At Dickinson, students have the unique opportunity to collaborate and work alongside their faculty on an intensive, interdisciplinary, semester-long research program called a Mosaic. This four course Mosaic examines fashion from multiple perspectives, starting from a historical and cultural framework and then focusing on the case of the Italian fashion system with a three-week in-country research trip to Italy in March 2024.

Program Description

Fashion has been at the center of people’s lives across the centuries and globally. The study of fashion and the body has established new relations between codes and systems of clothing and the conduct of everyday life, raising questions about consumerism, everyday fashion, the iconization of the body through fashion models and photography, the use of cosmetics and tattoos to “make up” the body, the nexus between fashion and gender and changing body image standards. The trickle-down theory that fashion is dictated by elite designers and opinion leaders has clashed with evidence of a trickle-up effect from subcultures, mass consumer behavior and the everyday bricolage of fashion items.

The Fashioning the Body, Shaping the Nation Mosaic explores the multiple and interacting identities embodied by individuals and communities within the consumer fashion systems: characteristics and commonalities across history; consumer techniques of fashion that show how everyday fashion has become the dominant system; and the development of work and leisure fashion as major sub-systems. We examine how techniques of consumerism have promoted processes of self-formation and inscribed attributes of gender in particular ways, from femininity and masculinity to the notion of gender fluidity.

Sustainability, broadly conceived, is another important component. We explore cultural sustainability (the ways in which immigrant communities maintain their dynamic culture through fashion as they adapt to their new transnational reality); and economic and environmental sustainability (how the state, employers, and workers negotiate economic and environmental costs and benefits related to productivity, labor, and health of humans and the environment).

A multi-lingual research team explores these dynamic interactions. Through visits, interviews, and survey research we attempt to identify the contexts, conditions, and labor of the fashion system in Italy; and the life experiences of practitioners, workers, immigrants, and detainees who have been negotiating their sense of community belonging through fashion.  Debates over national identity, body diversity, gender identity, sexuality and media discourses inform our discussions.