Fashion and Clothing in the Ancient World

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

This course is designed specifically for English Language Learners interested in further developing their English skills in a challenging college-level academic setting.

From Egyptian linen dresses to Roman togas, from Mesopotamian headdresses to Aegean jewelry, fashion and clothing was an important part of life in the ancient world. Kings and queens expressed their wealth with elaborate clothing and personal adornments. Some people wore special clothing for religious purposes, some had specific hairstyles to show their status or role in a group. In this course we will look at clothing, jewelry, hair, makeup, and tattoos from Prehistoric, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman cultures and learn about ancient materials and technologies of making clothing and jewelry. We will look at archaeological and art historical evidence, analyze how fashion was shaped by long-term cultural traditions, and how these traditions were similar/different in neighboring cultures. Our ultimate goal is to understand what clothing and fashion tells us about ancient societies, their ideas about status, beauty, and gender roles in ancient cultures.

Classes in this course will consist of a combination of lectures, discussions, museum visits, hands-on activities and creative work. Each day we will concentrate on one culture in the Mediterranean, learn about that culture, and then look at art historical and archaeological evidence concerning fashion and clothing while discussing social issues such as power, status, and identity. In classes students will learn about different materials used in the production of fashion such as metals, precious stones, organic materials such as wool, pigments, and technologies such as inlay, granulation, spinning, and weaving. Students will have the unique opportunity to handle ancient objects from the Joukowksy Institute Archaeology Collection to and to learn through ancient objects. During this course, we will also visit the RISD Museum’s ancient art galleries and Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology to have a comparative look at objects related to fashion from different ancient cultures. One of the goals of this course is to encourage students to think critically about how ancient fashion and art influences modern design. As their final project students will prepare a fashion design based on ancient styles and materials, and they will present this design to their classmates in a medium/format of their choosing (no previous training in art or design required).

1. To learn about the material evidence, scientific and empirical methods that archaeologists use to interpret ancient materials and technologies, and reconstruct ancient lives
2. To gain insight into the variety of fashion traditions in the ancient world and examine what these traditions contribute to our understanding of ancient (and modern) societies
3. To think about social issues connected to fashion and clothing such as power, status, and gender
4. To acquire critical thinking skills, presentation/public speaking skills,
5. To learn archaeological and art historical skills such as visual analysis, object-based discussion, and thinking through objects

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this class other than interest in archaeology, the ancient world, and fashion! (No previous training in art or design required).


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAN0932
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

Summer@Brown for English Language Learners

A select group of non-credit courses in the liberal arts and sciences supplemented with English language learning, two weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For University-bound English language learners completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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