Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

SOCL 280 - Topics in sociology: Italian Fashion & Design

 Spring 2012

Course description

In this course we will study how Italian fashion and design became an internationally acclaimed phenomenon. We will examine how the creation of the unique Italian fashion and design started from the Unification onwards and are linked to the rise of Italy from a fragmented and rural-based society through to a leading industrialized and urbanized world power. We will also explore how the “Made in Italy” label developed in a unique context, negotiating traditional artistic and craft excellence with industrial and technological innovation, along with the formation of a mass-consumer society. We will study the main moments which led to the achievement of a globally acclaimed “Italian Style”, starting from the political unification, to Fascism, to the post-war reconstruction period and the economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s, to the counter-culture movements, postmodernism, and today's corporate fashion and design. We will analyze how leading stylists and designers gave their personal contributions to the “Made in Italy” turning their products into luxurious and irresistible “icons” of conspicuous consumption, and played a crucial role in creating and Italian “image” and “way of life” that appeals to domestic and international consumers.

Learning Objectives:

Knowledge Area(s) satisfied:

Societal and Cultural Knowledge

Skill(s) Developed:

Critical Thinking


Learning Outcomes:

Knowledge Area (Societal and Cultural Knowledge):

By the end of the semester, the students should be able to:

1. demonstrate an understanding of the main stages of development of Italian fashion and design.

2.demonstrate an understanding that Italian fashion and design are influenced by specific factors that stem from the societal and cultural contexts in which Italians develop.

3. demonstrate an understanding of how the processes and components of Italian society and culture have influenced fashion and design.

4. demonstrate an awareness that Italian lifestyles and consumption patterns have changed substantially over the last century.

5. demonstrate and understanding of differences of class and gender in Italian society



Skills (Critical Thinking):

At the end of semester, students should be able to:

1.      Demonstrate effective critical thinking skills and dispositions

2.      Learn to analyze fashion and design from the context and time in which they developed.

3.      Think critically about Italian fashion and design, and how they are connected to the transformation of of values, behavior, lifestyles and gender.


Learning Activities:

* Text books

* The course will combine lectures, class discussions, films, documentaries, on-site classes at fashion and designer studios, museums, and exhibitions and guest speakers (if feasible). Presentation of all material will be framed within relevant social and cultural contexts, and will be supported - when available - by audiovisual aids, such as photographs, newspapers, magazines etc.



Giampiero Bosoni, 2008, Italian Design, MoMA, Milan-New York, 5 Continents Editions.

Valerie Steele, 2003, Fashion, Italian Style, New Haven-London, Yale University Press.




Attendance and class participation:

            Students are strongly recommended to be present, as the course also addresses the social and cultural experience of being and living in Italy. After more than 2 absences, the grade drops. The assigned reading materials should be read before (not only after) the lessons as the grade on class participation depends on demonstrating that the texts have been studied and the discussions on the topics dealt with are highly encouraged and are an integral part of the course.

Students must take the examinations and tests when they are set, because make up sessions will not be given, except for very serious reasons and authorized by the Academic Dean.

Cheating or dishonesty of any kind on an examination will be penalized by an F (0 points).


Midterm exam:

            The midterm exam will be based on a selected questions drawn from the assigned readings and topics covered in the first part of the course.


            There will be 1 test based on the readings and topics of the second part of the course.

Research project:

            The students are required to write an essay on a topic related to Italian fashion or design. The essay will be 10,000 characters long (including spaces, footnotes and bibliography) to be handed in no later than April 18.

Final exam:

            The final exam, question form, will be based on the topics covered in the second part of the course.

Grade distribution

The final grade will be calculated as follows:

Attendance, assigned readings, class participation                                                     30%

Midterm                                                                                                                      20%

Test 1                                                                                                                          10%

Project                                                                                                                         10%

Final examination                                                                                                        30%


Grading scale:

A = 96-100; A- = 93-95; B+ = 89-92; B = 85-88; B- = 81-84; C+ = 77-80; C = 73-76; C- = 69-72; D+ = 65-68; D = 61-64; F = 60 and below



            Students with disabilities who wish to discuss academic accommodations should contact me the first week of class, as well as the Learning Assistance Center.


Semester Schedule:

Week 1


Presentation of course and syllabus


Week 2

Sociology of Fashion

Worksheet provided



Week 3

Sociology of Design

Worksheet provided


Week 4

Introduction to Italy



Week 5


Week 6

Fascist Design and Fashion


Week 7

The Birth of Italian Fashion and Case Studies


Week 8

Italy’s “Good Design” and Case Studies


Week 9

Film on Italian Fashion


Week 10

Documentary on Italian Fashion


Week 11

Fashion 1970s-80s and Case Studies


Week 12

Fashion 1980s-Today


Week 13


Deadline for project

Week 14