• Veronica Pulumbarit

MoMA's fashion course looks at history of clothes

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is offering through the Coursera app several courses, including "Fashion as Design."


According to MoMA, "Among all objects of design, our clothes are the most universal and intimate. Every day, everywhere, everyone wears something, whether a full outfit or nothing more than a tattoo."


"Fashion as Design" is a seven-week course that traces the history of different types of clothes and fashion accessories: tracksuit, jumpsuit, trench coat, little black dress, jeans, graphic shirts, polo shirts, Wonder bra, fanny pack, Ray Ban, beret, aviator glasses, and so much more.


The course is offered for free but for those who want to receive a shareable certificate, the fee is $49. Learners, however, can still participate in all the quizzes and discussions even without upgrading to a certificate.


This writer earned her "Fashion as Design" certificate on June 22 after seven weeks of studying.

It is the second certificate that I have earned from MoMA.


The first course I took at MoMA during the Enhanced Community Quarantine was "Modern Art and Ideas," a five-week course.


That course was also offered for free but I also availed of a certificate for $49.


Interesting Trivia from "Fashion as Design" course


MoMA offers well-structured and carefully-researched courses. Below are some of the interesting trivia I picked up from the "Fashion as Design" course.


(1) Ballet flats in 1861 had heels and buckles. However, around 1730, a ballerina named Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo removed the heels. She was one of the first to dance in flat shoes.


(2) Many clothes and fashion accessories had a military history, including aviator sunglasses. Around 1910, pilots needed glasses that provided protection from the cold and the sunlight. The optical company Bausch and Lomb created "Ray Ban," which blocks sunrays. When they became popular with the public, they were redesigned and called Ray-Ban Aviator.


(3) Early versions of the beret, a round brimless cap used for weather protection, can be traced back to ancient Greece. The version close to the berets today can be traced to the 15th Century in the Basque Country, where shepherds were the ones who used them.


(4) Contrary to common notion, Coco Chanel was not the one who created the little black dress. MoMa quotes historian Valerie Steele as saying: “The little black dress is not a style per se, but it’s a conceptual fashion that’s entirely versatile." Actually, black dresses have long been used for mourning. However, only aristocrats and wealthy people wore them because black dye is expensive to produce. When inexpensive synthetic dyes appeared in the 19th Century, the working class quickly embraced black as a dress color.


(5) If there is a little black dress, there is also the little black death dress. Designer Pia Interlandi said the death garment is meant to “to carry one from this world to the next.” MoMA said Interlandi designed the death dress "to decompose along with its wearer, since all of its component materials are biodegradable.'

Garments for the Grave


To know more, check out MoMA's courses on Coursera.


Fashion as Design


Modern Art and Ideas


Seeing Through Photographs




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