On Teaching Fashion: Class Project Idea

 

What do you wish you had learned when you were in school, studying to be a fashionista or fashion scholar?  In my case, I wish I had focused more on the individual designers of the 19th and  20th centuries and today.  In today’s post, I present to you my idea for a class project for my Introduction to Fashion course, designed to introduce the class to the wide variety of designers who make up our modern fashion heritage, while covering almost all of the important bases in pedagogy:  research, public speaking, listening, writing, and reading. 

 

vivienne-westwood_asp10126img1

 

To start, I give my students a set list of designers, ranging from Charles Worth to Vivienne Westwood to Marc Jacobs.  The list has five more designers than I have students in the class, so they have a goodly number to choose from (30).  The designer list is composed of specific designers who are important for students to know, whether their focus is merchandising, design, industry, or history.

Students are then required to research their designers and, in a five-(5) minute oral presentation, provide the following information:  

  1. The designer’s place of birth and approximate date of birth
  2. The designer’s educational background and/or professional training.

 

marc_jacobs_488792a.jpg

Each student must also provide two images to illustrate their designer’s work: 

  1. One picture of a typical or signature design by the designer.

  2.  One picture of something from the designer’s most recent collection, either Fall 2009, or, if the designer is retired or deceased, something from his or her last collection (not the current design house carrying the designer’s name).

Students’ presentation dates are assigned alphabetically, by student last name (thereby preventing the bulk of them from signing up for the latest dates possible),  with two presentations given per day, at the beginning of the class period. 

 

In addition to the presentations, students also write a one- (1) page report on the designer’s life, career, and style, with sources documented on an additional sheet.* 

 

American Presidents Library Binding

 

Finally, I assemble the reports (before marking them) into one large booklet and distribute a copy to each student (this works when you have less than 30 students), with the expectation that they read the content, and that exam questions will be drawn from the body of work.  It makes a good supplement to my textbook, which does not give as many designers their individual due as I prefer (which, because of the space it would take in the text, is perfectly understandable).  The booklet will also help students to absorb more information than will be presented in the five-minute in-class presentations, and will be easy for them to study from before their exam.  

 

 

Do I have any readers out there who also teach Introduction to Fashion?  Please let me know if you use this project idea and how it turns out, or if you alter it to suit your class needs.

 

 

For the rest of you, the non-teachers, what do you wish you had learned in school, before being launched into the fashion industry?  I’d love to know! 

 

*I will be the first to admit that the writing assignment is relatively light, however, bear in mind that I teach freshman- and sophomore-level courses at a community college, and many of my students have not yet taken an English composition course.

9 Comments »

  1. keren b. said,

    September 11th, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Looking back at my fashion studies, i feel what was most absent is knowledge of textiles. Today I am a student at FIT MA program for fashion and textile museum studies, and I finally have the opportunity to deepen my understanding of different textiles and fibers.
    As a working fashion designer i wish I learned more in school about how different textiles behave, how different designers used different fabrics etc. I truly believe it makes all the difference and it should be an essential part of a designer’s education.

  2. Monica Sklar said,

    September 11th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Keren
    That is interesting that you didn’t have much textiles prior,- since textiles is generally required in all fashion degrees and often for interiors and related degrees too. Except I don’t think it is at art schools. Where did you get your bachelors?

    I’m actually teaching textiles this semester at the University of Minnesota. I did it last year too and I think the students like it or at least find it valuable. When I did my bachelors, we had two classes, “intro to textiles” and then “textile testing” and optional were weaving and fabric dying/painting courses (at Wayne State in Detroit.) At Eastern Mich, where I did my masters, we took a bunch of grad level textiles. I know the North Carolina grad schools always offer tons of that as well.

    Glad to hear you’re getting that material now. While I don’t love the material as a student or now instructor, it’s SOOOOO important to know for virtually any field in design.

  3. Lauren said,

    September 11th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I agree that more textiles info would be good. It’s certainly missing from my transcripts. I took (and have since taught) the basic textiles course, but did not take a lab course, because fashion was my minor for my BA (the fashion program had it).

    When I went on to get an MS in Textiles* I was in the soc/psych/historical part of the program and was not required to take any further textiles courses. I didn’t have the interest at the time (and was really glad, at the time, to get out of them). Now, however, I would like to take something beyond the basic class.

    *This reminds me, Monica, of how your program was moved into the College of Design, but you, and others I know in the program, don’t do design work. Programs get their names for a variety of reasons and then are near impossible to change. So, in my case, I have a Master of SCIENCE in Textiles. The undergrads in the program periodically campaign to get it changed to Fashion and are never successful. I’ve grown rather fond of it, myself.

  4. Monica Sklar said,

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I like the new college of design name, as I don’t do design, but I study design theory, design history, design thinking, etc. I’m really glad my grad level degrees aren’t in “fashion.” Barely represents what I do.

    Lauren-surprised to hear your textiles course in your minor didn’t come with a lab. Everyone where I’ve been the lecture and lab are one and the same. Bummer.

  5. Lauren said,

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Well, it sort of came with a lab component. I did the course at community college, and we did do burn tests and microscopy in class. Then, the place where I transferred to and did my minor had a 1-unit lab that you did separately from the textiles course. I was supposed to do it when that was my major, but I ended up making it my minor and was then no longer required to do it. My minor is technically in Consumer and Family Studies. They may be doing things differently there, now.

  6. Monica Sklar said,

    September 13th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Yeah everywhere does it a bit different.
    Cool assignments in the post–I’ll tuck it away for future classroom use

  7. Heather Artz said,

    September 21st, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I love this idea. I have been teaching a high school level fashion course and having each student create a PowerPoint presentation for their designer. I think this project would give students a more lasting resource than simply listening to the presentations.
    Thank you!

  8. Lauren said,

    September 22nd, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Hello Heather,

    That’s great! I’m glad to hear that I have given you an idea to add to your existing assignment.

    Cheers,
    Lauren

  9. Worn Through » On Teaching Fashion: Who’s Who said,

    November 6th, 2009 at 5:01 am

    [...] months ago, I wrote about a class project I developed to introduce my Introduction to Fashion students to a wide [...]

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