Get a “Mini Master’s” in Fashion: 8 Essential Reads


Fashion is interesting to me in part because while clothes are inherently personal (you wear them on your body after all!) the industry impacts the collective, and sits at the intersection of culture, economics, history, gender and politics as well as social and individual identity.  I became interested in studying fashion from an academic perspective in college, first as a way to explore my interest in fashion as well as my own feminism, and the later to better understand women in communication  within the fashion industry. Nothing makes me happier than a total geek-filled, nerd-fest conversation about how fashion impacts our world (or the worlds we imagine  – hello high-waisted wool pants in Her!).

“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.”

― Caitlin Moran

As a fashion or style blogger, your writing and creative expression likely comes from the relationship you have cultivated with the clothes you love, the clothes you covet and the desire to immerse yourself in a world and community of like-minded fashion fiends. If you go a step further and investigate the history of fashion as well as contemporary issues (sourcing, labor, innovation), you can broaden your own understanding of just how personal style, craft, art, culture and business interests are all at play within your experience and that of your readers. This enhanced knowledge and context will only imbue your blog with new depths.

Below are several of my favorite books, websites and journals to help you get a mini-Master's in Fashion!

WORN Fashion Journal

A Canadian publication that comes out twice a year, WORN “discusses the cultures, subcultures, histories, and personal stories of fashion. We strive to embody a place between pop culture magazine and academic journal that opens new avenues in art and fashion theory by hovering where these two ideas intersect, connecting with fashion scholars and artists. We pay attention to how what is worn is made, interpreted, transformed, disseminated, and copied.”

Worn Through

With the tagline, “Apparel from an Academic Perspective,” Worn Through is a blog that covers “social-cultural, academic, historical, and critical thoughts on dress.” Founder and editor Monica Sklar, PhD is a professional researcher and educator in the study of dress.

Fashion Theory

Fashion Theory, The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, is a peer-reviewed journal that is published five times a year. “Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.” You can pick up older issues on Amazon.

Business of Fashion/BoF 500 Special Print Edition

For contemporary insight into current news, trends and key players in the industry, Business of Fashion is the insider's bible. Sign up for the BoF Daily Digest and stay on top of history in the making. For something to hold in your hands and study, order the BoF 500, a list of emerging and essential who's who's in fashion.

The Genteel

For another contemporary fashion resource, check out The Genteel, an international site that examines the” forces shaping global fashion and design through the lens of business, culture, society and best kept secrets,” and is definitely a site to watch.

Fresh Lipstick

While not without its criticisms, I know of no other venture that so explicitly charts the relationship between the waves of feminism and intersections with the fashion industry than Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion & Feminism. The following essays by author Linda Scott, Market feminism: the case for a paradigm shift and “Fresh Lipstick–Rethinking Images of Women in Advertising” (the article that led to the book), are also worth a read.

Fashion, Culture & Identity

A book I devoured while writing both my undergraduate and graduate thesis, Fred Davis' (emeritus professor of sociology, Univ. of California-San Diego), explores questions like “What do our clothes say about who we are or who we think we are? How does the way we dress communicate messages about our identity? Is the desire to be “in fashion” universal, or is it unique to Western culture? How do fashions change?” All questions worth asking, and ones that you no doubt have your own unique viewpoint about, particularly since this book was written in 1994, well before blogs and digital media changed the landscape forever.

Fashion Historian

Penned by Heather Vaughn, a “writer and historian, whose work focuses on the study of dress in the late 19th through the 20th century,” this blog is a great place to discover more fashion books to read, and her blogroll is a treasure trove for new discovery.

If this type of literature appeals to you, I'd also encourage you to pursue Dress Studies, as well as Fashion Marketing journals (a few great ones out of the UK and Australia). And, if you're curious enough to pursue a real master's in fashion, The London College of Fashion offers an MA in the History and Culture of Fashion. Super nerd girl swoon.


[Image credit: Arkpad]



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8 Responses

  1. Karalyn

    I would also encourage people to check out the Fashion Studies masters program at Parsons which I am a part of. One of our students actually works on the Worn journal! If you want to know more you can check out the program blog which I currently run. It’s

  2. Frances

    Thank you so much for this – I love my BoF read each morning, and read both Worn Through and Worn regularly too, so I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of your list. I’d love to hear any more recommendations from fellow fashion history nerds too!

  3. Ashley

    I’m torn on reading Fashion, Culture, & Identity. It sounds like a good read, but I’m so weary of “old” books. I feel like they’re mostly irrelevant, especially in the ever-changing fashion world.


  4. Nadya Helena

    Thank you for your phrase “Nothing makes me happier than a total geek-filled, nerd-fest conversation about how fashion impacts our world”! I would prefer talking about the impacts and embodiment of fashion rather than talking about the best skinny jeans on any given day.

    If I may add, 100 Years of Fashion by Cally Blackman could be a good idea, or maybe The Fashion Book (I forgot the author, but I skimmed through it and it was good, at least for me considering I’m without formal fashion education). Well basically I love everything by Rockport, Taschen, or PageOne, I guess I’m just all cheese for their literatures.

    The Dilly Chic

  5. Lynne Jackson

    Thanks a lot for these links reads. I like to think that I know a bit about fashion (because I’ve worked in the business most of my working life and have qualifications in design and tech) but now I realise that I should go back to the start and read read read. I might also be somewhat hampered by the notorious Australian tyranny of distance but that isn’t so much a problem in the digital century.

  6. Lotta

    Thank you for the info! I was wondering if you had any thoughts on recommended programs for a degree on Fashion Journalism, including online programs/certifications?

    Thanks much,