Among all objects of design, our clothes are the most universal and intimate. Like other kinds of design, fashion thrives on productive tensions between form and function, automation and craftsmanship, standardization and customization, universality and self-expression, and pragmatism and utopian vision. It exists in the service of others, and it can have profound consequences—social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental.
Fashion as Design focuses on a selection of more than 70 garments and accessories from around the world, ranging from kente cloth to jeans to 3D-printed dresses. Through these garments, we’re going to look closely at what we wear, why we wear it, how it’s made, and what it means. You’ll hear directly from a range of designers, makers, historians, and others working with clothing every day—and, in some cases, reinventing it for the future. Studio visits, interviews, and other resources introduce the history and development of each garment and their changing uses, meanings, and impact over time.
Course Learning Objectives:
Develop critical tools to appreciate and contextualize fashion design—from everyday clothing to couture garments—through many different perspectives.
Trace the history, development, and impact of garments over time, and explore how they may be reinvented.
Investigate garments through multiple lenses including politics, identity, and economics.
Understand more about the lifecycle of clothing, from its design and production to its marketing, distribution, and consumption.
Better comprehend the choices you make about fashion with respect to the visual language of dress, individual and collective identities, and issues such as labor practices, sustainability, and body politics.
Heroes Wearing certain garments can inspire heroic transformations, while heroes can elevate everyday clothing to iconic status. In this module, you will discover the relationship between aspiration, achievement, adulation, and attire through a wide range of heroes—and even imagine yourself as a space hero in the future.
Silhouettes When we put on clothes, we change the shape and outline of our bodies—sometimes profoundly. The silhouettes we adopt are determined by everything from shifting trends in fashion to what looks and feels good. This week, we explore how clothes shape the body and how cultural constructions of the body shape clothes.
Coutures The French word couture means "dressmaking" or "sewing,” and often refers to one-of-a-kind, primarily handmade garments intended for a specific individual. This module approaches couture from a broader perspective, exploring the complex processes—from traditional handcrafting to the use of new technologies—that go into the making of high-end and everyday garments.
Lifecycle This module examines the lifecycle of garments, an often overlooked aspect of fashion that many individuals and companies are addressing with growing urgency. How do garments begin, how do they end, and how does the cycle of production, consumption, and disposal impact the world?
Modesty Modesty has many varied expressions that can be informed by social, religious, or political identifications, as well as by personal choice. But whether covered up or exposed, our bodies are often battlegrounds for continually shifting societal claims around morality, agency, and etiquette.
Expression What we wear and how we wear it can communicate messages, create group identification, borrow and remake existing styles, or subvert a garment’s traditional associations. While choosing and wearing clothes is an act of personal expression, it is also a response to many of the topics addressed in the preceding weeks of this course. In this final week, we look at the ways in which clothing allows us to feel connected to others and to stand out.
Paola Antonelli, Michelle Millar Fisher and Stephanie Kramer