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Research Approaches to the Study of Dress and Fashion

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Dress and fashion are rich and varied fields of study. Some scholars refer tothem as ‘hybrid subjects’ because they bring together different conceptualframeworks and disciplinary approaches, including those from anthropology,art history, cultural studies, design studies, economics, history, literature,semiotics, sociology, visual culture and business studies. Invariably, such apervasive phenomenon as dress has always been the subject of muchcommentary. Since the late 19th century, there has been no scarcity of research,but studies have been somewhat sporadic and tended to stay within thesebounds of their own disciplines. From the 1960s to the 1990s, the leadingeducational institutions with words like dress and fashion in their titles, were,firstly, design schools and technical training institutions, servicing the industry,and secondly, institutes devoted to the study of dress history, directed asmuseums. It was only in the last decades of the 20th century that variousapproaches were integrated across disciplines and institutions so that it becamepossible to talk about something like ‘fashion studies’, reflected by theemergence of research centres, academic journals and graduate programmeswith such heading. However, both the term, and what it is perceived torepresent, is contested; while some scholars and institutions endorse ‘fashionstudies’, others reject it or distance themselves from it.

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Lise Skov, Marie Riegels Melchior

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