Fashion & Digital Media

Fashion and Digital Media

Dr. K. Van Cleaf

Office Hourse: TBA

This course examines what happens when one of the oldest forms of communication, fashion, meets up with the newest, digital media. Fashion and digital media both provide platforms for self-expression, expressing social values, and employ a global network of people. Using fashion as a case study, we will explore the ways digital media and emerging technologies operate, as well as the influence fashion and digital media have on each other. More than any other industry, digital media has completely reconfigured the fashion world, such that: bloggers have usurped famous magazine editors at fashion shows, the retail industry is collapsing as online shopping takes off, platforms such as Instagram create new forms of social status and power. While digital media creates new jobs, communities, and celebrities in the fashion world, it also aggravates existing social inequalities. We will read from diverse disciplines including communications, sociology, anthropology, media studies, fashion studies, and marketing.

Required Texts:

All readings will be distributed via URL on the schedule, email, or online at:


  • Students will develop a unique understanding of digital media by studying it from the vantage point of the fashion industry.
  • Students will study how fashion and digital media create community, culture, identity, new forms of work, and resistance.
  • Students will learn about the historical connections between fashion and technology.
  • Students will learn about the ethical issues, such as plagiarism, in both fashion and digital media.
  • Students will be able to trace how federal regulations and immigration policies impact both digital media and the fashion industry.
  • Students will develop an understanding of how gender, race, class, sexuality, and other forms of minority status aid and abet the digital media fashion industry.



Fordham’s university-wide policy is that 3 unexcused absences results in a failing grade. If you miss four or more and due to an emergency, family, personal, or medical reason, you must notify both myself and your class dean of the issue at hand with appropriate documentation. It is your responsibility to get readings/assignments for missed days from other students, and you are encouraged to come to my office to discuss topics you’re unclear on.

Part of our overall learning experience is sitting, thinking, and talking together. I realize this is a challenge in a completely online environment, but I have designed the course with plenty of time for interaction and sharing ideas.


Course Workload:

Concept-Connect (25%): Participating in our online class meetings are required to receive full credit for online participation. In addition to thoughtful class participation, the participation portion of your grade includes a concept-connect: a brief presentation on ONE idea/concept from our scheduled readings (we will sign up at our first meeting). You’ll explain one concept and then connect it to an example that illustrates the concept, think ‘show and tell.’ You do not need to present on the entire reading, and I will deduct points if you do! Instead, find a concept/idea/question from the reading and create a show and tell for the class. Please also have a discussion question, or two, ready for the class. You’ll need to lead a brief discussion after your presentation (I will help if needed!).


Midterm and Final (50%): These will be distributed via email and you will have a window of time to complete the exam. Results will be emailed shortly after the closing time. We will discuss results the following week. The exams will be over our readings, discussions, and concept-connects from the week. Everything we discuss, share, and/or read could be on the quiz. These will be multiple choice, true/false, and short answer. I will use google forms to create the quizzes. They are open note, book.

Online Fashion Journal (25%):  In small groups, you will create an academic fashion journal—a visual and textual digital presentation/creation—on one focused topic. Each group will have a guiding theme for their journal, we will work together to decide the themes. You will need to create your journal digitally so it can be shared with the class. We will spend time during class to create the list of topics, and assign each of you to a topic/group that matches your interests as closely as possible. One grade will be given for everyone in the group. Each journal should include concepts from the readings, visuals, and a guiding thesis. You should create about a 10 minute presentation when your group is scheduled to share. I ask that everyone work together, communicate often and let me know if there are problems in the group as soon as possible. We will discuss these in more detail during the first weeks of class, and we will schedule group meetings to discuss Feb 22 and 23.


100=A+                        79-77 = C+

99-93=A                       76-72 = C

92-90=A-                      71-70 = C-

89-87=B+                     69-60 = D

86-83=B                       Below 58 = F


RULES/POLICIES: No cheating, no plagiarism. Respect each other and different opinions.


Fordham’s university-wide policy is that 4 unexcused absences results in a failing grade. If you miss four or more and due to an emergency, family, personal, or medical reason, you must notify both myself and your class dean of the issue at hand with appropriate documentation. It is your responsibility to get readings/assignments for missed days from other students, and you are encouraged to come to my office to discuss topics you’re unclear on.

Final grades are FINAL: I do not negotiate grades. Do not ask. I do not need to hear about your GPA, or what grade you need or must get. You are responsible for your grades. Regardless of what other faculty tolerate, I do not negotiate grades with students.  ALL GRADES ARE FINAL. If you wish to learn more about why you earned the grade you were assigned, you must see me in person during my posted office hours. Nonetheless, students should remember that coming early and often for help does not guarantee that I will pass you.  In the final hour, you need to demonstrate proficiency in the material, no matter how hard you tried. Coming to class, trying hard/studying many hours in college is a given.  In the end, you must produce college-level work.

******I will probably change, delete or ADD readings to this schedule.  I will always give you notice but you must come to class to stay abreast of any changes.

******Do not be offended if I call you and do not be offended if I do not call on you! I will try to call on everyone at least once over the course of the semester so be prepared.

******Please email me if you are having trouble with the course material in anyway.

****** Academic Integrity/Plagiarism: Plagiarizing in any way, shape or form will result in a zero for that assignment or test. I will report it to your advisor, class dean, and fill out a report for the academic integrity committee to review. I take this very seriously so please see me if you’re nervous about properly citing your work. By being enrolled at Fordham University students are bound to comply with the University Code of Conduct, which includes, but is not limited to the Standards of Academic Integrity as outlined in the Student Handbook. If you have any question concerning the plagiarism policy or about documentation of sources in work you produce in this course, speak to me about it. Plagiarizing includes passing off any work you have not created as your own (scholars, bloggers, people you pay to write a paper, etc.), as well as turning in papers you’ve written for another class.

Preferred Name Policy: Some members of the Fordham community are known by a name that is different from their legal name. Students who wish to be identified by a chosen name can contact their CMS faculty members via email and request their chosen name and pronoun be used.[Faculty are welcome to supplement this as well]

Disabilities: All students, with or without disabilities, are entitled to equal access to the programs and activities of Fordham University under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you have, or think you may have, disabilities, please get in touch with The Office of Disability Studies at or 718-817-0655. The office will coordinate with faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure that the facilitation of reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students with documented disabilities is provided. We encourage faculty to add more than the required legal language related to disabilities, and to invite students to come to you with any difficulties related to ODS or their disabilities.

Student Resources

Writing Center: If you struggle with the writing required in this course, please make use of the Writing Center. For more information about their services see

Counseling and Psychological Services: University life is full of challenges. Fordham offers support for anyone who feels like they need help dealing with the pressures of life as a student.

CPS offers resources on issues like anxiety, coping strategies, COVID and mental health and so on on its website, and provides individual and group counseling and therapy in a safe and confidential setting. For more information about their services see:

There is also a Crisis Text line available—text START to 741-741 to use it.

Food (shelter, etc) insecurity Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact your class dean for support. I also urge you to contact me, or our dept chair, about this. I understand you may not want to share such information with professors who you see all the time, but Fordham has few policies in place, and our support may be helpful.

Academic Coaching: Any student who struggles with time-management and/or organization is invited to one-on-one academic coaching sessions (typically once a week for 45 minutes). Please contact for more information.


SCHEDULE (Subject to change!)

1/19                             Intros

#OOTD (outfit of the day) post or the alternative assignment for next week.

1/24                             Simmel, George. 1957. “On Fashion” American Journal of Sociology, v 62, 6. 541-588. URL:

1/26                             Simmel, cont.

“The High Cost of High Fashion” by Minh-ha T. Pham URL:

1/31                             “How Luxury Fashion Was Reduced to Logomania” by Eugene Rabkin, URL:

2/2                               Fiske, John.     1989    “The Jeaning of America” URL:

2/7                               PBS Show “Riveted: The History of Jeans” (more to come, we will watch some in class)

2/9                               jeans, cont

2/14                             Rocamore, A. 2017. “Mediatization and Digital Media in the Field of Fashion” (website)

2/16                             “Shops aren’t for shopping anymore”  URL:

2/22-23                        Group work on Fashion Journals, appointments via zoom        

2/28                             Connell, Catherine. 2013. “Queer Fa(t)shion Blogging as Counterdiscourse” WSQ, 41

3/2                               Political Economy of Fashion: New Forms of Gendered Labor 

Media, Markets, Gender: Economies of Visibility in a Neoliberal Moment by Sarah Banet-Weiser, The Communication Review, 18: 53-70, 2015.

3/7                               Duffy, B. E., & Hund, E. (2015). “Having it all” on social media: Entrepreneurial femininity and self-branding among fashion bloggers. Social Media + Society, 1(2), 1-11.

3/9                               Adams Stein, J. (2017). “Labor, entrepreneurialism and the creative economy in neoliberal times.” Fashion Theory, 21, 5, 609-615.

“Posting Instagram Sponsored Content is the New Summer Job” by Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic, URL:

3/21                             REVIEW

3/23                             EXAM

3/28                             Racial Fashioning of Digital Media

Pham, Minh Ha T. 2015 Asians Wear Clothes on the Internet. Raleigh: Duke Press.

Intro-Chapter 1

Visit the Fashion and Race database here:

4/4                               Pham continued


4/6                              Fashion and Protest

“What the Civil Rights Movement has to do with Denim” URL:

A History of Police Uniforms—and Why They Matter

How Clothes Helped Female Leaders Convey the Struggle for Civil Rights

The protesters are dressed as their unique selves — and that’s part of their power

4/11                             Fashioning a Digital Self

Whitefield-Mandrano, Autumn. 2016 “Like” Me: How Social Media and 24/7 Surveillance are Shaping Women’s –and Men’s—Self Image” in Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives. Simon & Schuster: New York.

4/13                             “Is streetwear a machine that turns insecurity into money? Eugene Rabkin URL:

Excerpt from The Qualified Self by Lee Humphreys



4/20                             Wissinger, Elizabeth 2016 “From ‘geek’ to ‘chic’: Wearable technology and the woman question” in Digital Sociologies.


Wearable Interfaces, Networked Bodies and Feminist Sleeper Agents, by Kim Brillante Knight URL to come

4/25                             Presentations

4/27                             Presentations

5/2                               Presentations

5/4                               REVIEW

Final TBA

UNIVERSITY STATEMENT ON ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: A University, by its nature, strives to foster and recognize originality of thought. Originality can only be recognized, however, when people acknowledge the sources of ideas or works that are not their own. Therefore, students must maintain the highest standards with regards to honesty, effort and performance. As a Jesuit, Catholic University, Fordham is committed to ensuring that all members of the academic community strive not only for excellence in scholarship but also for integrity of character. In the pursuit of knowledge and personal development, it is imperative that students present their own ideas and insights for evaluation, critique and eventual reformulation. As part of this process, each student must acknowledge the intellectual contribution of others…. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, cheating on exams, falsification, unapproved collaboration, and destruction of library materials. For further details, consult the Standards of Academic Integrity on the University website

EQUAL EDUCATIONAL ACCESS FOR ALL STUDENTS: The Office of Disability Services at Fordham University helps to ensure equal educational access and opportunity for all members of our community. In the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis, members of the ODS staff work individually with each student to understand his or her strengths and limitations in order to develop their most effective and comprehensive accommodation plan. Fordham will offer reasonable and appropriate auxiliary aids and services to assist otherwise qualified persons in achieving access to its programs, services, and facilities once students meet with ODS for an initial intake meeting to develop an accommodation plan directly with the student in accordance with Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Students seeking accommodation(s) should contact Erin Koch, Assistant Director of Disability Services, (212) 636-6282 or