Fashion Theory Class Now In Session At Riker’s Island

Yes, you read that right – such a class exists and taught by Project Runway Alum Anna Lynett Moss of Chiyome no less.  Called ‘Fashion Theory’ through the Prison Education Initiative at the women’s jail on Riker’s Island, of all the classes Moss has taught, this one has proven to be one of the most successful (they also teach courses in law + hip hop).  Usually attendance varies from 6-20, but to discuss fashion, all of 30 are in attendance, always.  

Part of the class dealt with textiles especially the Ghanaian wax-print technique used in the Burberry Prorsum Resort 2012 collection which led the discussion to examine cultural


identity.  Moss noted, ‘Some of my students were excited to see the fabric brought to the luxury spotlight. Others were uncomfortable with it but thought the work could be legitimized by referencing native forms more directly. I think collectively we were able to have a more nuanced understanding of that collection and move away from a purely aesthetic interpretation.’

Other topics included discussing Edward Burtynsky‘s photography who’s work highlights some of the world’s surreal industrial landscapes as seen here.


Moss said this image was to serve ‘as a reminder of what kind of conditions must exist for communities in developing nations so that we can buy sweaters for $7 from fast-fashion retailers. A new sweater shouldn’t be $7. Many of my students said they prefer purchasing clothes second-hand, which is a smart alternative,’ yet I’m sure with the abundance of inexpensive disposable fashion more visibly available specifically for the trend obsessed, they’re shopping habits might be slightly affected, making that second-hand item not so great after all.

Beauty, racial diversity, physical differences + body image in the fashion industry is also addressed where in one case they compared the all white model cast for The Row Fall 2012 collection 


to the beauty of a Masai bride in November 1999 edition of National Geographic magazine.


For Moss’s students of color, chances for them to see an iconic beauty that mirrored their image, making them feel alienated by fashion advertising and on the runway.

‘We reminded ourselves that our notions of beauty are inherited and often reveal more about the values of our culture than our individual standards. It didn’t seem as if many of my students had conceptualized their personal standards of beauty in a larger context, so our conversation was very rich.’

Now if New Jersey’s Rutgers University has its ‘Politicizing Beyonce’ course, University of California at Berkeley examines ‘The Simpsons’ through the eyes of Nietzsche, Plato et al, University of Baltimore has a zombie course where students can ready themselves for a ‘zombie apocalypse’ by writing horror scripts, watching zombie flicks + drawing storyboards of their ideal monster movies, Los Angeles Occidental College has an indepth study program exploring ‘feminist and queer perspective of the phallus’, ‘Lady Gaga + the Sociology of Fame’ at the University of South Carolina + Durham University has ‘The Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion’ module, available as part of the BA in Education Studies, then teaching fashion theory in a women’s jail doesn’t sound so crazy after all, now does it?  


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