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2021/2022  KAN-CIBCV1517U  Fashion/Dress and Style: An Ethnographic Approach

English Title
Fashion/Dress and Style: An Ethnographic Approach

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for Master of Arts (MA) in International Business Communication in English
Course coordinator
  • Daniel Souleles - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
Main academic disciplines
  • Sociology
  • Cultural studies
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 15-02-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Students will be able to conceptually distinguish dress, fashion, and style, as well as understand the significance of the difference.
  • Students will be able to understand explain anthropological and ethnographic approaches to studying dress fashion and style.
  • Students will conduct their own independent research on dress, fashion, and style and will interpret that research using ideas drawn from course meetings and course readings.
Fashion/Dress and Style: An Ethnographic Approach:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 20 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
If the student has not handed in at the ordinary exam, the retake will be as the ordinary exam.

If the student has not passed the ordinary exam the re-take exam is constituted by the same portfolio of cases as the ordinary exam. If a student fails the ordinary exam, the student submits a revised version of her own contribution to the case portfolio at the re-take exam.
Description of the exam procedure

The examination for this course will be an individual, written home assignment made up of a packet in two parts. Students will be afforded class time and guidance over the course of the semester to complete this work in a gradual manageable way. All assignments will be in 12 point font, be double spaced, and have one inch margins. The components follow:


  • Part one will consist of three small independent research projects. Each project will be written up and will be no longer than 3-4 pages each. Each write up will report on the students independent research and cite and engage with at least three (3) different readings from the course.


  • Project one will be an interview with someone in front of their closet asking them to explain all the items in it. You may also take and include photographs.


  • Project two will be a street photography project of the students design meant to illustrate some look or pattern in some specific part of Copenhagen.


  • Project three will be an analysis of the clothing worn in a TV show or movie using interpretive tools drawn from the class.


  • Part two will be a final written assignment running 8-12 pages in lengthy. Students will either:


  • Do an independent research paper on a topic of their choosing that is related to the class and approved by the instructor. 


  • Create a research proposal including a background, research questions, a literature review, a methods/sampling strategy section, and a reflection on the potential benefits and limitations of completing the research. The research proposal should be on a topic related to the course.


Again, students will have the opportunity to work on the various parts of this exam packet over the course of the term. They will formally submit both parts in one packet at the end of the course

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

We dress ourselves every day. We evaluate how others look. We notice when people standout. Often our first apprehensions of social or cultural difference has to do with appearance. Clothing, adornment, and body modification are inescapable parts of the human experience. There is no culture, society, nation, civilization, or group of humans that does not and that did not get their bodies ready in some way shape or form for social presentation.


This course will offer a way to understand how humans dress themselves. It will draw on approaches from anthropology, sociology, and fashion studies, and will center ethnographic scholarship (actual field studies) in its presentation. Specifically, it will pivot between the related concepts of “fashion,” “dress,” and “style” and use ethnographic research to illuminate the use of these concepts in understand why people look the way that they do.


This course will also lead students through a series of applied research projects on clothing and dress that will allow them to develop their own independent research interests on topics of their choosing related to dress, fashion, and style.

Description of the teaching methods
Course meetings will be a mix of lectures, discussions, and activities.

Students should read and be prepared to discuss all readings prior to class.

Students should attend class as they’re unlikely to understand course material otherwise.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will have the opportunity to both workshop and submit drafts of all portions of their examination project over the course of the semester. The instructor will give significant class time to this. What this practically means is that students may hand in drafts of their exam project which the instructor will give comments and critique to. There will also be in class workshops to discuss assignments.
Student workload
Teaching 30 hours
Preparation 135 hours
Examination 40 hours
Further Information

Anthropology is the main academic discipline drawn on in this course.

Expected literature


  • Hebdige, Dick. 1979. Subculture and the Meaning of Style. London: Routledge.
  • Woodward, Sophie. 2007. Why Women Wear What They Wear. Oxford: Berg.
  • Clarke, Alison and Daniel Miller. 2002. “Fashion and Anxiety.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture 6(2):191-213.
  • Kaiser, Susan B. 2012. Fashion and Culture Studies. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Cannon, Aubrey. 1998. “The Cultural and Historical Contexts of Fashion.” In Consuming Fashion, Adorning the Transnational Body. Anne Brydon, and Sandra Niessen eds. Pp. 23-39.
  • Turner, T.S. 1980. “The Social Skin.” In Not Work Alone: A Cross-cultural View of Activities Superfluous to Survival. J. Cherfas and R. Lewin eds. Pp. 112-40. London: Temple Smith.
  • Keane, Webb. 2005. “The Hazards of New Clothes: What Signs Make Possible.” In The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience. S. Küchler and G. Were, eds. Pp. 1-19. London: UCL Press.
  • Marx, Karl. 1990. “Chapter One: Commodities.” In Capital Volume One. London: Penguin.
  • Taussig, Michael. 1977. “The Genesis of Capitalism Amongst a South American Peasantry: Devil’s Labor and the Baptism of Money.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 19(2):130-155.
  • Rofel, Lisa and Sylvia J. Yanagisako. 2019. Fabricating Transnational Capitalism: A Collaborative Ethnography of Italian-Chinese Global Fashion. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Roper, Hugh-Trevor. 1983. “The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland.” In The Invention of Tradition. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger Pp. 15-43. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.
  • West, Candace and Don Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society 1:125-51.
  • Butler, Judith. 1988. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theater Journal 40 (4):519-531.
  • Meadow, Tey. 2018. Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century
  • Holland, Dorothy, Wiliam S. Lachiotte Jr., Debra Skinner, and Carole Cain. Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. 2001. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Miller, Daniel. 1994. Modernity—an Ethnographic Approach: Dualism and mass consumption in Trinidad. Oxford: Berg.
  • Bueno, Carlos. 2014. “Insie the Mirrotocracy.” Carlos.bueno.org (blogpost). June. http:/​/​carlos.bueno.org/​2014/​06/​mirrortocracy.html. Accessed 11 December 2020.
  • Berger, John. 1972. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.
  • Grasseni, Cristina. 2011. “Skilled Visions: Toward an Ecology of Visual Inscription.” In Perspective on the History of Visual Anthropology. Marcus Banks and Jay Ruby eds. Pp. 19-45. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Hunt, Alan. 2010. “A Short History of Sumptuary Laws.” In The Fashion History reader: Global Perspectives. Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil eds. Pp. 43-61. London: Routledge
  • Anawalt, Patricia Rieff. 1990. Indian Clothing Before Cortés: Mesoamerican Costume From the Codices. University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Monroe, Rachel. 2020. “How to Spot a Military Impostor.” The New Yorker October 19.
  • Bayly, C.A. 1986. “The origins of swadeshi (home industry): cloth and Indian society, 1700-1930.” In The Social Life of Things. Arjun Appadurai ed. Pp. 285-322. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Friedman, S. 2004. “Embodying civility: civilizing processes and symbolic citizenship in southeastern China. J. Asian Stud 63(3).
  • Ivaska, Andrew M. 2004. ““Anti-mini Militants Meet Modern Misses”: Urban Style, Gender, and the Politics of “National Culture” 1960s Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.” In Fashioning Power: Clothing, Politics and African Identities. J. Allman ed. Pp. 105-121. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Luvaas, Brent. 2016. Street Style: An Ethnography of Fashion Blogging. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Woodward, S. 2005. “The Myth of Street Style in Fashion Theory.” Journal of Dress, Body, and Culture 13(1):83-102.



Last updated on 15-02-2021