Course to consider philosophy, fashion

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Krista Shaw, Contributing Writer

Dr. Gwenda-lin Grewal speaks Friday on the intersection of fashion and philosophy, previewing some of the themes her course will explore.-Photo by Rebecca Rosen
Dr. Gwenda-lin Grewal speaks Friday on the intersection of fashion and philosophy, previewing some of the themes her course will explore.-Photo by Rebecca Rosen

Philosophy and Fashion will be offered as a new course in the fall of 2013 and will be taught by philosophy professors Dr. Gwenda-lin Grewal and Mr. John Macready.
In a joint e-mail, Grewal and Macready explained that an essay that Grewal had written on the topic inspired much conversation between the two about starting the course.
“We initially discussed writing a small book that would include philosophical vignettes on how the wardrobe choices of certain thinkers (such as Socrates, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, and Cornel West) intersect with their theories,” Grewal and Macready said. “Co-teaching this course at the University of Dallas is a way for us to include students in our conversation and explore these ideas through a selection of texts from the Western intellectual tradition.”
Grewal has been interested in fashion since her teens, and has even spent the last few years with her company “Hardly Alice,” which she described as “a wonderland that will admit no easy separation of images and consciousness.” Before teaching, Macready was a multi-line sales representative in the wholesale apparel industry and was the operations manager for Fashion Group International of Dallas, a global non-profit that supports professionals working in the fashion industry. These backgrounds, combined with their philosophy expertise, will cause students to “approach fashion and philosophy in a more thoughtful way.”
“We plan to explore conversations (ancient and modern) about the role of clothing in self-understanding and self-presentation,” Grewal and Macready said. “We are specifically interested in the way clothes situate us in the world by both revealing and concealing who we are.”
In a talk entitled “Good Looks: Philosophy and Fashion” given on April 5, Grewal expounded slightly on the interactions between the two seemingly different areas. She drew upon quotes from fashion mavens Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen, and some of the first philosophers, including Socrates and Plato. Grewal even pointed out striking details in the Iliad and Odyssey that illustrated her point: Helen’s weaving portrays the truth of war, whereas Penelope’s weaving is an act of deception.
“Unfortunately I am going to be in Rome next semester, but if they offered it in the spring I would be the first to sign up,” freshman Kayla Castillo said. “Philosophy is always portrayed as boring and irrelevant, but Dr. Grewal managed to use her clever puns and detailed research to make the lecture extremely enjoyable while maintaining the philosophical content. The lecture effectively made me excited to learn about fashion and philosophy.”
Grewal and Macready, who attended the lecture, answered several questions afterward. One concerned whether or not one could actually not take any fashion into consideration when dressing, to which Grewal responded that fashion for the purpose of utilitarianism is still fashion nonetheless. Macready added that it would be just like not thinking about the way in which one orders his thoughts and language. Another question was whether fashion is composing yourself for others, or if it is all done in the context of the possibility of others seeing it. Grewal responded by saying that one would have to separate self-satisfaction from clothes and what people’s impression of them will be, while she postulated that the two are inseparable.
“Fashion wasn’t a priority in my life until I realized the power of a nice outfit on virtually any situation,” Castillo said. “I am not looking for a career in fashion or philosophy, but they both fascinate me. I have never had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Macready, but Dr. Grewal seems to have the perfect personality, and fashion sense, to make the class fun and informative.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I think John answered that question exactly right, the one about whether “one could actually not take any fashion into consideration.”

    It’s directly related to questions about Rhetoric- it’s impossible to escape the use of rhetoric in written or spoken language, either. Probably has something to do with the concept of the self, too

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