On Teaching Fashion: Trend Activity

The devil wears...WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT! by Violet Electric.

Here is a deceptively simple assignment that teaches students to see trends in color, silhouettes, and styles.  I use this one in my introductory course and students always seem to enjoy it, plus, it’s an opportunity for them to learn a number of essential concepts.


  • September issues of fashion magazines:  Vogue, Elle, GQ, Details. Whatever you feel is the right mix for your students.  Having it be the September issues is not essential, but it certainly will give them more material to work with.  You don’t want to bother working with January issues, as they’re way too thin.  You want loads of visual materials to work with. 
  • Tag board or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks

Life is a circus... and I am the ringmaster. by Violet Electric.

Collages.  From the supply list above, you drew that conclusion all on your own, didn’t you?  Break the class down into small groups of about three or four individuals.  You can assign them to their teams, or let them choose who they would like to work with.  Distribute the magazines, one to each group.

Now for the trends.  You can dictate to each group what you want them to focus on, or you can let them choose organically.  I have tried this both ways and either approach will work well, depending on the personalities and work styles of your students.  Letting the students guide themselves will result in a surprise from each group, provided that you have strongly visually-oriented and self-directed students.  A third option is to give the groups a list of suggested trends to focus on, and let them choose from the list.

Walking on the moon by Violet Electric.

Whether you assign or suggest trends, have each group flip through its magazine looking for repetition.  Repetition of color, silhouette, style, and so on (curry yellow, riding boots, hosiery, et cetera).  One way you can take this assignment is to simply direct the students to look for repetition and tell them to choose from there what they would like to focus on.  Some students like having a lot of direction.  Others like having a lot of artistic license.  You will know what kind your students are and direct them accordingly. 

The students will start to develop an eye for whatever their particular element is, whether it was assigned to them or not, and they will keep seeing it repeated throughout their magazine.  Have them start cutting out all of those images that fit with their theme and let them take it from there, arranging them on their poster board in whatever arrangement they feel moved to construct.  I encourage them to not leave any white space on their boards when they are finished.

Good Grief by Violet Electric.

You may find yourself surprised by just how much fun your students will have with this simple collage project.  A few years ago, I tried this assignment with a class of first-, second- and third-year university students, and their enjoyment was palpable.  They commented repeatedly on how much fun they were having, and several of them remarked on how it had been years since they had worked with scissors and glue.  One student said that this was the most fun they had had in college ever I tell you, what could be more gratifying to a teacher’s ears than that?  Maybe getting the collages at the end of it all to decorate my office with (I jest!), but who says learning and fun have to be mutually exclusive?  Not I, but you knew that.

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