Final Paper/Project Examples!

I’ll be passing out a prompt for the final paper/project in class tomorrow with explicit instructions (this will be posted here later this week). For some examples of alternate projects not involving a final paper, you might consider browsing in the next week some of the pieces found at Political Fashion and Imagining Ourselves, a project of the International Museum of Women. There are a lot of interesting projects under “Image and Identity.” You could also check out some zines, including and Dykes and Their Hair and Head Dress.

Here are some great videos to get your creative jump start!

“The Fat Body (In)Visible,” by Margitte Kristjansson

“Untitled,” by Nick Knight with Naomi Campbell

“A Girl Like Me,” by Kiri Davis

I can’t link to it directly, but consider also “The Colour of Beauty” by Elizabeth St. Phillip, a short documentary that follows a young black model in New York City — and sponsored by Work For All: Films Against Racism in the Workplace.


GWS 485 Politics of Fashion Syllabus

San Francisco-based artist Stephanie Syjuco wears a "Chanel" bag from her series, "Counterfeit Crochet."


This is a truncated version of the syllabus; course policies and assignments are found on the full syllabus handed out in the classroom.


Because clothing is a medium for fashioning identities from commodities, it is hardly surprising that political and social tensions are embodied in its fabrications. The emotive politics of dress indicates an inseparable link between sartorial practice and political significance, as demonstrated in debates about Muslim women and practices of veiling (and their masculine counterpart, of turbans and terrorism), the role of clothing in colonialism’s “civilizing” mission, “traditional” Asian dress and body fashions, immigrant and “third world” sweatshop labor and globalization. Clearly manifest throughout these politics is the role of gender, as well as race, nation, and sexuality, as relations of power and as critical factors in accessing “human and other rights.”

This course examines the discourses, political and economic conditions, and institutional formations that have produced the subjects of fashion as tradition-bound “others” in need of liberation or “modernization,” as “productive” and self-governing subjects embodying modernity, as cosmopolitan citizens of the world, and as the labor for transnational capitalism.  In the latter half, we will focus on both the historical and cultural development of fashion, clothing and consumption between Asia and “the West” and within Asia, including South Asia and the Middle East. Using a variety of sources, including art, legal codes, protests and advertisements, we will pursue a careful articulation of fashion’s complicities and resistances with various regimes of power in the construction of gendered national and transnational subjects. Topics will include dress as a site of political contest, design as a locus of industry and ideology as well as aesthetics, and manufacture at the intersection of transnational circuits of labor, bodies, and capital.


A photocopied course reader is the main text for this seminar. You can purchase the reader at Notes & Quotes, 502 E. John St., #107, Champaign, (217) 344-4433. The other books for the course are Emma Tarlo’s Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, and Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu’s Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion, at the IUB. The reader is also available through E-Reserves.


WEEK ONE (JAN 19): Does Fashion Have Politics?

Tina Mai Chen and Paola Zamperini, Fall 2003, “Guest Editors’ Introduction,” positions (special issue “fabrications”) 11:2, 261-269.

WEEK TWO (JAN 26): Introduction to Fashion

Excerpts from Roland Barthes, 1990 (reprint), “Rhetoric of the Signifier,” “Rhetoric of the Signified,” and “Rhetoric of the Sign,” The Fashion System, Berkeley: University of California Press, 235-273.

Elizabeth Wilson, 1985, “Introduction,” Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, London: Virago Press, 1-15.

Jennifer Craik, 1994, “The Face of Fashion: Technical Bodies and Technologies of the Self,” The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion, New York: Routledge, 1-16.

Screening: Project Runway clips, Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton (2007, Dir. Loic Prigent), The Secret World of Haute Couture (dir. Margy Kinmonth, 2007)

Websites (REQUIRED): Washington Post:; Jezebel:; lipstickeater:

WEEK THREE (FEB 2): Fashioning Distinction and Hierarchy

Thorstein B. Veblen, 2003 [1899], “Dress as an Expression of the Pecuniary Culture,” in Fashion Foundations: Early Writings on Fashion and Dress, eds., Kim K.P. Johnson, Susan J. Torntore, and Joanne B. Eicher, Oxford: Berg, 132-136.

Nan Enstad, 1998, “Fashioning Political Identities: Cultural Studies and the Historical Construction of Political Subjects,” American Quarterly 50(4), 745-782.

Judith Williamson, 1986, “Woman Is An Island: Femininity and Colonization,” Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, Tania Modeleski, ed., Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 99-118.

Screening: The Devil Wears Prada (2006, dir. David Frankel)

Website (REQUIRED): Cord Jefferson, “White People Clothes and ‘Old Money Green,'”

Website (RECOMMENDED):, htp://,

WEEK FOUR (FEB 9): What Makes The Fashion Industry Tick?

Nancy L. Green, 1997, “Fashion and Flexibility: The Garment Industry between Haute Couture and Jeans,” Ready-to-Wear, Ready-to-Work: A Century of Industry and Immigrations in Paris and New York, Durham: Duke University Press, 15-43.

Xiaolin Bao, 2001, “Women in the Chinatown Garment Industry,” “The 1982 Strike,” Hold Up Half the Sky: Chinese Women Garment Workers in New York City, 1948-1992, University of Illinois Press, 110-142, 197-212.

Screening: Made in LA (2007, dir. Simon Kilmurry), China Blue (2005, dir. Micha X. Peled), Seamless (2005, dir. Douglas Keeve)

Website (REQUIRED): Minh-Ha Pham, Threadbared posts: (and the rest of the entries in the series);;;

WEEK FIVE (FEB 16): Fashioning National Stories, National Bodies

Monica L. Miller, 2009, “Crimes of Fashion: Dressing the Part from Slavery to Freedom,” Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, Durham: Duke University Press, 77-136.

Nancy J. Parezo, 1999, “The Indian Fashion Show,” in Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds, Ruth Phillips and Christopher Steiner, eds.,Berkeley: University of California Press, 243-263.

Shirley Jennifer Lim, 2006, “Contested Beauty: Asian American Beauty Culture during the Cold War,” A Feeling of Belonging: Asian American Women’s Public Culture, 1930-1960, New York: New York University Press, 121-153.

Recommended: Laila Haidarali, 2005, “Polishing Brown Diamonds: African American Women, Popular Magazines, and the Advent of Modeling in Early Postwar America,” Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 17, No. 1, 10-37.


WEEK SIX (FEB 23): Subcultures and Style Police

Monica L. Miller, 2009, “’Passing Fancies:’ Dandyism, Harlem Modernism, and the Politics of Visuality,” Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, Durham: Duke University Press, 176-218.

Catherine S. Ramirez, 2002, “Crimes of Fashion: The Pachuca and Chicana Style Politics,” Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, vol. 2, no. 2., 1-35.

Screening: Zoot Suit Riots (2001, dir. Joseph Tovares)

Websites (RECOMMENDED): Prison Blues:; Levi’s Fall/Winter 2009 Lookbook:; New York Times:; Concurring Opinions:

Recommended: Lisa Jones, 1997, Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair, Anchor.

WEEK SEVEN (MAR 2): “Faking It:” Authenticity and Artifice

Marianne Conroy, 1998, “Discount Dreams: Factory Outlet Malls, Consumption, and the Performance of Middle-Class Identity,” Social Text 54, 63-83.

Katherine Zane, 2001, “Reflections on a Yellow Eye: Asian I(\Eye/)Cons and Cosmetic Surgery,” in Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age, ed. Ella Shohat, Boston: MIT Press, 161-192.

Kobena Mercer, 1990, “Black Hair/Style Politics” Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, New York: Routledge, 97-130.

Websites (REQUIRED): Counterfeit Crochet:; Jezebel:

Screening: Good Hair (dir. Chris Rock, 2009), Roseanne

WEEK EIGHT (MAR 9): Colonialism and Imperialism I

Jean Comaroff, 1996, “The Empire’s Old Clothes: Fashioning the Colonial Subject,” in Cross-Cultural Consumption: Global Markets, Local Realities, David Howes, ed., New York: Routledge, 19-38.

Emma Tarlo, 1996, “The Problem of What to Wear,” and “Searching for a Solution in the late Nineteenth Century,” Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1-23, 23-62.

WEEK NINE (MAR 16): Colonialism and Imperialism II

Emma Tarlo, 1996, “Gandhi and the Recreation of Indian Dress,” “Is Khadi the Solution?” and “Dressing for Distinction: A Historical Review,” Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 62-128, 318-336.


WEEK ELEVEN (MAR 30): Global Economies of Style

Verity Wilson, 1999, “Studio and Soiree: Chinese Textiles in Europe and America, 1850 and Present,” in Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds, Ruth Phillips and Christopher Steiner, eds., Berkeley: University of California Press. 229-242.

Karen Tranberg Hansen, 2000, “The Work of Consumption,” Salaula: The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 184-206.

Dorothy Ko, 1999, “Jazzing into Modernity: High Heels, Platforms, and Lotus Shoes,” in China Chic: East Meets West, Valerie Steele and John S. Major, eds., New Haven: Yale University Press, 141-154.

Screening: T-Shirt Travels (dir. Shantha Bloemen, 2001), Secondhand (Pepe), (dir. Vanessa Bertozzi and Hannah Rose Shell, 2008), The Importance of Being Elegant (dirs. George Amponsah and Cosima Spender, 2004)

WEEK TWELVE (APR 6): Beautiful Generation, Part I

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, 2010, “Introduction,” “Crossing the Assembly Line,” “All in the Family?” in Beautiful Generation, Durham: Duke University Press, 1-98.

WEEK THIRTEEN (APR 13): Beautiful Generation, Part II

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, 2010, “The Cultural Economy of Asian Chic,” “’Material Mao:’ Fashioning Histories out of Icons,” and “Asia on my Mind: Transnational Intimacies and Cultural Genealogies,” in Beautiful Generation, Durham: Duke University Press, 99-201.

WEEK FOURTEEN (APR 20): The Politics of Veiling

Leila Ahmed, 1993, “The Discourse of the Veil,” Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, Yale University Press, 144-168.

Homa Hoodfar, 1997, “The Veil in Their Minds and On Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women,” in The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd, eds., Durham: Duke University Press. 248-279.

Mimi Thi Nguyen, 2011, “The Biopower of Beauty: Humanitarian Imperialisms and Global Feminisms in an Age of Terror,” Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 26, No. 2: 359-383.

Websites (RECOMMENDED): On-line readings on Iranian protest images and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a burqa ban, collected on Threadbared:;

Screening: The Beauty School of Kabul (2006, dir. Liz Merkin)

WEEK FIFTEEN (APR 27): Student Presentations

WEEK SIXTEEN (MAY 4): Student Presentations and Class Reflection

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