The seminar explores representations of costume, fabric, and fashion in art and visual culture of the modern period, particularly in Europe. (Readings focus on the eighteenth through early twentieth centuries). Clothing is approached as an aspect of material culture that is directly linked to social behavior and its visual representation. The social, symbolic, and psychological aspects of clothing conveyed in pictures and other forms of imagery will be considered, along with clothing's relation to economic consumption. The period saw a shift from an early modern emphasis on visible, external signs of social identity to a modern emphasis on an internally-defined self, which tended to conceive of clothing as a false or variable identity. Methods of manufacturing clothing simultaneously shifted from tailor- to ready-made, while the gendered connotations of "fashion" also changed. Themes addressed in the course include the particular importance of fashion in staging representations of female subjects in works of fine art; the element of agency at work in the consumption, wearing, and representation of costume; the accessory as an early form of commodity consumption in the fashion realm; the coupling of art and industry during the period, as evidenced in links between the textile trade, fashion trade, fashion press, and fine art; and the role of historical and exotic costume in signifying cultural difference.
Readings include Daniel Roche, The Culture of Clothing; Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things, 1986; J. C. Flugel, The Psychology of Clothes, 1930; and John Styles, The Dress of the People, 2007.