Professor Eugenia Paulicelli, Comparative Literature, Women’s Studies, & MALS

Room 4116.110/Office hours: M 5-6 or by appointment

Course Description:

The course studies fashion in New York City as an industry, an economic force, a mechanism that creates and performs identities, and a vehicle that fosters play (and interplay) between race, gender, class, sexuality, and the body. In other words, the course examines how the cultures and economies of the fashion industry and New York as a city have been and continue to be intertwined. The cultural economic impact of the fashion industry on New York City cannot be overstated. New York City’s fashion industry employs 180,000 people, accounting for 6% of the city workforce and generating $10.9 billion a year in total wages, and tax revenues of $2 billion. An estimated 900 fashion companies are headquartered in the city. In 2012, New York counted 13,800 fashion establishments and was home to more than 75 major fashion trade shows plus thousands of showrooms. New York Fashion Week contributes about $850 million a year to the local economy—about twice the economic impact of the 2014 Super Bowl (which was held seven miles west of midtown Manhattan in New Jersey).

But how and when did New York become the Global Capital of Fashion we know today? To answer this question, the course will begin New York’s role in the birth of American fashion from the gilded age to the present. We will study how fashion, as a manufacturing and culture industry with its complex media apparatus has contributed to the transformation and history of the city of New York and its identity. We will examine the contribution made by the women and immigrants who built the garment industry and how their work intersected with social reforms, political activism, suffragism, anti-war movements, the gradual urban transformation, and processes of globalization and gentrification as we know them today. The course will go on to investigate the socio-cultural context out of which New York City emerged as a global fashion capital.

This course promises to be especially exciting because it will run alongside a similar course offered at the Pratt Institute by Professor Minh-Ha Pham. CUNY and Pratt Students will attend class discussions separately but will have opportunities for cross-campus conversations and collaboration with guest lectures by prominent fashion scholars, fashion museum curators, and others, class trips to locations such as the Alice Austen’s House, the Tenement Museum and the New York Public Library, designers’ studios, and more.

As well as doing the reading and participating in class discussion, students will be expected to attend events and trips. We have made every effort to schedule events during or very close to our regular class time. Please plan accordingly!

The class will share a blog where students will be required to interact and offer comment on the weekly readings and discussions.

Learning Objectives:

The course is one of the two core courses for students who would like to pursue work in Fashion Studies in the Master of Liberal Studies (MALS, Fashion Track); or those students who are enrolled in a PhD Program at the Graduate Center and would like to add an interdisciplinary Concentration in Fashion Studies; and/or are interested in pursuing a dissertation or research in the field.

By the end of the course, students should be familiar with some of the most relevant theories of fashion and gain historical knowledge of the relationship between fashion and the national/transnational image of New York. In particular, students will learn how, through fashion, they can rethink their methods for studying the history of a city and its people in many different nuances.

It is for these reasons that students will be asked to work on innovative projects that challenge their thinking and research methods.

 The course has the following objectives:


  1. Encourage students to use primary documents and archival material in their research (one of the classes will take place at the NYPL with a staff member from the Rare Books and Manuscript collections).
  2. Encourage work on the history of New York, the history of fashion and its implications with race, gender, class and immigration.
  3. Create a base for research projects that are innovative in their form and scope, linking them wherever possible to new technologies and methods in digital humanities and software studies. Projects on mapping (archives and historical sites relevant to the study of fashion and the city) and visualization, or video would be welcome and supported. Students must submit a proposal for their research project or paper by the end of week 4. It will be returned with feedback on Week 5. Instructions on the proposals will be handed out to students during the first week of class.


At the end of the class, CUNY and Pratt Students will take part in a one-day conference in which they will present their findings. The results will be posted in the Class Blog: New York, Fashion Capital.


Requirements: In addition to what is described above, students are required to write 300 words weekly on our class blog in response to a posted prompt.


Fashion Film: The Cultures of Fashion (Spring 2014)

As industries and cultural manifestations, fashion and film share many qualities and have always influenced each other in a number of ways. Both are spectacle and performance; both are bound up with emotions, with desire, with modernity and processes of modernization. At the level of representation, film and fashion share the creation of a culture and a discourse, the practice of desire and an endless process of emulation, imitation, and consumption choices. Or as a critic has put it : “Film, in this guise of dress, of appearance and artifice, is an extension of the fashion industry.”

While focusing on the present and particularly on the new phenomenon of the “Fashion Film,” the course offers historical and critical frameworks with which to investigate new ways of understanding the relationship between art/commerce; industry/culture; body/identity; time/space; image/imagining and, the aesthetic/anaesthetic.

The course explores how the fashion film, which has recently exploded thanks to advancements in digital technology, has in fact a long history that can be traced back to the emergence of cinema in the late 19th century. The course explores not only this new cinematic form in multiple contexts and frameworks, which connect it to photography, the fashion show, movement, time, and branding, but also explores the politics of experimental forms of communication, aesthetics, cultures and identity.

Authors and filmmakers examined include: Walter Benjamin, Michelangelo Antonioni, Laura Mulvey, Francesco Casetti, Lev Manovich, Wong Kar-wai, Mary Ann Doane, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Jessica Mitrani, William Klein, Caroline Evans, Tom Gunning, Thomas Elsaesser, and scholars who have written on the new genre of the Fashion Film such as Marketa Uhlirova, Natalie Khan, Nick Reese-Roberts and others.

Sample of Student Work produced for the course by Christopher Vitale, Link below:


FashionFilm Journal by William Lorenzo:


LINK to FASHION FILM SITE: https://fashionfilm.commons.gc.cuny.edu


Clothing Cultures in Early Modern Italy and England

This course will examine the clothing culture of early modern Italy and England, and will focus in particular on the way that dress was used to fashion the body and to construct social distinctions. In particular, the course will investigate why, how and where fashion came to the fore in early modern societies, establishing itself as a threat to morality, religious beliefs, and as  a vehicle that bore on gender, class and ethnic definitions. Drawing on a broad interdisciplinary framework, the course will focus on texts belonging to the English and Italian literary traditions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, reading them in the context of material culture and the visual arts. We will read texts from genres such as treatises, novellas, plays, poetry, satires, and costume books. From these texts and secondary critical sources, we will see how dress (or any kind of ornamentation that covered the body) became a cause for concern for the State and Church.  These two institutions sought to control individual vanity and any desire to transgress the law and accepted societal codes. It was at this time that fashion became an institution of modernity and expanded its definition beyond dress to include behavior, manners, national character and identity.


  • The sumptuary laws from the period that prescribed the types and styles of fabrics that could be worn by persons of various ranks.
  • The importance of clothing and fashion in court culture, especially as discussed by Castiglione in The Courtier.
  • The significance of clothing and accessories in public space. In hierarchical environments, but also the street, rituals, parades, spectacles etc.
  • The significance of costumes on the early modern stage, both symbolically and materially (some influential critics have recently claimed that the public theater was closely linked – from an economic perspective – with the trade in second-hand clothing).
  • The role that accessories of dress like the codpiece and farthingale played in materializing masculinity and femininity, as well as the cultural context and significance of gendered crossdressing (both inside and outside the playhouses).
  • The use of cosmetics, and especially their relationship to the formation of racial ideals.
  • The practice of forcing members of religious groups to wear specific forms of dress (Shylock, for example, mentions his “Jewish gabardine” in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice). There are articles on Jews wearing markers in order to distinguish them from Christians
  • The erotics of dress in love poetry, and in everyday life. Historians have recently begun to explore the complex ways that Italian courtesans used clothing and fashion.
  • The vestarian controversy of post-Reformation England, in which reformers argued against the use of traditional religious garbs such as the surplice, alb, cope and chasuble.


Castiglione, The Courtier

Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl

Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker’s Holiday

The polemical pamphlets about crossdressing such as Hic Mulier and Haec Vir

Robert Greene’s satirical pamphlet A Quaint Dispute between Velvet Breeches and Cloth Breeches (1592).

Cesare Vecellio, Habiti Antichi et Moderni di tutto il mondo (Excerpts) and Giacomo Franco, Habiti, (excerpts)

Niccolo’ Machiavelli, The Prince and Belfagor (excerpts)

Pietro Aretino, The School of Whoredom

Lucrezia Marinella, The Nobility and Excellence of Women,and the Defects and Vices of Women (Excerpts)

Lodovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso and Torquato Tasso, Gerusalemme Liberata (Excerpts, issues of gender, transvetism, armor etc)

Arcangela Tarabotti, Antisatira (I’ll provide translations of excerpts) there is a great discussion on masculinity, dress and vanity.

Giovanni Lampugnani, Of the rented carriage (another great text on issues of masculinity, “national identity” (Italian fashion versus French etc, I will provide Translations for the excerpts)

On Beauty, platonic love, erotic love etc, (I can prepare excerpts from different texts)


Peter Stallybrass and Ann Rosalind Jones, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory

Pierre Bourdieu, Outline for a Theory of Practice (especially his notion of the habitus) and Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste

Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

Judith Butler’s  ideas about gender performativity as articulated in Gender Trouble,Bodies that Matter, and Undoing Gender

Anne Hollander, Seeing through Clothes

Daniele Roche, The Cultures of Appearances

Aileen Ribeiro, Dress and Morality

Giorgio Riello, McNeill Peter, eds. The Fashion History Reader

Evelyn Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance

Roland Barthes, The Language of Fashion

Georg Simmel, “Fashion”

Rebecca Arnold, FashionA very brief Introduction (OUP)

Susan Vincent, Dressing the Elite. Clothes in Early Modern England


New York Fashion:

The Fabric of Cultures. Fashion, Identity, Globalization

The course studies fashion in New York as an industry, an economic force, a mechanism that creates and performs identities; and a vehicle that fosters interplay between gender, the body and sexuality. We will begin with New York and the birth of American fashion, from the gilded age and continuing till the present. We will examine the contribution of women who have worked in the fashion industry as designers, stylists, journalists (such as the New York-based Claire McCardell, Elizabeth Hawes, Diana Vreeland, Jo Copeland and others). The course will investigate the socio-cultural context out of which these women emerged; the relationship the city of New York has with fashion and modernity; with fashion’s role as a creator of national and local identities and image.

Particular attention will be given to periods of great transformation in the history of New York when fashion plays a full role in shaping the city’s culture and identity, and has an impact on lifestyles and gender perception in the workplace and in other social and private spaces. The course will cover a time-span going from the sweatshops of the second half of the nineteenth century where Jewish and Italian immigrants worked to the emergence of the “American Look” in the 1930s and 1940s, on to the subsequent shifts that occurred in the 1960s, up until the present of the New York Fashion week and New York as a global fashion capital.

A reading packet will be available on Blackboard. Other books are available at libraries or can be purchased through Amazon or any other sources.


The Business of Fashion

This course considers the aesthetic markets of fashion, in which value and price are determined by ineffable factors such as taste, mood, and social climate.  SItuating fashion across the various sectors of the industry, from production, to branding, to the models who promote the styles and the consumers who buy them,  Students will be exposed to a selection of readings across a range of topics including selections from works by Pierre Bourdieu, Don Slater, Sharon Zukin, Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, Mimi Nguyen, Nancy Green, Ashley Mears, Joanne Entwistle, Nigel Thrift, Alison Hearn, Thorsten Veblen, and Pietra Rivoli. This range of topics includes global labor flows within the garment industry; a select history of fashion production practices; a sociology of shopping; various treatments of consumers and consumption; an ethnography of the modeling industry; critical discussions of branding and luxury markets; technology and innovation; fast fashion; eco fashion; and sustainability. Each student will research and write in one of these areas, culminating in a final project aimed at sharing this research.


Fashion, Power and Space

Description to come.



Each semester students at the Graduate Center who are interested in pursuing their research interests in fashion and have completed the two required courses for the Concentration in Fashion Studies can take courses offered in other Programs and Departments @ the GC.

Here is a sample list of appropriate and approved courses:

  • ANTH. 72200 – Markets: Critical Hist. Apprch
    • GC: R, 2:00-4:00, Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Blim [23404]
  • ANTH. 82500 – Urban Futures: Ethnog/History
    • GC: F, 11:45- 1:45, Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Profs. Low/Susser
  • ART. 76040 – Software/Globlztn/Politcl Action
    • GC: T: 2:00- 4:00 82000 – Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Profs. Manovich/Buck-Morss [23226]
  • ART. 79400 – Aesthetics of Film
    • GC: W, 4:15 8:15 2:00- p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Miller, [23229]
    • This section open to Art History students only. Cross listed with FSCP 81000, THEA 71400 & FSCP & MALS 77100.
  • ART 89600- Sonic Cinema GC: R, 2:00 – 5:00 pm Rm:
    • TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Herzog
  • ENGL. 79020 – Writing with the Body
    • GC: T, :15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 2/4 credits, Prof. Perl, [23079]
  • MALS. 71000 – Forms of Life Writing
    • GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Koestenbaum
  • MALS 70100 – Narratives NYC: Lit/Vis Arts
    • GC: Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Singer, [23337]
  • MALS 75500 – Digital Humanities: Meth/Prac
    • GC: Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Profs. Brier/Gold [23349]
  • MKT. 88800 Values/Ethics/Consumption Behaviour
    • Bar: R, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Rm: TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Sen [23139]
  • SOC. 80700 – Georg Lukacs/Frankfurt School
    • GC: R, 4:15 – 6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Aronowitz, [23363]
  • SOC. 81200 – Urban Ethnography
    • GC: R, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Profs. Duncier/Kasinitz, [23367]
  • SOC. 85000 – Yth Mrgnlztn/Subcltr Resistance
    • GC: T, 6;30-8:30 p.m. Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Brotherton, [23376]
  • SOC: 86800 – Consumer Society & Culture
    • GC: R, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Zukin, [23372]
  • ART: 85050- The Baroque
    • GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm 3421, 3 credits, Prof. Wunder [23235]
    • This course explores the integrated interdisciplinary arts of the Baroque in seventeenth-century Europe. Major topics include theatricality, naturalism, festivals and ephemera, fashion, ritual, material culture and conspicuous consumption. Some class sessions will meet at museums and libraries (including the Frick, Met, Hispanic Society, and New York Public Library), where we will examine painting, sculpture, textiles, furnishings, and printed illustrated books. Readings will include an overview of classic art historiography on the Baroque in Europe as well as recent writings that bring new perspectives to bear from other fields (especially literature) and outside of Europe. No prior experience in early modern or art history is required or expected; students from other fields and disciplines are warmly welcomed to contribute to the class.
      Auditors may be accepted if there is room in the class after registration. Please contact the instructor with any queries: ajwunder@gmail.com.
      There is no required preliminary reading, but students are encouraged to read a general survey of seventeenth-century European history for context and background.

See more at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Page-Elements/Academics-Research-Centers-Initiatives/Masters-Programs/Liberal-Studies/Program-tracks/Fashion-Studies#sthash.jmVmnbxE.dpuf

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