The relationship between culture and fashion is intrinsic and dynamic. Cultures across the world use clothing to make statements on the nature of power relations, personal relationships, and hierarchies within communities. The links are diverse and often complex, involving sociological and psychological research.
If you are interested in writing your dissertation on culture and fashion, it’s important to find a good topic that reflects these concerns while allowing room to focus on specific research questions.
Your chosen topic must also reflect your own interests and concerns, as well as the trends of contemporary research. We’ve come up with some interesting, original yet manageable culture and fashion dissertation topics focusing on a variety of key areas:
- Co-creation in the Fashion Industry
- History of Fashion Dissertation Topics
- Clothing, Leisure and Place
- Children’s Clothing
- Sex, Body, and Presentation
- Material and Designs
- Impact of COVID-19 on the Creative Industries
For centuries fashion has been identified as reflecting changing cultural trends and is especially relevant to the high-profile world of music and celebrity culture. What are icons? Why do we need icons in today’s society? Who creates icons? Do icons have any moral responsibilities? These are the sorts of questions raised during the study of celebrities and fashion. Dynamic and particularly relevant to young people’s culture, this subject offers a closer look at the celebrity culture and how it is used and portrayed in the fashion world and advertising media in general.
- A window into another world: Understanding the fashion icon.
- Keeping up with the Kardashians? Mapping the influence of the Kardashians on the fashion sector.
- Royal influence: Kate Middleton as a contemporary style icon.
- Imagining Monroe: A retrospective encounter with one of the world’s most fashionable women.
- Hepburn, De Givenchy and Haute Couture.
- James Dean and the Café Culture.
- Fashioning the Elite: What the life-long friendship between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn brought to the fashion world.
- Mad for Madonna: The high and low fashions of Eighties pop culture.
- If looks could kill: Kylie Minogue and the image of the pop princess.
- Fashioning an Idol: Boy band culture and teenage clothing.
- Eminently Eminem: Fashions of the rapping culture.
- Glitter, glam, and an expanding waistline: What Elvis brought to the fashion world.
- Beatle Mania and the Sixties look.
- Westwood, Punk, and The Sex Pistols.
- What celebrity culture has done for high street fashion.
- ‘Pride and Prejudice’: how Austen still captures the imaginations of designers today.
- Iconic fashion models and their personal signature looks.
- Celebrities as fashion icons.
- The rise of the sneaker.
- Can women over 70 still be fashion icons?
- What part does plastic surgery play in the formation of an icon?
- Gender fluidity: Exploring the significance of androgenous style icons.
Co-creation in the Fashion Industry
In recent years, it has become more common for consumers to play a ‘co-creative’ role in the development of fashion lines. Take, for example, A Way to Mars – a fashion brand that encourage designers (whether qualified or novice) to share their designs. and the brand chooses to collaborate with the best submissions. The benefit to the brand is that they are able to access a range of rich (often culturally-informed) ideas from designers throughout the world. That said, you might choose to focus your dissertation on co-creation in the fashion industry.
- ‘None of us are as strong as all of us’: co-creation in the fashion industry.
- Co-creation through social media: A case-study of the fashion industry.
- Co-creation and SME fashion brands: What is the role of co-creators’ culture?
- Zara and customer co-creation: A case study.
- Co-creation and brand equity: An exploration of luxury brands.
- Global/cross-national collaborations in the fashion industry.
- To what extent has digital technology facilitated co-creation in the global fashion industry?
- Upcycling garments: A strategy for tackling fast-fashion?
- Cross-disciplinary collaborations: When science meets fashion.
- Analysing the ‘culture of co-creation’ in the fashion industry: Is it the future?
- Fashion co-creation in the circular economy.
History of Fashion Dissertation Topics
Fashion history has the largest body of research from which to draw from in writing a dissertation. Pictorial analyses are useful to make specific comparisons between certain aspects of clothing that has changed over the years and those that have stayed remained relatively the same. This subject is a rich and interesting field of research, with an array of historical research to choose from. Some of the more obscure, rare books on fashion through the ages and cultures can be particularly useful. It is important to remember that contemporary fashions bear obvious and subtle links to fashions throughout the ages, and between different cultures and that most items – such as the hat, jacket, and shoe – have remained relatively unchanged in shape, concept and function for a very long time. It can also be linked to economics and commercialism, reflecting financial climates by responding with various styles of clothing.
- A sense of Englishness: British fashion through the ages.
- Mods and Rockers and the age of the teenage rebel.
- Age of Liberalism: 1920’s fashions.
- Fashions of the Second World War in America and the UK.
- Fifties street fashion in the UK and America.
- The Sixties: Flowers, flares, and bells.
- A discussion of Seventies fashion icons and what they brought to the fashion world.
- How Eighties fashions represented political and cultural ideals of the time.
- Young people’s clothing in the Nineties.
- Chasing an elusive dream? Fashions of the future.
- Royal clothing and the different identities of monarchs across the World.
- ‘The Cobbler and the Tailor’: Forgotten trades.
- A chronological study of men’s fashion since 1700.
- What we still love about Dickensian fashion.
- Material marriages: The origins and history of the English wedding dress.
- The symbolic aspects of Greco-Roman fashions.
- Ethnic clothing in London; markets and bazaars.
- How important was fashion to the Tudors and Stuarts?
- A history of peasant costume.
- Fools and jesters through the ages.
- A history of women’s shoes.
- Retro is all the rage: A discussion of the influences of retro fashions on today’s fashion industry.
- The advent of Primark: Affordable fashion.
- The British Royal Family as leaders of fashion today.
- How children’s wear has changed over the last two decades.
- Twenty-First Century wedding clothing for ‘alternative’ couples.
- Beach-wear and its evolution.
- The current crisis in the fashion industry and possible solutions.
- Androgyny: its own statement in the fashion industry.
- Goths and gothic styles in fashion.
- Steam punk, its rise and relevance.
- The application of jewellery in the haute couture fashion industry.
Clothing, Leisure and Place
Clothing choices are often a reflection of where we are from, current social norms and choice of leisure activities. As such, study of these issues is interesting and relevant. An exploration of contemporary styles is also interesting in this context as it has the capacity to both diversify and limit traditional looks. For example, fur has gone out of fashion to the extent of being illegal, while tartans remain ever as fashionable as they always have been. Regional styles are interesting to study as they can be effectively compared across the country, e.g.: Rural/Urban wear. Fashion has been intrinsically connected to leisure for centuries – especially through mediums such as the theatre and sports. Within this relationship exists a complex and powerful history of evolving beliefs and cultural change. Why do we wear certain items of clothing in certain places or for certain activities? What would happen if we didn’t? Why do we need to conform? These are the sorts of questions and ideas explored in the following topics:
- The rise of Athleisure since COVID-19.
- The rise and rise of vegan leather.
- Labelling and branding: The power of representation.
- The power of marketing in the contemporary fashion world.
- Clothes for clubbers: The use of alternative materials.
- Sustainable footwear: Exploring the attitude-behaviour gap.
- Tartans today: How colours represent ideas.
- Tracing the history of fur in fashion.
- Hunting wear: Stigmas and tradition.
- Shakespearian theatre and the aesthetic image: how Shakespearian productions reflect contemporary fashion trends.
- Translating Tolkien: Costume from book to screen.
- A history of the hat.
- Hats and the imagination: Magicians, witches and Ascot.
- Changing Times: The closing divide between rural and urban fashions over the last century.
- Wigs, rings, and tails: Symbols of power since 1700.
- Clothing of importance: The tuxedo and the suit since 1800.
- Sci-Fi culture and fashion.
- Water and fashion: Swimwear early to contemporary.
- The evolution of the ball gown.
- The uniform: the evolution and change of UK school uniforms over the last one hundred years.
- The influence of celebrities on fashion: an exploration of celebrity-endorsed fashion lines.
- The purpose of the heel? A historical review of high-heeled shoes in fashion.
Children’s fashion is an incredibly imaginative and diverse market that caters for all segments of the market. On the more affordable end of the scale, second-hand clothing shops are very popular as children outgrow clothes so readily that high quality, and even new items can be bought at low prices. At the other end of the scale, designer children’s clothing can be extremely expensive and affords a competitive market. More than any other types of Western clothing, children’s fashion incorporates emblematic and symbolic imagery – especially relating to fairy tale, folklore and hero worship. Furthermore, children’s clothing has attracted some controversy in recent years due to its connection to debates about gender and sexuality. Beneath are listed some key debates, ideas and discussions which would make enjoyable and challenging fashion dissertation topics:
- The essence of the fairy tale: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the fashionable imagination.
- What is too short? A critical analysis of debates surrounding promiscuity and children’s clothing.
- Superheroes: Symbolism and representation in fantastic fashions.
- Halloween: Fashion and the children’s’ imagination.
- Baby Boom: Post-war culture and baby fashion.
- “Everyone else is doing it so why can’t we?” An Investigation into the effects of fashion advertising on children.
- Returning to nature: The use of natural-world emblems and symbols in contemporary fashion.
- ‘All the colours of the rainbow’: Exploring why colour matters to fashion.
- The origin of the motif in children’s fashion.
- Chains, T-Shirts, and baggy trousers: The meaning of skateboard culture in children’s fashion.
- Alice In Wonderland: The decline of the dress in girl’s fashion.
- Fairies and Pixies: Casting a spell on the creative imagination.
- Gender neutral clothing for children: Is it necessary?
- “Blue is for boys, pink is for girls”: Gender stereotyping in children’s fashion.
- Is children’s fashion a reflection of present social values? Studying children’s fashion from the Victorian era to the present day.
Sex, Body, and Presentation
These topics look at how sex and the human body are explored in fashion. The image of the body is pivotal to our understanding of the fashion world. This area of research is one of the most popular and contemporary fashion dissertation topics due to the ‘cutting edge’ nature of the topics under discussion. Often involving the complex interplay between perception of self and others, our understanding of image is closely associated with the media. Powerful presentation is vital to the appreciation of the aesthetic image, and the media has had a very important role to play in promoting and shaping body image over the last fifty years. This is a challenging and interesting area to study, and offers the potential to use a wide range of research methods, such as interview and ethnographic research. Below are a list of fashion dissertation topics that explore these issues:
- The origins of power dressing.
- Gender representation in men and women’s fashions since the Fifties.
- Adoration and adornment: A critical analysis of the meaning of body art and piercing in western societies.
- The place of fetish wears in contemporary fashion.
- Fashion and religion: An inquiry into the debates surrounding acceptable dress.
- Hair and makeup: Do we really need it?
- Cross-dressing since the Victorians.
- Reality and the subversive: The use of mannequins and models since the Sixties.
- The importance of presentation: Catwalks, lights and cameras.
- Sex, gender and the body in the media.
- Power, Status, Ambition: An analysis of what clothing represents.
- Exploring the relationship between nudists and fashion.
- The habit of a lifetime: Dressing monks and nuns through the ages.
- To what extent is contemporary fashion about looking good naked?
- Have transgender models influenced popular fashion design?
- Plus-size fashion: a reflection of the obesity epidemic.
- Gender neutral clothing: here to stay?
Material and Designs
Design is an integral area of study in culture and fashion as it is constantly subject to change reflecting current tastes, economic climates and cultural trends. Some designs and materials – such as denim jeans – have a durable marketability, often reflecting retro trends, whereas public service wear – such as flame-retardant clothing for firemen – often has to comply with current developments in technology regarding health and safety.
The following list is especially useful for students looking for less abstract, more tangible fashion dissertation topics:
- A history of the undergarment.
- PVC: uses and connotations.
- Fashion and manmade materials.
- The wool trade and its contribution to western fashion.
- The history and importance of the bodice.
- The eras of the mini and maxi skirt.
- Public service wear, the influence of health and safety and the growth of gender changing roles.
- Materials that matter: an analysis of the changing uses of materials since the 19th Century.
- Wool and its uses: from prehistoric times up until today.
- The dawn of nylon and what it meant for Fifties fashion.
- Is it Fair-trading? Cotton and hemp production and its place in British shops.
- Current debates surrounding the morality and popularity of natural fabrics such as leather and cotton.
- Just what is it about shoes? An ethnographic study into women’s and men’s love of shoes.
- Accessories and their statements. How different materials have affected the styles of accessories.
- The fascination of the sari. The material designs and adaptations over the years.
- Distressed fashion, torn clothing from 1990’s to the present day, its message.
- Horse racing and hats: where’s the fashion?
Impact of COVID-19 on the Creative Industries
According to OECD, cultural and creative industries (including fashion) were some of the worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It will be important for creative students to evaluate the impacts of COVID, and also consider how the creative industries are likely to evolve in the future. Many industries became more innovative and resilient as a result of COVID, whereas others struggled to keep their heads above water. What is the case for the creative industries?
- How did digital innovations support the creative industries during the pandemic?
- Return of the museum? A plan for resilience for 2021-2025.
- Culture, education, and health: New cross-overs as a result of the COVID pandemic.
- The creative recovery of cities and regions post-COVID-19 .
- Why were the creative industries so negatively impacted by COVID compared to many other sectors? An in-depth analysis.
- COVID-19 and the fast-fashion industry – a wakeup call?
- COVID-19 and creativity: The rise of loungewear and activewear.
- Exploring fashion students’ attitudes towards career prospects post COVID-19.
- Graffiti and protest during the COVID-19 lockdown.
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