On Teaching Fashion: More on the Semantics of Creating Fashion

My last post was On the Semantics of Creating Fashion.  Semantics, the study of meaning and interpretation of meaning, can play an interesting role in any classroom.  Words are inert, and derive their meaning from personal experiences and memories. This is what can make communication tricky; word meaning can vary slightly from person to person.  To reinforce a lesson I teach about Roland Barthes, I created a quiz that illustrates how semantics can stimulate creativity in the design process.

I was luck enough to get in contact with two of my former students to share the results.  Katherine Chinn and Tatiana Aldaco graciously shared their fashion illustrations below.  Both are finishing their degree in fashion design at FIDM.

I’ve included a fascimilie of the exact quiz that I gave the students.  (I recommend changing the quotation regularly to avoid any contamination of ideas.)

Philosopher Roland Barthes stated that: words inspire more creativity than images because they are open to interpretation. This means the analysis of written clothing (text describing clothing) can also effectively pave the way for the invention of real clothing.

For this quiz, you will interpret the quote below by sketching a garment.  Read the quote thoroughly and consider how you can create a garment to its specifications while allowing your own design philosophy/style to be present.  This can be done in a number of ways: incorporating your design signatures, referencing your folio studies for color/silhouettes/textiles, etc.

Starting with one of his first dress designs, a 1929 body-hugging sheath known as the “Taxi” dress, spiral wrapping around the armature of the body was a signature technique that “Designer X” used to fashion his sculptural dress forms. The circular top skirt of the two-piece dress falls into multilevel flutes as it spirals around the hipline.

And now, for the results:

Illustration by Katherine Chinn. Image courtesy of the artist.




Illustration by Tatiana Aldaco. Image courtesy of the artist.

Katherine and Tatiana were given 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete the assignment, and were not allowed to look at any visual pictures or clues.  They were only allowed to interpret the two sentences that described the dress.  You can see the variety in their designs.  Both accurately depict a “body-hugging sheath” with spirals wrapping around the body.  The description was taken from the Costume Institute’s description of a 1952 cocktail dress by Charles James.


Cocktail dress, 1952 by Charles James. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (2009.300.213a,b)

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but the words describing the picture might inspire you more!












Related Articles

1 Comment

  • janlorraine April 08, 2012 05.59 am

    Images are open to interpretation as well, don’t you think?


Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at : Amazon.com, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.