90852 - Fashion Languages and Signs

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Gender equality

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student has acquired the ability to analyise and understand the processes and meanings of fashion and dress from the point of view of a professional and scholar of the field. The result is pursued by introducing the theories of semiotics and sociosemiotics in their application to the study of dressing behaviour models, as well as to the cultural production system related to them.

Course contents

Macroarea 1. Approaches to fashion studies

1.1. Fashion and the sociosemiotic research (less. 1-3)
The study of fashion in classical sociology
Definitions of fashion (fashion and dress; dress and social norms)
Fashion and Culture
Simmel, Spencer, Veblen
Fashion as a function of society
Fashion beyond dressing
Practical and symbolic functions
Bourdieu, König, Blumer
Dressing codes

1.2. Fashion as a cultural system (less. 4)
The functional-structuralist approach
Symbolic ineractionis and pragmatism
Barthes and the myth
Saussure's semiotics and fashion
The production of fashion
Institutional and professional subjects

1.3. Designing fashion (less. 5)
From the atelier or from the street?
Creativity and social acknowledgment
Designers and the fashion system
The charm of of fashion designers

1.4. Legitimation and communication of fashion (less. 6-7)
The flow of forms
The legitimation process and the trends
The diffusion process
The role of technology
The judgments on aesthetic values
Marketing and fashion communication

1.5. The daily practices of fashion (less. 8)
From consumption to production
Fashion and mass consumption
Fashion, personal image and social status
New styles of consumption


Macroarea 2. Languages and signs of fashion

2.1. R. Barthes and the semiotics of dressing (less. 9-11)
Analysis and limits of historical and psychological approaches
The theory of Saussure
Linguistic concepts as applied to dressing
'Langue' and 'parole', dress and dressing.
The issues of structuralist approach to clothing and Barthes' change of position

2.2. The research of G. McCracken (less. 12)
Can we analyse clothing as it were a language?
The field research and its results
Critical points in the linguistic metaphor
Clothing as an element of material culture

2.3. Ugo Volli and the end of fashion (less. 13)
Fashion at the end of XX century
From fashion to styles
Fashion and communication
The end of the fashion century

Macroarea 3. Theory and documents

3.1. Mary Quant and Barbara Hulanicki: business diaries and theoretical tools (less. 14)
The "Swinging London" and its protagonists
Comparison of theoretical tools with testimonies

3.2. Final summary. Preparation for the final test (less. 15)

NB: Contents and dates of the lessons may change due to external causes or the class's participation to University cultural events.


The readings required to take the assessment test comprehend one book and six articles. This bibliography is in English insofar the original work is in English or translations are available. Otherwise Italian texts are listed.

The book is:

Kawamura, Y.
Fahion-ology. An Introduction to Fashion Studies
, Oxford-New York, Berg, 2005

The articles are:

1. Barthes, R.
"History and Sociology of Clothing" and "Language and Clothing", in The Language of Fashion, A. Stafford and M. Carter, Eds.,Sydney, Power Publications 2006.

2. McCracken, G.
“Clothing as a language: an object lesson in the study of the expressive properties of material culture”, in B. Reynolds, M. Stott, eds., Material Anthropology, University Press of America, New York, 1985, pp. 110-122.

3. Quant, M.,
from Quant by Quant, London, Cassell, 1966, pp. 34-50, 73-78

4. Hulanicki, B.,
from From A to Biba, London, Hutchinson, 1983, pp. 62, 67-73,75-93, 95-96, 98-106, 125-129, 146-147.

Volli, U.
“Introduzione. Fine del secolo della moda”, in Volli, U., Block Modes. Il linguaggio del corpo e della moda, Milano, Lupetti Editori di Comunicazione, 1998, pp. 7-29.

Further instructions on how to find the articles will be made available in class and on the Moodle platform.

Teaching methods

With regard to the anti-Covid rules, the course will be delivered following the lines established by the Program and the University of Bologna. Students will be able to use the platforms made available by the University.

The course uses a Moodle e-learning platform. Subscription to the platform is compulsory. The Moodle platform comprises two instances, one to follow the course and another to take the final test. Students must subscribe both. The platform allows students and teacher to interact, including those not attending classes, so as to reduce the differences between the two ways of learning.

The Moodle instance for the a.y. 2020-2021 will be available one week before the beginning of the course.

Students must request credentials from the teacher.

Assessment methods

The assessments methods adopted for the exams will comply with the health care norms in force at the moment.

The exam will be a written test, that might be in remote mode, in the PC lab, in both ways. 

In both cases the exam will be about the texts listed above and the contents of the slides.

The test assigns a differentiated score for the different types of questions, for a total of 30/30 cum laude. For every type of question the points to be awarded will be indicated.

Every type of question is designed to stimulate different cognitive approaches to the contents of the course.

Questions are extracted from sub-sets, each relating to one of the areas of the teaching’s content.

The outcome of the test is then supplemented by other points related to activities that can be carried out on the platform.

The test will take place on the Moodle e-learning platform in the PC classroom or remotely.

The test in presence lasts 30 minutes plus technical preparation. Students are admitted to the classroom until the technical start of the test.

At the end of the in-class test each student can see a first result, to be integrated with other scores. The final mark is communicated by e-mail notification through the platform. No text or communication channel (smartphone or tablet or other) can be used during the test. Students who consider it necessary to use a dictionary should notify the teacher at the exam. The dictionary must be in paper format and must be brought by the student. Online dictionaries are not allowed.

The results of the remote test are communicated via the Moodle platform after the teacher's assessment.

Enrolment on the Moodle platform is a prerequisite for following the teaching and for taking the exam, both for students and non-attendants. In the absence of this, you are not admitted to the test.

Each student is responsible for his or her credentials for accessing Moodle and his or her personal Unibo account. In the absence of these, the teacher is not required to intervene technically for the issue of new credentials.

It is necessary to register for both the teaching instance (CLAM - 90852 - LINGUAGGI E SEGNI DELLA MODA e LINGUAGGI E TECNICHE DEL MADE IN ITALY (1) (73068 e 37080)) and the examination instance (ESAMI LINGUAGGI E TECNICHE E SEMIOTICA CLAM). The personal account is unique for the platform and must be used at every access. The access key varies for each instance and must be entered the first time and when the platform requires it. The access keys should be requested from the teacher at his address giampaolo.proni@unibo.it

Platform address www.gproni.org/moodle

It is recommended that you register for the platform before the start of the course even if you do not intend to take the exam in the first session.

The platform includes detailed instructions on how to take the exam and the evaluation and reporting criteria.

A demo is also available to test the exam interface.

Registration for the exam on the AlmaEsami platform is required . Please cancel if you do not wish to take the test.

Students with disabilities and learning disability problems are kindly requested to contact the teacher at least one week before the exam.


Teaching tools

Video projector. Internet connection.

Moodle e-learning platform and all the distance learving tools made available by the Department and the University.

Students with learning disabilities who require specific technical support to attend the lessons are kindly requested to contact the teacher or the didactic secretariat at least two weeks before the beginning of the lessons.


Office hours

See the website of Giampaolo Proni