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 abbreviated syllabus, see the link below: