Fashion Studies

The CUNY Graduate Center — 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, and will enable students to serve as adjunct instructors in the CUNY colleges and beyond where fashion courses are taught. 

Fashion_Liberal Studies Photo

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.

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 HumanitiesThe Center for the Study of Women and SocietyThe Gotham CenterThe Center for Place, Culture and PoliticsThe Center of Gay and Lesbian Studies as well as the New Media Lab.

Fashion_Liberal Studies Photo street city

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_Liberal Studies Photo dress shop

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.

Degree Requirements

This master's degree program requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies] (3 credits)
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to Fashion Studies [MALS 71200 and MALS 71300] (6 credits)
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice that are relevant to the student’s concentration or studies
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000] (3 credits)

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.

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.

Core Courses

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.

Library Resources

Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.
Students' contact for Fashion Studies research is reference librarian Beth Posner.

Fashion Studies Concentration Faculty

Eugenia Paulicelli - Professor -  profile photo

Eugenia Paulicelli


  • Comparative Literature


  • Liberal Studies


  • Women's and Gender Studies


  • Film Studies