Tiffany Monahan’s passion lies in fashion and its role in art, but she’d never had the ability to enroll in a class focusing on the subject until this semester when Tyler School of Art established a course entitled Bodywear Construction.
“I have a strong passion for fashion design, and it is the only class at Tyler that offers something that seemed satisfying to me,” Monahan, a junior visual studies major, said.
Though listed as a typical fibers elective, Bodywear Construction is unique to Tyler in that no other course allows students to create wearable art, let alone explore concepts of using the human body and art.
Bodywear Construction, taught by fibers and material studies interim program head Pazia Mannella, is designed to allow students to explore the cultural meaning behind fashion and the body’s role in that process. It also provides an opportunity for art students who are interested in fashion, but not necessarily in studying it full-time, to learn more about the topic.
“We discuss fashion in relation to its relationship to social and political history,” Liza Buzytsky, a fibers MFA student and teaching assistant for the course, said. “I think this class is a slightly subversive stab at poststructuralist theory, semiotics and critical theory, introducing these ideas without overwhelming students with heavy terminology.”
Tyler does not have a fashion major or any fashion-specific courses. Students taking Bodywear Construction said having the ability to tie art and fashion design together is important.
“I love discussing elements of fashion in this class because most of my peers are conceptual artists rather than fashion-minded, and hearing their perspective is very beneficial,” Monahan said. “The course has definitely caused me to be more resourceful and think of bodywear as something that can be created from anything, like sculpture.”
Though art is already highly interconnected with fashion, Buzytsky said discussing greater concepts and interpretation is one of the more important aspects of the class.
“In addition to introducing me to several artists and pioneer industry leaders I was not aware of, the class has widened my perspective on creative methods,” Buzytsky said. “It is not a traditional fashion class that focuses on technique and construction. It encourages alternative and creative approaches to making something, very much in a sculptural vein, which is my background.”
While both Mannella and students said the class expands upon fashion and its relation to the body, they said it is not simply a course about fashion design.
“The wearables we make are not for setting trends or creating things a specific group would want to buy, but we do discuss the role of fashion,” Monahan said. “We touch on many aspects of art: photography, performance, body architecture, all dealing with the body. The focus is more about the effect different textiles, designs and materials have on the body and how they can be used to convey a deeper message.”
Mannella said her reason for proposing the course to the department was so Tyler could offer a class that opens students’ minds to the creation of wearable art and how that industry will change over time.
“Bodywear has the ability to change the wearer into another being,” Mannella said. “It expresses bold emotion and explosive creativity. Students will be encouraged to break from the trend of universal uniformity and think beyond the idea that only fabric can be used to make garments.”
The class is only offered as an elective, but students said they hope for expansion of the course foundations offered at Tyler.
“Tyler should offer a major or a minor based on this class, or at the very least more levels,” Monahan said. “I love my interest in fashion, but the thought of conceptual bodywear is much more fascinating and I would love to have a deeper understanding of it.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.