Threads: Histories and Theories of Clothing and Fashion




This course focuses on fashion and clothing in Japan from the medieval period to the present day. It aims to build a knowledge base of historically contextualized case studies through readings, lectures, and discussions. In the process, it explores questions about clothing as a site around which societal debates occur, where personal and collective identities are shaped, and where foundational philosophical ideas come into focus. Theoretical readings will allow students to apply what they learn to a variety of topics beyond Japan for final papers and projects. Topics will engage with issues of gender, colonialism, and racialization in inter-Asian and internationalist contexts. Methods of analysis will include examining 1) the image of fashion and clothing (photographs, film, visual media, memory); 2) fashion as text, or written clothing—how clothing becomes fashion through discourse; and 3) the materiality of dress. To study materiality, the course includes a lab section where students will examine closely textiles and articles of clothing in the collections of the Harvard Museums (kosode, Noh robes, kesa, textile fragments, and non-Japanese examples), and engage in materials workshops (learning for example weaving and dyeing techniques). Students will be encouraged to make connections between form and function and meaning, and to incorporate a knowledge of technological constraint and possibility into their own analyses of clothing and fashion. A field trip to an exhibition on Japanese kimono at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will also be part of the course.
Additional Information:
Faculty: Melissa M. McCormick
Semester: Full Fall Term
Time: Wednesday, 3:00 - 5:45 pm
HAA 189K