THEA 2319: Fashion, History and Culture


Course Video

Course Description

Why do we wear what we wear? This course immerses students in a visual overview of fashion using the history, politics, sociology, trade, economics, haute couture, and entertainment of various cultures. Blogs, in-class discussions, on-line fashion research and up-to-date fashion trends will also be included. Topics might include: the effect of the whaling industry on fashion corsetry in the 19th century; fashion of the 18th century including the French Revolution, Napoleon’s influence on Bourgeoisie and sub-culture Incroyables et Merveilleuses; Hippies, Disco, Material Girl, Grunge—the power of entertainers to effect fashion.

Using visual imagery from art history (frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and paintings), literary history (prints, daguerreotypes, photography, contemporary written inventories and diaries), actual clothing (vintage, ready-to-wear, couture) and film (entertainment, documentary, TV) students will be immersed in the development of fashion within specific socio-economic cultures.

This is a required course in the Meadows School of the Arts Fashion Media minor and is open to all students.

Instructor Biography

Associate Professor Claudia Stephens has taught at SMU for 15 years and as a free-lancer, has designed costumes for 150+ theatre, opera and dance productions in NYC, Dallas, Portland, OR, Williamstown, MA, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and many others. Her work with Obie-award winning Big Dance Theatre (Dance Theatre Workshop, NYC; Jacob’s Pillow, MA; Les Subsistances, Lyon France.) includes Commes Toujours, Here I Stand.

She has designed over 12 productions for the Dallas Theater Center and two operas for Ft. Worth Opera, and will be premiering The Lighthouse with the Dallas Opera this spring. Film work includes: A Bronx Tale, Creepshow, and Dirty Dancing. Professor Stephens has a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon.

Learning Outcomes and Benefits

Students will:

  • Be able to identify selected historical periods using fashion, history, art, music, social, economic and other culturally based knowledge
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of fashion, history and culture terminology using in-and out-of-class research and writing assignments, exams, blogging assignments and in some cases, a final presentation
  • Be expected to read and comprehend independently from class and apply this acquired knowledge in class discussions, writing assignments, presentations and examinations
  • Be able, in written and verbal communications, to evaluate their understanding of fashion, history and culture and its’ relationship to their world
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