Fashion Studies (MA)

The Master of Arts degree is awarded for completion of 42 credits, including a master's thesis. No credits can be transferred from another institution. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.

First Year / Fall

PGFS 5000 Fashion Studies: Key Concepts 3
PGFS 5011 Fashion, History, and Mediation: Lecture 0
PGFS 5013 Fashion, History, and Mediation: Recitation 3
Fashion Studies Elective

First Year / Spring

PGFS 5020 Interpreting Fashion 3
PGFS 5030 Fashion Cultures: Lecture 0
PGFS 5031 Fashion Cultures: Recitation 3
Fashion Studies Elective

Second Year / Fall

PGFS 5200 Advanced Thesis Preparation 3

Second Year / Spring

PGFS 5210 Thesis 6
Total Credits 42

Curriculum Description

The 42-credit curriculum is made up of six core courses, including the preparation and writing of the master's thesis, and seven electives. The program supports both fashion-specific topics and interdisciplinary perspectives, reflecting the diverse character of fashion studies and its relationship to other academic disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, design studies, art history, and material culture.


First Year/Fall

Fashion Studies – Key Concepts
This seminar provides a critical review of definitions of fashion as well as of the theoretical concepts and debates that have shaped the development of fashion and fashion studies as a scholarly field. Core texts range from the work of early writers on fashion such as Georg Simmel or Thorstein Veblen to recent scholarship published in Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture. Responding to the journal's definition of fashion as "the cultural construction of the embodied identity," the course will specifically address discourses on the relationship of fashion, body and identity, problematized by the complex variables such as gender, class, ethnicity, trans/nationality. In studying key issues and paradigm shifts in the discourse of the field, students will become familiar with scholars who have influenced the field of fashion studies, such as Elizabeth Wilson, Jennifer Craik, Susan Kaiser, Valerie Steele, Caroline Evans as well as with debates in disciplines that have informed the field, such as cultural studies, gender studies, anthropology and sociology. Beyond critical class discussion and close readings of texts students will work on a research paper exploring some of the introduced concepts on a more in-depth level, learning how to utilize and synthesize scholarly perspectives in the field of fashion studies.

Fashion History and Mediation
This course focuses on the development of fashion as a modern phenomenon in its relation to a diversity of media. Approached through a broadly chronological framework the course will discuss how fashion has evolved and grown in significance through its forms of mediation, which have in turn critically influenced and shaped our perception and understanding of fashion. The course will take a broad look at the various sources that form the basis for the study of the history and contemporary contexts of modern fashion, including early costume books, images, texts, objects and commodities, as they are found in paintings, photography and film, displayed in museums, available for purchase in stores, or referenced through the contemporary fashion system via fashion shows and magazines, through relationships between fashion and art, and the broader media impact of fashion through the internet. Key texts include Christopher Breward's Fashion (2000), which is read as historical evidence and interpretation, Lou Taylor's The Study of Dress History (2002), and selected readings which exemplify the utilization of diverse sources and methodologies that impact our understanding of fashion and its history. Students will learn to reflect critically on the practices and processes around the construction and study of fashion history during the last century and a half.

First Year/Spring

Interpreting Fashion – Case Studies in Theory and Methodology
Building on Fashion Studies – Key Concepts and Fashion, History and Mediation completed in the first semester, this course reflects critically on empirical research as a practice and a process. Students will engage in methodologies that are employed in fashion studies and reflect on how research findings are produced and interpreted. Informed by this critical methodological analysis they will pursue their own case-studies in which they research and interpret fashion as material culture and cultural practice. Students will develop a field study of fashion and engage in intersubjective research such as observation and interviews and position their own findings in relation to the scholarly discourse of fashion studies. The aim of the course is to challenge students to advance their research and analytical skills, to cross disciplinary boundaries and to develop new and original perspectives towards future fashion research. Combined with the lecture Fashion Cultures, which opens up global perspectives on fashion as culture, system and industry, the course prepares students for the advanced study of fashion in the second year.

Fashion Cultures
This lecture course provides students with a broad framework to understand fashion as culture and industry, intrinsically linked with processes of globalization. Lectures are presented by faculty from within and beyond the university to bridge diverse fields in the theory and practice of fashion. Key-issues that will be addressed include the development of fashion as system, the linkage between fashion, modernity and capitalism, the process of industrialization and post-industrialization, intensifying relations to fashion through media culture and technology, the transnational dimensions of fashion, the environmental impact of the textile and apparel industries, and the rethinking of fashion towards more sustainable and ethical practices. Students will work collaboratively throughout the semester on research projects that are linked to the issues addressed in the course. The lecture course is taken by students in the first year of the MA Fashion Studies and MFA Fashion Design and Society program.

Second Year/Fall

Advanced Thesis Preparation
Advanced Thesis Preparation is a seminar assisting in the preparation and shaping of a research topic for the M.A. thesis written in the fourth semester. The course enables students to develop a research subject and follow a time/work schedule, focusing on the practical and conceptual issues germane to developing and writing a thesis.  Included in the course will be direction regarding: information seeking, primary and secondary research, the identification of problems and development of critical questions for the in-depth engagement with a subject in fashion studies, and the development and structuring of critical arguments that will be leading the writing process to be undertaken in the following semester.

Second Year/Spring

M.A. Fashion Studies Thesis
The MA thesis is a 80-100 page paper that demonstrates original research in an area of fashion studies. Students formulate a thesis topic during the course Advanced Thesis Preparation in consultation with a faculty member/s who may also serve as thesis advisor/s. To write a thesis, a student must have met the requirements for the Thesis Petition and had the petition approved. The thesis is written under the direct supervision of an assigned thesis advisor, and the student may also consult with other faculty members as required by their topic.


Core courses are complemented by Fashion Studies electives. Taught by national and international scholars, these courses focus on specific areas of expertise such as the relation of fashion to concepts of the body and beauty; fashion design practice and art; fashion history; museum studies; media and advertising; and fashion and place, which at Parsons means drawing on the rich resources provided by New York City. In addition, a wide range of electives offered in the New School's various graduate programs provide innovative interdisciplinary opportunities.


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