All That Glitters: The Sociology of Fashion 

Department: Sociology

Instructor: Catherine Crowder and Haley McInnis
Instructor's Email: ccrowder@ucsd.edu; hmcinnis@ucsd.edu
Prerequisites: none 

Course Description

Fashion is all around us.  It’s part of who we are.  We craft our identities and sense of self through our fashion choices with our clothes, our hairstyles, our accessories.  But fashion is so much more than just the choices we make when we get up in the morning or go to the mall.  By taking a sociological approach to understanding fashion, we can learn how fashion is tied to consumer culture, material culture, symbolic values, labor, gender, race, class, as well as our sense of self.

This course offers an introduction into the study of fashion as well as qualitative research practices.  A diverse range of themes will be explored by looking at current and past fashion trends through the lens of sociology.  Additionally, students will conduct first hand research on an item in the fashion world and present their results in class.  Lectures will be supported with media resources and excursions.  

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

  • Gain a thorough and varied insight into the issues, concepts, and writings that constitute the central themes of fashion as a social construction
  • Develop competency in synthesizing ideas from complex, non-contemporary, theoretical social scientific writing
  • Develop an ability to utilize qualitative research methods and writing techniques in order to engage with and conduct sociological research
  • Draw on different media and text resources to develop work

Content and Evaluation

Students will be required to complete worksheets for each excursion and film watched in class.  There will also be two short quizzes each week.  However, a final project will be the major form of assessment for the course.  For the project, each student will choose a fashion item during the second week of class. It can be an item of clothing, a fashion photograph or advertisement, or similar item of their choice. Students will research the clothing item with an eye to one of the major course themes: constructions of self and cultural ideals in fashion, cultural exchange and appropriation in fashion, and the material story of fashion. 

Topical Outline

 

Week 1:

  • Beauty  ideals 
  • The self
  • Gender
  • Presentation 
  • Social Media 

Week 2:

  • The history of Western fashion 
  • Cultural Exchange 
  • Cultural appropriation 
  • Race, identity and fashion

Week 3:

  • Material culture and material relations
  • Independent research and final project

Courses