FA4007 - What is Fashion? Historical and Critical Studies

What will I learn on this module?

In this module, you will explore the question: What is fashion? This research-rich year- long module encourages you to immerse yourself in the world of fashion, past and present. It offers a broad introduction to fashion studies.

With specialist Fashion, Historical and Critical lecturers you will learn about particular themes and developments in the history of fashion design since c.1800: exploring influential designers and placing fashion in the social and cultural contexts of the time through a series of illustrated lectures supported by seminars. Your visual vocabulary will expand through the development of your knowledge of fashion design history, and enable you to take inspiration from the design of the past to apply to your own work in parallel module ‘Introduction to Fashion Design’.

You will also be introduced to how the industry works through a fundamental exploration of topics such as; global context and the fashion year, cultural context and trend forecasting, fashion in the media, types of garment manufacturers, market segments and the retailer, digital designing and e-portfolios, colour, fibres to fabrics, the fashion cycle and responsible design practices. On completion of the module you will have gained a critical understanding of the key aspects of how the industry works, which you can relate to your own practice as a designer.

Hands-on and online analysis will help you develop research skills relevant to fashion design practice, including library and archival research, visual fashion communication and presentation skills, and to support independent learning. You will gain the ability to conduct critical visual analysis and research of fashion design practice and the confidence to articulate clearly your viewpoints in speech and writing.

How will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn through engaging in critical debate, reflecting on your understanding of historical fashion and contemporary fashion practice to encourage enquiry-based learning.

Blended teaching and learning strategies in Fashion Design encourage you to acquire a flexible and imaginative approach to creative problem solving: to think divergently and to develop your ability to articulate concepts and ideas through research rich enquiry-based learning. Students become active participants in developing their academic and intellectual skills.

The School of Design operates an extended studio approach (X-Studio) that embraces our physical studios and making workshops as well as our virtual spaces to create a flexible and rich environment that is responsive to our learners’ needs. This dedicated approach has been developed over many years of continuous teaching innovation, research and industry collaboration. It has created a supportive extended studio culture that encourages our students to learn flexibly, dynamically blending their learning and University experience between physical and digital interactions both in real-time and online at their own pace. We believe that this extended studio culture not only helps our students to become more confident autonomous learners but also prepares them for a dynamic design industry in which an extended studio philosophy is current practice.

Cultural, historical and critical studies provide context to the subject discipline developing knowledge and insight into your own personal practice within a social, moral and ethical setting. You will learn through a series of classroom-based or online, interactive lecture sessions, outlining the main concepts relating to the main themes and developments of fashion history and contextualising fashion in relation to changes in wider society. Classroom-based or live online seminars and tutorials will help you to discuss and engage with the concepts, examples and ideas raised in the lectures as well as develop research skills. Students will take part in writing workshops to develop academic writing skills.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

• The project is introduced at a briefing session, where it is fully explained and explored by both staff and students.
• A named lead Module Tutor manages the module monitoring input from academics across the Faculty of Art, Design and Social Sciences.
• The lead Module Tutor and the academic teaching team direct lecture and studio-based practice through illustrated lectures, seminars and group work. Academics are available to answer queries in relation to the module during timetabled studio sessions or office hours.
• Tutorials provide formal feedback on your understanding of issues identified for study and your progression on the module and offer direction on how to develop your work further, including guidance for student-led independent learning; reading, research and reflective writing.
• All learning materials for this module are available on the University eLearning Portal, including the module documentation, announcements, presentations, assessment, study skills signposting, reading list and timetable.
• Accessing computer facilities, garment archives and library and online resources.
• Online study skills are offered by the library to support learning and development of academic research skills
• TEL: eLearning Portal, digital reading lists, presentations via Panopto, Prezi. Lectures and seminars via Blackboard Collaborate
• Professional Practice: Preparation for Industrial Placement or study abroad in level 5 of the programme.
• Academic Language Skills (ALS) support is available for international students.
• Students requiring additional support are advised to contact their Guidance Tutor for advice, who will be able to refer them to the relevant university services for specialist support regarding their personal circumstances.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate awareness of historical, cultural and contemporary issues through the investigation of fashion in a written essay and report.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. Identify, review and discuss design related issues or topics in a scholarly manner, evidenced through learning activities.

3. Demonstrate awareness of writing styles, content and debate in the writing of a report.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

5. Form independent judgement from the views of others and articulate reasoned arguments in response to their feedback.

6. Evidence communication skills in fashion through one or more of the following channels; written, visual, oral.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment will be conducted through:

Formative feedback received from tutors and peers during seminar, studio, X-Studio and workshop engagement.

Formal formative feedback
Tutorials will be scheduled at key points of the learning programme, to provide feedback and informally record academic progress.

Summative assessment
By collecting a variety of evidence/outputs from the learner via multiple dimensions (coursework, observations, presentations, etc.) tutors will assess the learner’s overall performance holistically with a single grade from 2 components at the end of semester 2.

Student self-assessment
Students are encouraged to be reflective learners through scheduled self-assessment opportunities.

Verbal feedback will be provided from peers
and academic staff.

Component 1: 1500 word essay relating to
Historical and Critical studies in fashion.
KU 01; IPSA 02; PVA 05; PVA 06.

Component 2: 1500 word Fashion Design Report requiring critical reflection on how fashion industry will affect student’s own practice.
KU 01; IPSA 03; PVA 05; PVA 06

Additional forms of assessment practice may take place within projects in the form of peer assessment/self-assessment which may contribute to the overall module outcome.





Module abstract

In this module, you will explore the question: What is fashion? You will learn about the development of fashion design since c.1800, exploring influential designers, placing fashion in the social and cultural contexts of the time. Through the development of your new knowledge of fashion design history, your visual vocabulary as a designer will expand enabling you to take inspiration from the design of the past and apply it to the future in your parallel module ‘Introduction to Fashion Design’.

You will also be introduced to how the industry works through the exploration of its structure, influences and responsibilities. You will be encouraged to discuss your critical understanding of the key aspects of this and how you can relate this to your own practice as a designer. This will enable you to think ahead to preparation for Industrial Placement, enterprise, or study abroad in level 5.

Course info

UCAS Code W230

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years with placement

Department Northumbria School of Design

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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