Teaching Fashion: Information Literacy Take 2

Bringing Information Literacy to the Past

As Ellen noted, staying abreast of current trade publications is an important skill that must be developed by students in order to stay at the forefront of their industry.

When teaching about historic fashion, students must develop a different form of information literacy and become acquainted with research approaches and methods used in the interpretation of dress outside the current season or their own culture. They must utilize publications that analyze dress through many different lenses.

It is easy to rely solely on the internet for research information – be it contemporary or historic knowledge. People google it or they may look at databases on their library website. But online databases only go back to far. Print indexes in library collections can (and often do) contain entries that are not searchable on databases. Textbooks are valuable resource but students have to move beyond required classroom reading and look to sources that bring them to highly focused academic research.

In order to push students outside their comfort zones of research, assignments can be devised that bring them into the library and access other avenues of information. A structured annotated bibliography is a good way to introduce students to journal databases, edited volumes, topic specific books and journal indexes as well as developing critiquing skills.

In the history courses I teach, I require students to complete a very short annotated bibliography with only three types of sources that they must access. Given then time period concentrations of the classes (ancient to 1790; 19th and 20th Century) slightly different sources are requested.


  1. You are to access a hardcopy/book Index in order to find an article on xxxx period of  dress related to your mid-term design project or final project. There is a whole section of these books in the library. This can be a scholarly or popular journal article but must have been published before 1970. Photocopy the page from the index (you will turn this in so make sure it is legible).
  2. See if you can find that reference in an online article database (see…include link to databases on library website). If yes, write down in which database(s) it is available and whether or not the article is available full-text.
  3. Figure out how to get the full article.
  • Online? Print out the full-text article if available through an online database
  • Not online? Put in an ILL request and print the ILL request page. When the article arrives you must bring a hard copy to me and e-mail a PDF. You must do this in time to have and read the article before the assignment is due!
  • At another library? Go get it.

Edited Volume

  1. Locate the section of the library where the majority of books related to dress are housed.
  2. Select an edited volume on xxxx period of dress related to your mid-term design project or final project. (ie – a book that has multiple chapters in it, with each chapter written by a different author).
  3. If there isn’t an applicable book in the university library collection, submit a request for a book outside the collection – ILL or through ClicNet. You must do this in time to have and read the book before the assignment is due!
  4. Photocopy that chapter.

Scholarly Journal Article on dress with full text available through online database

  1. A scholarly journal is a journal that includes peer reviewed journal articles. Generally, they are published by universities or professional associations. Some directly related to clothing are Dress, Clothing and Textile Research Journal and Costume. There are many more. However, this is a case where you may want to consider looking at art history and archeology journals. ProjectMuse, JStor and Art Full Text are good starting databases.
  2. Select an article on xxxx period of dress related to your mid-term design project or final project.
  3. Print the full text article and e-mail the PDF

Primary Source

  1. Find a primary source popular, fashion magazine that is pre-1980. This could be Vogue, Ebony, Harper’s…. Godey’s Lady’s Book.
  2. Select an article that specifically talks about fashion from the season the magazine was published.
  3. Photocopy the article.

An additional benefit of the assignment – requiring that the sources must be related to either their final project or a mid-term project gives students a headstart. The annotated bibliography is due several weeks before significant due dates for both projects therefore pushing the students to get started early on research and sources that will need to complete anyway.

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