Cover of Fashioning the Body Politic, ed. Wendy Parkins, 2002. © Bloomsbury.
Fashion and Politics in Europe
Far from being a marginal approach, fashion history provides a unique perspective on European politics. This course will look at how fashion contributed to debates about class, gender, racial, and civic identity in modern Europe.
The course examines political aspects of fashion in the context of a broad range of countries and epochs, encompassing Revolutionary France, Victorian Britain, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Poland. These and other cases open up questions about the political significance of fashion, the political agency of women through fashion, the legitimation and contestation of racial ideology through fashion, the economic contradictions of communism through the fashion trade, and the colonization and decolonization of appearances.
Fashion did not merely mirror political changes, but played an active role in transformations and processes. While dress practices were ostentatious, they were not necessarily easy to read and carried competing meanings.This makes fashion useful to highlight a complex visual economy where political meanings and values are constantly negotiated and re-written.
Devising and taught this course for BA students.