On Teaching Fashion: Project Sartorialist, Part I

Here’s a project I’ve been toying with for over a year now, and this term I’m finally ready to roll it out.  I initially received the inspiration for this one during a brief stint doing substitute teaching at my old high school (I advocate that everyone should try this at least once).  Note:  the teachers’ lounge?  Nowhere near as cool as you had thought it would be back when you were still in high school. 

Maybe it was divine inspiration.  Maybe it was simple common sense.  Whatever it was, I felt the need to come up with two alternate activities to have as backups to the regular teacher’s lesson plan.  One of those backup plans was a dvd.  The other one is what interests us today. 

I had been told in advance that a lesson plan would be waiting for me in the classroom.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it.  And I know absolutely nothing about darkrooms (well, OK, I suppose they should be kept dark, but that is the sum of my darkroom expertise).  And my charming class tells me they have no projects to work on, whatsoever, nor do they have their cameras with them, because they never bring them to class, so they should just be allowed to go spend the class period outside in the sunshine, because they’re allowed to do that all the time.  Right.  But, I digress.  Now let me tell you what this has to do with a college-level fashion class project. 

My backup lesson plan with my high school students was a self-portrait project, where I sent the students outside in teams of three (I decided it was worthless to corral them indoors on the first really warm day of summer) to do three self-portraits.  The first had to be a headshot, the second had to include a team member, and the third had to have any part of the student except the face.  And all photos had to be appropriate for a facebook profile photo.  Almost all of the students had camera-phones, and those who didn’t had team members who did. 

If you’ve read my previous posts you may have noticed I’m a Sartorialist fan.  This term’s incarnation of a turn-the-students-loose-with-cameras project incorporates Scott Shurman’s street fashion photography with trendspotting and stylehunting, minus the self-portraits. 

This project can be extended over several days, but  this term I am experimenting with a forty-five minute Project-Runway-challenge type of approach (after all, I do have the show to thank for bringing me new enrollments).  First, I break the students into small groups, and making sure that at least one student in the group has a digital camera or a camera phone.  Then, they have 45 minutes to find people to photograph, either on the street or on campus. 

The teams’ photographs must demonstrate either a definable style trend that can be seen on three or more individuals, or must be of two or more individuals who exude that certain je-ne-sais-quoi, evocative of The Sartorialist’s style. 


After the 45 minutes are up, the class must return to the classroom to check in.  Then, they email me their final photos to document that they were completed on time.  During the next class meeting, they present their photos to the class as a whole.  Sound good so far?  Stay tuned for the results.

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  • Monica October 09, 2009 10.33 pm

    this sounds like a fun project.

  • Worn Through » On Teaching Fashion: Project Sartorialist, Part II
    October 16, 2009 - 5:01 am

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