This Humanities course opens an interdisciplinary inquiry into fashion’s role in constructing and displaying identity. Throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, clothing trends emerged in Japan aimed at variously expressing stylish modernity, political rebellion, a native past, and a cosmopolitan identity. The tough-guy bankara style affected by male political activists in the 1890s, the Modern Girl’s scarlet lipstick in the 1920s, and even the Ivy Boy’s neat sweaters and preppy look in the 1960s incited alarm. In turn, foreign adaptations of Japanese styles have long inspired Japanophilia abroad, at times provoking charges of cultural appropriation. Exploring key moments in Japanese fashion history and its reinvention abroad, we understand the role that fashion has played in narrating nation, culture, and identity. Scholarly articles that scrutinize such narratives and provide insight into their historical context enhance our inquiry.

Through regularly writing short essays, participating in class discussion and small-group tutorials, and conducting, presenting, and revising a research project, students in this Communications Intensive course develop ways of speaking and writing about fashion that relate to many of the questions animating Japanese Studies today: What role does Japan play in the global imaginary? How have Japanese domesticated cultural forms from abroad and how have people abroad re-invented Japanese styles and clothing? How are concepts of gender, class, and race in Japan constructed, muted, and reinvented through fashion? A field trip to the Ackland Art Museum, guest speakers, and the chance to do your own research make this seminar productive and fun. No background knowledge of Japan, Japanese, or fashion studies is required. VP, BN, CI.