fashion design

Grand Narrative
Feminist Approach
Artist / Creative Genius
Author Function
Fashion System
Star System
High Fashion / Luxury



This session is all about the creator and how fashion institutions and promotions frame ‘him’. The myth of the designer is one that historiographical approaches and discourse analysis makes visible. The designer is often the central point from which discussions of fashion radiate out. The couturier has been revered as an artist but the modern designer balances between artist and industrialist (Francois Baudot, Fashion: The Twentieth Century, 1999: 11). High fashion depends on notions of style, quality and individuality that the cult of the designer promotes (Chris Breward, The Culture of Fashion, Manchester University Press, 1995: 183).


Designer as Celebrity


What the Dickens?
Examine the following attack by Dickens on the couturier Worth and his clientelle. What is Dickens saying about the design profession? How does Dickens reference the myth of the creative artist in his account?

The consequence of converting women into pattern-cards of the fashions is, that luxury and finery, in the course of time, deprive them of all sentiment of modesty. The easy duchesses of the Regency at last selected their waiting-maids from amongst their lacqueys. Their footmen laced their bodices or fastened the bows of their cravats. But would you believe that, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, there
are bearded milliners—man-milliners, authentic men, men like Zouaves—who, with their solid fingers, take the exact dimensions of the highest titled women in Paris—robe them, unrobe them, and make them turn backward and forward before them, like the waxen figures in hairdressers’ shops.

You surely know the Rue de la Paix—the Street of Peace—so called because it commemorates War under the form of a column. There resides somewhere in it an Englishman who enjoys a considerably greater popularity in the world of furbelows than any Lenten preacher whatsoever. It must be avowed that
this Anglais has created a novel art—the art of squeezing in a woman at the waist, with a precision hitherto unknown. He possesses the inspiration of handling the scissors, and the genius of sloping out. He knows to a thread the exact point where the stuff ought to fit tight, and where it ought to float loosely. At
first sight he distinguishes, in the contexture of a lady, what ought to be displayed and what concealed. Destiny sets him from all eternity to discover the law of crinoline and the curve of the petticoat. In other respects a perfect gentleman, always fresh shaved, always frizzled: black coat, white cravat, and batiste shirt-cuffs fastened at the wrist with golden buttons; he officiates with all the gravity of a diplomatist who holds the fate of the world locked up in a drawer of his brain.

When he tries a dress on one of the living dolls of the Chaussée d’Antin, it is with profound attention that he touches, pricks, and sounds it, marking with chalk the defective fold. From time to time he draws back, in order to judge better of his work from a distance; he looks through his hand, closed into the shape of an
eye-glass, and resumes with inspired finger the modelling of the drapery on the person of the patient. Sometimes he plants a flower here, and tries a bow of ribbon at its side, to test the general harmony of the toilette; meanwhile, the modern Eve, in process of formation, resigned and motionless, silently allows her moulder to accomplish his creation. At last, when he has handled the taffety like clay, and arranged it according to his beau ideal, he goes and takes his place, with his head thrown back, on a sofa at the further end of the room, whence he commands the manœuvre with a wand of office.

“To the right, madame!” The client performs a quarter of a revolution.

“To the left!” The patient turns in the opposite direction.

“In front!” Madame faces the artist.

“Behind!” She turns her back.

When all is over, he dismisses her with a lordly gesture: “That will do, madame.”
The Paris élégantes, marvelling at the delightful ways of their milliner in pantaloons, came to the conclusion that a man who made a robe so well, ought finally to put it in place himself—ought to stamp it with the mark of his lion’s claw. Consequently, whenever there is a ball at court, or at the Hôtel de Ville, or an evening party of ceremony at the Palais Royal or the Luxembourg, at about ten o’clock at night you will see a long file of carriages drawn up before the house of the foreign ladies’-tailor, with their melancholy coachmen buried in their wraps. Their mistresses mount the staircase of the Temple de la Toilette. As they enter, they each receive a ticket in the order of their arrival, and are shown into a waiting-room. As they can only appear one by one in the presence of the Pontiff of the Skirt, the last comers have sometimes to wait a long while. By a delicate attention, the master of the mansion does his best to solace as far as possible the fatigues of the ante-chamber. A buffet, liberally supplied, offers the consolation of meats and pastry. The ethereal petites maîtresses of the Paris saloons lay in a stock of strength for the polka, by eating pâté de foie gras at discretion,
and washing it down with Malmsey Madeira. Thus refreshed at the expense of the establishment, they intrepidly confront the operations of the toilette. He looks, he inspects, gives a finishing touch, sticks in a pin, arranges a flower, and madame has realised the prototype of elegance. The master gets rid of them one after the other, turning them off hand rapidly.

Nevertheless, like all great artists, this son of Albion has his caprices. He will clothe and criticise, doubtless, any woman; but he prefers ample women. He believes that these do most honour to his talent, putting it more plainly in evidence. For them he reserves all the attentions and all the ingenious flatteries of his
profession. As to beauties who are reduced to the meagre volume which is rigorously indispensable to escape being a ghost, he consents to dress them, certainly—but without enthusiasm, solely as a duty of conscience.

28th February 1863, All the Year Round (Volume IX)


Modern and postmodern fashion‘ in Barnard, Malcolm Fashion Theory, Taylor and Francis 2014

Catwalk politics. Nathalie Khan in Bruzzi, Stella, Gibson, Pamela Church [editors] Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations and Analysis, Routledge, 2000.

I know nothing about fashion: there’s no point in interviewing me“: the use and value of oral history to the fashion hstorian. Clare Lomas, in Bruzzi, Stella, Gibson, Pamela Church [editors] Fashion Cultures : Theories, Explorations and Analysis, Routledge, 2000.

Understanding fashion through the museum, José Teunissen. in Riegels Melchior, Marie et al, Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Lewis. 23. Hijab Stories. Fashion Cultures Revisited. 2013. Routledge

Parkins. CHAPTER 3 Elsa Schiaparelli: Glamour, Privacy and Timelessness. Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli. 2007. Bloomsbury

De La Garza. 4. A New Fashion Capital: Shanghai. Fashion Cultures Revisited. 2013. Routledge


Workshop 1: Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis. Methodologies, ontology and epistemology

Introduction to design research methods defining key terms and concepts

Qualitative methods: interviews, case studies, ethnography, psychogeography

Quantitative methods: laboratory experiments, tests, prototyping, sampling


Boradkar, P. ‘Theorizing Things: Disciplinary Diversity in Thinking about Objects’ – in ‘Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects’: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DrAKE8XRlEsC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Blaxter, L., Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (2010) “How to Research” Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp. 99 – 133

Wilkie, A. (2010) ‘Prototyping in Design: Materialising Futures’, “Anthropological Research on the Contemporary”, AHRC Studio



Underwear exercise pdf

Shoes / Visual Ethnography [pdf]

Sarah Pink: Doing Visual Ethnography [pdf]

Minichiello and Kottler: The Personal Nature of Qualitative Research [pdf]

Barthes, Roland The Fashion System. London,1985
Breward, Christopher and Caroline Evan Fashion and Modernity. Oxford, 2004
Cumming, Valerie Understanding Fashion History. London, 2004
Davis, Fred Fashion, Culture, and Identity. Chicago, 1992
de la Haye, Amy and Elizabeth Wilson Defining Dress: Dress as object, meaning and identity. Manchester, 1999
de Marly, Diana, Worth: Father of Haute Couture. London, 1980
Hollander, Anne Seeing through clothes. New York, 1978
Kawamura, Yuniya Fashion-ology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies. Oxford, 2005
Kawamura, Y. The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion. 2004
Parker, R & Pollock, G: The Essential Femininity or How Essential is Femininity?
Steele, Valerie: Chanel in Context in Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader, Eds Ash & Wilson. 1992
Wolff, Janet. The Social Production of Art. Macmillan, 1981


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