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A History of Modern Fashion

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course investigates both the theory and practice of fashion from the French Revolution to the present. We cover topics such as the birth and death of the fashion designer, how fashion communicates and attempts at ‘timeless’ fashion.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge is required, but consulting at least one of the course texts is recommended.

Content of Course

  1. Why do we wear clothes? What is fashion?

  2. A tale of two revolutions.

  3. Gender - women in corsets and men in uniform.

  4. Rational dress: attempts at timeless fashion.

  5. The birth of the fashion designer and Paris couture.

  6. Bohemians and subcultures: alternative dress.

  7. New Look to Pop.

  8. Dressing for success: postmodernism in fashion.

  9. The Japanese designers and the death of couture.

  10. Today’s designers and consumers.

Teaching method(s)

Lecture based with class discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Display a knowledge of fashion and its theory;

  • Have a broad understanding of the directions of fashion over 200 years;

  • Analyse the reasons for the development of movements and conventions in western fashion;

  • Understand semiotics and gender issues in fashion.


Core Readings


  • Barnard, M., 1996. Fashion as Communication. London: Routledge

  • Entwhistle, J., 2000. The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press

  • Evans, C., 1989. Women and Fashion: a New Look. London: Quartet 

  • Kawamura, Y., 2004. The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion. Oxford: Berg

  • Ribiero, A., 1986. Dress and Morality. Oxford: Berg

  • Steele, V., 1998. Paris Fashion: A Cultural History. Oxford: Berg

  • Whiteley, N., 1987. Pop Design: Modernism to Mod. London: Design Council

  • Wilson, E., 1985. Adorned In Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, Berkeley: University of California Press

  • Wollen, P., 1998. Addressing the Century. London: Hayward Gallery

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.