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Decolonising Fashion History Short Course

Decolonising Fashion History Short Course

Central Saint Martins
Taught by
Elizabeth Kutesko


This course begins with the controversial question: how can we decolonise fashion history? It thus situates itself at a critical turning point in fashion history and theory. There is increased recognition in scholarship and public debate that the way we study fashion must move beyond a Eurocentric bias, and take into account a postcolonial perspective.

The course will take a globally-orientated, decentered approach to the study of fashion history.  Through lectures, seminars, and visits to exhibitions and archives in London, you will explore fashion as a transnational form of modernity, yet one which often capitalises on pervasive cultural stereotypes. You will examine fashion as a visual image, a material object, a text to be read, a lived experience and crucially, as a concept that travels. You will then be introduced to historical and contemporary theories and debates of fashion, which will be used to revise our understanding of fashion as a product only of so-called ‘Western’, capitalist and industrialised societies. Fashion exists in all cultures, at all times, but may take different paces and forms of innovation.

The course will cover pertinent themes including post-colonialism, Orientalism, whiteness, modernity, exoticism, decolonisation, globalization and cultural appropriation. The aim of this course is to piece together a more inclusive history of fashion, inspired by global histories, postcolonial and black studies, in order to decolonise the imperial and colonial legacies embedded in fashion history to date.

Topics Covered

  • Locating Fashion Beyond the West
  • Fashion as an Imperial Construct with lasting legacies
  • Orientalism in fashion: Chinoiserie and Japonisme
  • The Body as Medium in Fashioning National Identity
  • Critical engagement with fashion theory and history with attention paid to global frameworks
  • Deep critical understanding of fashion and its intersection with post-colonialism, race, ethnicity, nation and culture

Who should take this course?

Suitable for anyone with an interest in the stories and messages that fashion contains. It will interest anyone concerned with nuancing the often polarised debates in scholarship and popular media surrounding representation and the lived experience.

Course Outcomes

An ability to identify key aspects of fashion through the interpretative lens of cultural studies, and use a range of case studies to explore contemporary and historical perspectives relating to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and national identity.


Entry requirements: None.

Level: All Levels


Please note: This course is for students aged 18 and older

Tutor Description

Dr Elizabeth Kutesko is an alumna of the Courtauld, where she obtained her PhD in 2016, and a Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Central Saint Martins. She is the author of Fashioning Brazil: Globalization and the Representation of Brazilian Dress in National Geographic (Bloomsbury, 2018) and has published an article based upon her research in the Brazilian Fashion Special Edition of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture (November 2016). Her research interests are Latin American bodily practices and the intersection between fashion, cultural identity, representation and power.


Students should come to class having read the selected readings below, and be ready to discuss them:

  • Cheang, Sarah and Elizabeth Kramer. ‘Fashion and East Asia: Cultural Translations and East Asian Perspectives.’ International Journal of Fashion Studies 4.2 (2017).
  • Jansen, M. Angela and Jennifer Craik, ‘Introduction.’ In Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity through Fashion. Edited by M Angela Jansen and Jennifer Craik. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.
  • Lewis, Martin W. and Karen E. Wigen. The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. “Introduction” pp1-19.
  • Tulloch, Carol. ‘Style-Fashion-Dress: From Black to Post-Black’. Fashion Theory 14.3 (2010): 273-303.

Available dates

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