91107 - Sociosemiotics of Fashion

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Giampaolo Proni

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-FIL/05

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Rimini

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Fashion Studies (cod. 9067)

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student is expected to acquire the ability to apply the methods of sociosemiotic research to the field of fashion. The outcome will be pursued by employing advanced teaching instruments and both desk and field research, with particular focus on consumption behavior.

Course contents

Course contents


Part One. An introduction to Qualitative Socio-semiotic Research

Introduction to the course unit. Lesson 1

Course goals and structure. How to follow the classes: requirements and suggestions. Using the Moodle e-learning platform. The textbook. Short self-introductions.


Kawamura's "Doing Research in Fashion and Dress": presentation of the book. Lesson 2


Target of the book. Subject of the book.

History of fashion/dress studies (read).


Making fashion/dress studies a legitimate academic discipline.


Ch. 1. Theory and practice. Lesson 3

Theory and practice: difference.

What is social scientific research?

What is a theory?

The use and placement of theory in qualitative research.

Understanding the meaning of a fashion theory.

Two major theoretical perspectives: macro and micro.

Theory and methods.

Qualitative and quantitative methods.


Ch. 2. Research Process. Lesson 4

Objectivity and empiricism.

The scientific inquiry.

Scientific reasoning and common sense; the inferences.

Research process.

Evaluating internet sources.

Ethical issues.


Ch. 3. Ethnography. Lesson 5

A definition.

A brief history of ethnography.

Sociological ethnography VS anthropological ethnography.

Preparing for ethnography.

The researcher as an insider VS outsider.

The difficulty of objectivity.

Observation / participant observation / listening / taking notes.

The role of an informant / research collaborator.

Making an analysis of ethnographical data.

Hodkinson's ethnographical study of goth subculture in the UK.

Hamilton's ethnographical study of the Thai Karen dress.


Ch. 4. Survey methods. Lesson 6

What is a survey method?


Preparing statistical tables and figures.

Interviews (structured and semi-structured).

Muggleton's interview study on youth subculture.

Crane's focus group study on fashion magazine readers.

Kawamura study on three case studies of Japanese designers in Paris.


Ch. 5. Semiotics / Semiology. Lesson 7

Saussure's theory of signs.

Barthes's contribution to fashion / dress studies.

Interpretive Semiotics; Charles S. Peirce; Umberto Eco.

The notions of text and narrative.

The process of textualisation.

Lehmann's semiotic study on Alfred Hitchcock's movie.

Lurie's study on analogy between language and clothes.

Barnard's focus on semiotics in social interaction.

Conducting semiotic analysis of visual materials.

Semiotics and poststructuralism.


Ch. 6. Object-based research. Lesson 8


Events and objects as texts.

The historical development of object-based research.

Studies using object-based research.

O-B research and material culture studies.

Making O-B research interdisciplinary.

O-B research and oral history.

Breward, Conekin, and Cox’s study on everyday clothes in the UK 1940-1980.

Turney’s study on floral flocks in the UK.

O-B research and written archival documents / literary sources.


7. Other methodologies. Lesson 9

Archival records and historical research.

Oral history / oral narrative.

Written documents / literary sources.


Secondary analysis.

Cross-national researcher.

Visual and audio materials.

Triangulation (quantitative and qualitative together).

The integration of quantitative and qualitative methods.


Middle course test. Written open questions exam (15/30 pts.). Lesson 10

The middle-course test is aimed at verifying the theoretical competences forming the subject of Part One and presented in the textbook. The slides shown in classes and other materials are also required, and will be available on the Moodle platform (see below).

The test takes place in class or remotely depending on the health security rules.

The middle course test awards 15/30 pts. Detailed information about the assessment rules can be retrieved on the Moodle platform.


Part Two: Research Workshop

The research workshop is based on a) class attendance, b) field work and c) on-platform activities. It can be followed also in remote attendance mode, but the deadlines and requirements will be the same as for in class students. 

Students must communicate if they intend to follow the workshop, since field work requires insurance coverage. Not attending students are admitted to the workshop, under the condition of replacing class attendance with other field and platform activities.

Only students that have taken the middle course test are admitted to the workshop.


Research Workshop: presentation. Lesson 11

First meeting: 1. List of participants; 2. List of the research targets; 3. Assigning observers to the targets; 4. Calendar of observations.


Field session 1. Lesson 12


Second meeting: comparing the experiences. Lesson 13

Data collection check. Problems analysis. Consideration of common themes.


Field session 2. Lesson 14


Final meeting. Lesson 15

Data comparison. Gathering of report first proposals.

The final reports will be uploaded on the platform by the students. The deadline for the delivery will be set with regard to the time required to conduct and write down the research report.

More field work can be planned in addition to class curricular hours.


Doing Research in Fashion and Dress. An introduction to Qualitative Methods, Bloomsbury, London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney, 2013 (2011 Berg)


Further material will be available on the e-learning platform.


Teaching methods

The course teaching methods include: lectures; research workshop (desk and field work); class and online discussions. Teaching is organised according to the learning by doing and community of learners approaches: the workshop planned in the second part of the course allows the students to perform a simplified sociosemiotic field or desk research and the class is organised as a community of learners.

For example, when writing the final report, every student is asked to take into account not only the data he/she has collected, but also those provided by the other classmates. Thus, the class is considered as a research team, sharing a common goal.

The platform will be used as a shared environment to discuss the lessons and the individual research proposals and outcomes. Furthermore, the platform allows not attending students to remotely follow the others’ work, and to take part in it in real time or, if they take the exam later, to access all the collected data and add to them, as well as to see and use the delivered reports. This way students are able to see the important point that scientific research is a collective enterprise.

Assessment methods

Assessment will evaluate the two kinds of performance required.


The middle course test is aimed at verifying the acquisition by the student of the basic theoretical tools to conduct socio-semiotic research. The points to be awarded are 15/30.


The second test consists in performing a simple socio-semiotic research and submitting the results as a written report plus the material collected by the field work.

The research will apply the socio-semiotic methods presented in classes and in the textbook.


Students will turn in a) all the materials collected during the field work (audio and video, files, photographs, interviews, surveys, ethnographic notes, etc.); b) a written paper presenting the research results.

Research steps will be discussed in class and on the e-learning platform. Not attending students will discuss, present and turn in the project on the e-learning platform. They must contact the teacher to decide the topic of their work.


The points to be awarded are 16/30.


The final grade is the sum of the two partial grades. 31/30 points correspond to 30 cum laude.


Grades are assigned according to the following criteria:

18-20: There are no elements of excellence or originality in the student’s contribution, or deficiencies are just enough to balance the positive parts of the performance; (E-)

21-24: The performance presents some good points but is not fully developed or it shows some serious deficiency, though having a good general standard; (E E+)

25-27: The performance is good or very good, but some or several weak points prevent it from reaching a top grade. (D D+)

28-30: Very good, no flaws, some or several original elements (C C+)

30 cum laude: excellent under any aspect, original and outstanding (A)

(ECTS grading tables are reported for a comparison)



Subscription to the platform is required to follow the course and to be admitted to the exam, both for attending and non-attending students.



Please ask the teacher for the password to enter the Moodle platform during classes or by e-mail to giampaolo.proni@unibo.it [mailto:giampaolo.proni@unibo.it]

Teaching tools

Portable and desktop PCs, video projector, WiFi access point, internet connection, e-learning platform, personal smartphones.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Giampaolo Proni