during the course. The portfolio will be no fewer than 2000 and up to 4000 words in length.

• One 2500 word critical essay answering a question from an assigned list (40% of final mark)

• Fashion Show (20% of final mark) – a group mark given for putting on a fashion show displaying a range of costumes devised by students in response to those studied in class. This exercise, supported by the Drama department workshop, will assess 11.7 above. The assessment will be double-marked within the School of Arts.

Preliminary reading

Select Bibliography

Roland Barthes, The Language of Fashion, trans. Andy Stafford, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

Christopher Breward, The Culture of Fashion, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.

Christopher Breward, Fashion, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Andrew Bolton, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011.

Susanna Brown (ed.), Horst: Photographer of Style, London: V&A Publications, 2014.

Hussain Chalayan, Hussain Chalayan, New York: Rizzoli, 2015.

Bronwyn Cosgrave, Vogue On: Coco Chanel, London: Quadrille, 2012.

Christian Dior, Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior, trans. Antonia Fraser, London: V&A Publications, 2007.

Didier Grumbach, History of International Fashion, Northampton, Massachusetts: Interlink Books, 2014.

Ann Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993 (first published 1975).

Barbara Hulanicki, From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki, London: V&A Publications, 2007.

Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Hollywood Catwalk: Exploring Costume and Transformation in American Film, London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2010.

James Laver, Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th edition, London: Thames & Hudson, 2012.

Georgina O'Hara Callan, The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Fashion and Fashion Designers, London: Thames & Hudson, revised edition, 2008.

Justine Picardie, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, London: Harper, 2013.

Natalie Rothenstein (ed.), 400 Years of Fashion, London: V&A Publishing, 2010.

Meryl Secrest, Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography, London: Penguin, 2014.

Cameron Silver, Decades: A Century of Fashion, London: Bloomsbury, 2012.

Sonnet Stanfill (ed.), The Glamour of Italian Fashion Since 1945, London: V&A Publishing, 2014.

Jonathan Walford, Sixties Fashion: From 'Less is More’ to Youthquake, London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Judith Watt, Vogue On: Elsa Schiaparelli, London: Quadrille, 2012.

Iain R. Webb, Foale and Tuffin: The Sixties. A Decade in Fashion, Woodbridge: ACC Editions, 2009.

Richard Weight, Mod: A Very British Style, London: The Bodley Head, 2013.

Ghislaine Wood, The Surreal Body: Fetish and Fashion, London: V&A Publishing, 2007.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this modules students will be able to:

1. demonstrate a familiarity with the concept of cultural history, and in practice have a knowledge of the underlying concepts and principles associated with cultural history, evaluating and interpreting these in the context of the area of study (costume and fashion).
2. to present, evaluate and interpret cultural historical data, developing lines of argument (in interdisciplinary ways, in this context, to make connections between different art forms and broader cultural phenomena), and making sound judgments and critical evaluations in line with basic theories introduced in this module.
3. to communicate the results of study accurately and reliably, with structured and coherent arguments.
4. develop study skills in order to research and present their work, including appropriate Information Technologies.
5. develop qualities of personal responsibility in completing assessment tasks to deadline, working in a self-motivated manner, thereby enhancing transferable skills necessary for employment.

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