• Powerful women throughout history.

    Course overview

    This course will introduce students to the ways that fashion was used by and against women in the projection of power, the cultivation of influence, and the exercise of authority from the Renaissance period to present day. Special topics include ruling women and Renaissance fashions; female bodies and Victorian dress conformity; fashioning women’s liberation; media and the rise of female politicians; women’s fashion and mass consumption; and more.

    Historically, women’s rights and ability to wield power were significantly limited, including even their ability to communicate and use their voice to change their circumstances. Yet, throughout history, women have historically been a “force” because they have been able to exercise various forms of power and exert influence through different spaces and mediums. There is one form of influence that has been long been synonymous with women and power, both past and present – fashion and dress. For women, fashion and dress have been a tool for power, self-expression, identity, and resistance, reflecting a unique sense of style or even a social/political statement. Consequently, fashion and dress have also been a means of regulating female behaviour and their bodies, a subject used to criticise or minimise women’s achievements, or a weapon employed to diminish women’s authority and agency. As such, the connections between women, fashion and dress, and power has been fundamental to the creation, production, marketing, and social and cultural reception with today’s fashion industry. These connections will be explored throughout the course.

    For the syllabus, see the link below: 

    Course Syllabus

  • Week 1: Early Modern Women and Renaissance Fashion – Status, Court, and Politics (1500-1700)

    26 April 2023

    Guiding questions: How was fashion constructed and understood in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did women, like Queen Elizabeth I or Queen Christina of Sweden, use fashion to cultivate power and exert influence? What are distinct fashion features from this period? How were elite & non-elite fashions connected? 

    Guest speaker: Professor Paula Hohti

    Primary reading(s): 

    (PDF) Susan Vincent, “Fashioning Appearances”, in Dressing the Elite (Berg, 2003), pp. 23-41.

    (PDF) Paula Hohti, “Dress, Dissemination and Innovation”, in Fashioning the Early Modern: Dress, Textile, and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800, edited by Evelyn Welch (Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 143-165.

    Kandidaattikeskus(Otakaari 1) U401

  • Week 2: Extravagance, Drama, and Nineteenth-Century European Fashion – Revolution in Dress and Consumerism (1740-1830)

    May 2023

    Guiding questions: How did the French Revolution influence womenand fashion? Why did the fashion economy take off in the 1800s? Was fashion used to control women’s bodies?

    Guest speaker: Dr Sarah Bendall (Australian Catholic University)

    Primary reading(s): 

    (PDF) Hannah Greig, “Faction and Fashion: The Politics of Court Dress in 18th-Century England”, Apparence(s) 6 (2015), pp. 1-19.


    Kandidaattikeskus (Otakaari 1) M134

  • Week 3: From Victoria to the Gilded Age - Changes in Feminine Silhouettes (1837-1900)

    10 May 2023

    Guiding questions: How did women adapt fashion styles to navigate societal expectations and cultural shifts in the nineteenth century? In what ways did Queen Victoria of England, Empress Eugénie of France, Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, or Mary Todd Lincoln use orinfluence fashion in connection with power or politics? What role did colonialism and slavery have in the development of fashion?

    Primary reading(s): 

    (PDF) Matthew Storey and Lucy Worsley, “Queen Victoria: An Anatomy in Dress”, Costume 53:2 (2019), pp. 256-279.


    Kandidaattikeskus (Otakaari 1) U401

  • Week 4: Art Deco Style of the Roaring Twenties and World War II Fashion (1900-1940)

    17 May 2023

    Guiding questions: How did women’s fashion change in the early twentieth century? What role did the women’s suffrage movement have on fashion? How did fashion icons Coco Chanel, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker utilise the power of fashion?

    Primary reading(s): 

    (PDF) Annamari Vänskä, “Gender and Sexuality”, in A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Modern Age, edited by Alexandre Palmer (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017),  pp. 107-130.



    Kandidaattikeskus (Otakaari 1) U401

  • Week 5: Women’s Liberation, Youth Culture, and Maximalism - The Rise of Personal Fashion (1950-2000)

    24 May 2023

    Guiding questions: How did fashion contribute to women’s liberation in the late twentieth century? What role did the different First Ladiesof the United States play in fashion culture? How was fashion influenced by minority cultures? What were the factors behind therise of women’s fashion, female models, and mass consumption inthe late twentieth century?

    Primary reading(s): 

    (PDF) Joanna Entwistle, “Power Dressing & the Construction of the Career Woman”, in Fashion Theory: A Reader, edited by Malcolm Barnard (Routledge, 2020), pp. 285-296.


    Kandidaattikeskus (Otakaari 1) Y308

  • Week 6: Politicians, Celebrities, Influencers - The Modern Woman and Fashion Trends (2000-2022)

    31 May 2023

    Guiding questions: Why is fashion and style important in today’ssociety? How does fashion help and/or hinder modern politicians?How is fashion and dress connected to politics and power? What historical influences are still evident in today’s fashion and dress?

    Primary reading(s): 

    (PDF) Sarah Baker, “Jacinda Arden, New Zealand Premier: Fashion and Performing Gender”, in Fashion, Women, and Power: The Politics of Dress, edited by Denise Rall (Intellect Books, 2022), pp. 45-58.

    Kandidaattikeskus (Otakaari 1) U401

  • Course Presentations

    Lecture 1


    Further Reading List


  • For the final assignment, students will choose a female figure (historical or modern) and analyse the fashion styles and forms of dress and its connection/relevance to power through reviewing artwork and images of the female figure. This will be the basis for completing the two parts of the assignment: a written research paper and a visual report. 

    Further information and guidance are detailed in the assignment instructions PDF provided below. There will also be a discussion about the assignment in the last seminar (Wednesday, 31 May). 

    The final assignment is due on Monday, 12 June 2023 (by end of day - 23:59). 

    Assignment Instructions