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.
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:
- The designer’s place of birth and approximate date of birth
- The designer’s educational background and/or professional training.
Each student must also provide two images to illustrate their designer’s work:
One picture of a typical or signature design by the designer.
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.*
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.