Teaching Fashion: Information Literacy

I would like to share with you a lesson plan I recently developed to help fashion students increase information literacy skills. It could be useful in an industry overview course.

Why Information Literacy? 

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” (Association of College and Research Libraries)

As students progress through their schooling and later, their career, they will need to constantly locate, evaluate, and use information to keep aware of changes in the fashion industry, in business, and in the local economic environment.

Textbooks give a roadmap and overview of the fashion industry, but students must broaden their knowledge on course topics beyond the information in their textbook. Thus, it is important to be aware of publications important to the apparel industry.  They must learn where and how to access each one and which publications are best for various kinds of information.


What Information Sources Should Students Be Using?

Local publications allow students to learn about the fashion industry in their local city, job, and networking opportunities.

Trade publications are those specifically written for people that work in the fashion industry.  These are not general fashion publications for consumers, such as Vogue, In Style, or Marie Claire.  Trade publications focus on forecasting coming fashion trends and the fashion business.  Consumer fashion publications are basically “old news”, summarizing what already is in the stores.

Business publications may contain articles on fashion companies or general economic trends that affect the fashion industry.  It is important to keep aware of how everything going on in the world may potentially influence the fashion business.  Perhaps a new business opportunity is created.  Perhaps there will be a dramatic reduction in demand for their product.

Reading and understanding all three types of publications is important to their success as a fashion student and fashion professional.

Where Can Students Find This Information?

Here is my list of important resources.  Your list will, of course, be adapted to your own program’s location and focus.

Local Publications: D Magazine, Paper City (not in the library—pick up free at newsstands), Texas Monthly, Dallas Business Journal, Dallas Morning News

Trade Publications: Accessories, Apparel/Bobbin, Earnshaw’s, Footwear News, Retail Design International Presentation, Selvedge, Textile World, VM&SD, WWD

Business Publications: Business 2.0, Business Week, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Inc, Money, Newsweek, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Time, Wall Street Journal

Ways Students Can Access These Publications:

Several options exist.  Students should know how to use them all, but may prefer one over another, based on their learning style.

  1. Read the physical magazines and newspapers in the library or by obtaining a copy from a newsstand or other retail source.
  2. Many of these publications offer their content on their own website.
  3. Use library databases to search for articles from these publications.
  4. Use an RSS feed manager to keep track of articles from these publications.  Examples include: netvibes.com, iGoogle. 


Assignments for Students:

1st Information Literacy Assignment:  Information Sources Chart

Make a chart about each of the information resources including:  

  1. Publication name            
  2. What topics does this publication cover?              
  3. Location in University Library     
  4. Website address             
  5. Is there an RSS feed?    
  6. Can you search for articles on the website?        
  7. Can you get the full text of the articles on the website?
  8. Which databases include this publication?
  9. Does it provide full text or just the reference?


2nd Information Literacy Assignment: Manage the Information Flow

Set up an RSS feed manager such as netvibes.com, iGoogle to keep track of articles from these publications.  Send a link to your public page to the instructor for grading.

3rd Information Literacy Assignment: Practice Information Literacy Skills

Each week, find an article related to one of the assigned textbook chapter(s). The main purpose of the article must be related to the apparel industry and the assigned chapter. Use your chart for guidance as to best publications for this topic and how to access the publication. In one page, summarize the article and explain its relationship to the chapter. Be prepared to share your article in class.

I hope this gives you some fresh ideas for enabling your students to successfully navigate the vast array of information sources available to them today.  Learning to navigate the information flow is essential to their success—not only as students, but as future professionals.

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