The Graduate Center, CUNY — located on Fifth Avenue in a landmark building, the former B. Altman department store — is the only University in the US that is not a design or fashion school to offer a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Fashion Studies. This is a groundbreaking area of specialization that offers the chance to study the phenomenon of fashion from a variety of standpoints and in a unique interdisciplinary framework. The concentration in fashion is the result of more than a decade of academic international conferences, exhibitions, film screenings and festivals, and PhD seminars that have taken place at The Graduate Center and that culminated with the establishment of the PhD concentration in Fashion Studies available to PhD students.
This new concentration will enable students to serve as adjunct instructors in the CUNY colleges and beyond where fashion courses are taught.
The Graduate Center boasts an internationally renowned faculty in all areas and disciplines. The GC is also the site of a number of prestigious centers of research, such as the Center for the Humanities, The Center for the Study of Women and Society, The Gotham Center, The Center for Place, Culture and Politics, The Center of Gay and Lesbian Studies as well as the New Media Lab.
With the historical Garment district and the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology a few blocks away, the GC is located at the interface between the academy and industry. This strategic geographical location at the heart of New York City, one of the world’s fashion capitals, make the GC the ideal place and environment to study fashion in action.
Fashion is an economic force, a culture industry and a powerful way to convey identity, politics, status, and personality. Fashion can simultaneously express freedom and constriction, be both democratic and totalitarian; and both repress and liberate the body and gender roles. A thorough study of the history of fashion in its symbolic, creative and coercive faces, shows how it has been crucial in the construction of national identities in fascist regimes or in processes of decolonization, such as in India, or in the remapping of the world economy, including China, India and Brazil, even in past epochs like the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Fashion is closely tied to industrial, technological and economic developments and is at the center of cultural activity and change. In today’s globalised world, the fashion and textile industry are key factors to understand the profound transformations occurring in cities, nations and regions the world over.
Underlining all the recent scholarly attention that has been given to fashion is the intent of stripping it of its apparent light and frivolous reputation, and replacing it with a serious scholarly investigation that seeks to uncover the many complex layers that its surface conceals. The study of fashion, costume and dress has not only involved a series of disciplines, but has also had the effect of expanding the boundaries of these disciplines
After being trained in the core courses the program requires, students choose from among a number of electives that will be offered through the Inter-Disciplinary Studies Concentration in Fashion and the wide range of courses offered in the social sciences and the humanities by departments and programs at the GC. Students will receive guidance to develop their own plan of study according to their main research interest and training.
The two core courses are strictly interrelated and will connect the culture and the business of fashion in a broad theoretical framework and as practiced and communicated via museums, galleries, design houses, magazines, fashion shows and weeks, and department stores.
MALS 71200: The Culture of Fashion, 3 Credits
The course will introduce students the fashion system, its implications with body, gender and class. It will also consider its role and power in the context of global history, from nations to empire and to globalization as well as recent developments in digital technology. Students will get acquainted with the foundational theories of fashion as well as the most recent research in fashion studies.
MALS 71300: Special Topics in Fashion Studies, 3 Credits
The course will offer students in depth and critical knowledge of specific topics related to fashion, its culture, art and industry in the present and in the past. Some of the topics may include, Fashion and Law; Fashion, women and feminism; Writing fashion: literature and journalism; fashion and technology in the digital age; fashion and race; fashion film and screen media; the Made in Italy in the global world.
New York, one of the global capitals of fashion, is the ideal place to study fashion. As part of the requirements of the classes, students will visit some of the NYC museums such as the MET, FIT, Cooper Hewitt, as well as meeting with professionals working in the fashion industry (designers, creative directors, department store buyers, journalists and photographers). Students will also and participate in the many lectures and international conferences organized at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Students will be encouraged to develop a theoretical and rigorous framework that will enable them to conduct research for their final thesis/capstone project.
Upon completing the MALS degree, students will be qualified to enter doctoral studies in related fields, such as art history, anthropology, sociology (e.g., globalization, gender studies, consumption, urban studies etc.), business, psychology, film studies, women’s studies, English, etc. Employment opportunities include placement within several organizations in the culture industries, PR and consulting firms, NY fashion week, journalism, museums, the retail and fashion industry, or teaching in one of the programs in fashion offered within CUNY and at other New York schools.
Prof. Eugenia Paulicelli, Coordinator
IDS Concentration in Fashion Studies & Concentration in Fashion Studies in the MALS Program
Phone: (212) 817-8171
Prof. Elizabeth Wissinger
Please visit the Fashion Studies webpage for more information, news, and events.
Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.
Students' contact for Fashion Studies research is reference librarian Beth Posner.
(First image) Chimera Damanhurian Inspired Art, Fashion and Design: Photos by Gianluca Scolaro Clothing by Aythya Pimpinella Hair and Makeup by Performa Eco-Style, Flickr Creative Commons (Second Image)New York: Empty Streets, photo credit: Naro; (Third Image)Photo by: World Fashion Group, On Aura Tout Vu_Fashion-2091World Luxury Fashion Week, Abu Dhabi – 26/11/12 (Fourth Image) Photos by Mavis, mike krzeszak, at Flickr.com; (Fifth Image) Photo by: one2c900d, from Flickr. com; (Sixth Image) Photo Credit: Shutterboy Creative Jason W.; Flickr. com; (Seventh Image)Merceds Benz Fashion Week Berlin 2011 Impressions, Details in Pixel, Photo by Thorsten Lajdych; (Eighth Image) Photo Credit: The Shopping Sherpa, Book 1 02;