In Focus: (Re)Dressing the American Body I

How does dress shape the American experience? In which ways have dress conventions been used to make bodies “decent” and “acceptable” in American society? And how do individuals employ dress to challenge hegemonic conceptions of Americanness, create community, and find belonging-in-difference? This is the first of two courses that will explore these questions and lay the conceptual and curatorial foundations of the spring 2025 Focus Project exhibition “(Re)Dressing the American Body.” This exhibition will use 10 case study dress objects to challenge and rethink historical and contemporary notions of American fashion and identity at the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, dis/ability, and body size. In a departure from other hemline histories and designer-focused exhibitions about American fashion, this exhibition will center the experiences of consumers, wearers, activists, and craftspeople. Divided into two thematic sections that explore, trouble, and redefine notions of “citizenship” and “assimilation,” “(Re)Dressing the American Body” aims to shed new light on the lived and embodied experience of American identity as mediated by dress. Students will have the opportunity to delve into the histories of American fashion and style, while also researching dress objects that expand these histories, and which will assist the curators in refining the final object list. Site visits to fashion archives and exhibitions will serve as an additional jumping off point for discussions about the possibilities and limitations of contemporary fashion curatorial practice when working with ordinary and everyday dress objects. 3 credits.