VAC32 Decolonizing Fashion Studies: Rethinking Curriculum, Collections, and Creative Practice


Within fashion studies education and scholarship, we seek to identify ways to dismantle racism, classism, sexism, ableism, ageism, xenophobia, transphobia, and fatphobia in curriculum, university teaching collections, and creative design practice.


Active since: 2020

  • Syracuse University
  • Cornell University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology

Collaborative Goals

Dismantling structures of inequality in the Fashion Studies requires that we analyze the current content of our programs, devise innovative pedagogical interventions, and develop initiatives and strategies that will diversify the curriculum, collections, and research projects, in addition to our student body and faculty. More fully integrating a humanities perspective will aid in critical reflection and rethinking of our teaching, research, creative practice, and collecting. In this working group, we will explore initiatives and possibilities that embed social justice within the pedagogical spectrum we employ in training students and the scholarship and research we conduct.

Our collaborative team includes three Central NY universities that are home to fashion-related special collections, academic programs, and scholarly research. Our goals are likewise threefold and focus on curriculum, collections, and creative practice, and inspired by the following questions: How can we make our curricula more inclusive, accessible, and anti-discriminatory? How will we decolonize our fashion-related collections and diversify in ways that are respectful and ethical? How might our scholarly research, creative practice, and curatorial endeavors actively counter and critique forms of discrimination, like racism, classism, sexism, ableism, ageism, xenophobia, transphobia, and fatphobia, which have been so pervasive in fashion?

In the founding year of our working group, we will hold three virtual meetings and one in-person meeting (if possible, post-COVID) to discuss our respective curriculum, fashion collections, and scholarship and creative design and curatorial practice in order to identify problematic areas where forms of discrimination are perpetuated, and to find opportunities to improve accessibility, inclusivity, and diversity in these same areas. In addition to these meetings, we will hold a public, virtual “Fashion and Social Justice” speaker series to address inequalities in the areas of collections/curation/exhibitions, fashion curriculum, creative design practice, and fashion studies research. Our speakers will include BIPOC scholars, curators, and fashion design practitioners that are working towards greater inclusion through anti-racism and decolonizing practices within the multi-disciplinary field of fashion studies.

Group Organizers

Denise N. Green

Associate Professor of Fiber Science and Apparel Design

Judith A. Byfield

Professor of History

Marcie Farwel

Textile Industry Curator

Melissa Dawson

Assistant Professor of Industrial Design

Jeffrey Mayer

Professor of Fashion Design

Kirsten Schoonmaker

Assistant Teaching Professor of Fashion Design

Courtney Asztalos

Plastics and Historical Artifacts Curator