BAEcon Economics and Philosophy / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Sociology of Fashion

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY20062
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Sessions 1 and 2 will introduce the relationship between fashion and social and historical change (in particular in terms of the transformations of urban life), including the transition from modernity (session 1) to late-modernity (session 2).

Session 3 will explore the fashion system in terms of the relationship between production and consumption and debates over the 'consumer society'.

Session 4: Fashion as practice will look at the worn garment through theories of everyday life, self presentation and identity.

Session 5: Fashion as Image will explore visual representations of fashion and the role of the media.

Session 6: Fashion as object will explore a counter position through debates over clothing as material culture and theories of materiality.

Sessions 7 and 8 will be on fashion, gender and embodiment. Session 7: masculinity, session 8: fashion and femininity.

Sessions 9 and 10 will consider critiques of fashion, and introduce debates over fashion and morality. Session 9 will build on the previous weeks on gender and look at feminist critiques and debates over fashion and pleasure. Session 10 will consider debates over sustainability.


The association of fashion with appearance and ephemerality has led to it being seen as superficial and hence not important for academic debate. With the exception of notable writers such as Veblen, Simmel and Goffman, there has been a neglect within the sociological literature of serious considerations of fashion and questions of appearance. With the turn to questions of embodiment and corporeality and also understandings of the centrality of consumption, there has been a renewed attention to fashion, clothing and appearance. This course aims to address the previous absence of serious treatises on the subject of fashion, and the ways in which it has re-entered the sociological literature. As fashion is by definition changing, the course will use fashion to address areas of social change: changes in city life and how identity, gender and status are constructed, and as situated within broader transitions from modernity to late modernity. The course aims to use fashion to address the following core sociological issues: embodiment, identity construction, social change, gender, materiality, visual and material culture, and as it relates to moral and ethical debates of sustainability. These will be addressed from macro understandings of contemporary society through to micro practices of choosing what to wear as an act of self-construction. Students will be encouraged to critically engage with fashion as an aspect of everyday life. 

Learning outcomes


On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  •  Understand how fashion relates to social change and the broad transitions from modernity to late-modernity.
  •  Identify key theoretical debates over fashion, appearance and embodiment as these relate to wider discussions over individuality and conformity.
  •  Apply these debates to empirical examples and understand fashion at the macro level of debates over sustainability and morality and micro level of seeing fashion as a practice.
  • Critically evaluate these theories and examples in relationship to the existing literature on identity construction, social change, material culture and fashion.
  • Be able to critically reflect upon everyday fashion as a facet of contemporary life. 


Teaching and learning methods

Weekly lecture / workshop session.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course includes an end of course exam (50% of the mark) and an end of course essay (50% of the mark). There is also a non-assessed component (with 5% deducted for non-submission) which is a research exercise. Specific details of questions will be provided at the beginning of the course.

Feedback methods


All Sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

Barnard, M. (ed) 2007 Fashion Theory: a Reader. London: Routledge.
Entwistle, J. 2000 The Fashioned Body. Oxford: Polity.
Goffman, E. 1971 The Presentation of the Self in everyday life. London: Penguin.
Simmel, G. 1971 On Individuality and Social Forms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wilson, E. 1985 Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. London: Virago.
Woodward, S. 2007. Why Women Wear What they Wear. Oxford: Berg.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sophie Woodward Unit coordinator

Additional notes

2015/16 timetable

Wednesday 10:00 - 13:00

Return to course details