For the first time at Gannon University, students are learning about fashion from a historical point of view.
John Vohlidka, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history at Gannon, is teaching a History of Fashion class this semester.
Vohlidka said for several years, he’s been interested in how fashion was used for political purposes by Louis XIV of France.
“That got me thinking in more general terms about how fashion is a reflection of the goals and motivations of a society at any particular historical period,” Vohlidka said.
Vohlidka said he uses a book about the history of fashion in his honors classes and thought that he could teach a whole class on the subject.
He said he noticed that there were many students at Gannon interested in pursuing a career in fashion, and he thinks that this class would be helpful to them.
Vohlidka said the class is both lecture and discussion-based. Mostly the class discusses the readings, which include a book and various articles.
Coryn Reiser, a junior history major, is a student in History of Fashion. She said she found out about the class when it was advertised in the history hallway last semester.
Reiser said she was surprised that a course like that was being offered and she was excited to learn about how and why fashion became so popular. She said it sounded like a fun class and she wanted to take a class with Vohlidka because she heard that he was an excellent professor.
“I thought it would be a fun and informative class and it definitely is,” Reiser said. “I would say it is my favorite class this semester.”
Clare DeSanctis, a junior foreign languages major, said she came across the class in the course catalog.
“It’s way more interesting than I thought it would be,” DeSanctis said. “I didn’t realize how key Louis IV was in modern fashion and the huge industry it has become.
“It doesn’t quite pertain to my major, but this class gives me so many cool ideas to discuss with my friends,” DeSanctis said.
Vohlidka said so far, the class has gone over clothing in the ancient world, the Middle Ages and Louis XIV’s role in the creation of modern fashion. He said all modern fashion is either a continuation of or a reaction to the trends Louis XIV started.
Reiser said she really liked learning about Louis XIV. She said she learned that he’s not only done a lot for the fashion industry, but many social aspects of life – including popularizing cafes, restaurants, streetlights, high heels and mirrors.
“It was fun learning about all of his ideas that popularized so many things that are still successful today,” Reiser said.
Vohlidka said the class still has yet to cover the Victorian period and the 20th century. He said the 20th century is when things really start to heat up.
DeSanctis said she’s most eager to learn about the late 19th century and early 20th century fashions.
Vohlidka said whether or not he teaches the class again will depend on the feedback he gets from the students, if there are enough students who want to take the class and if he can get the class added to the curriculum.
Vohlidka said he hasn’t gotten any formal feedback about the class, but he’s fortunate that this class is highly motivated.
“They have impressed me with their willingness to do the work required of them,” Vohlidka said.
Vohlidka said he hopes students take away an understanding of fashion throughout history.
DeSanctis said she would recommend that everyone take the class. She said it gave her a new perspective on famous historical figures and events she thought she already understood.
“Learning about these people and events in terms of fashion really opened my eyes,” DeSanctis said.
Reiser also said she would recommend it.
“This is a great class,” Reiser said. “I have truly learned a lot and it has challenged me to look at everything from a historical standpoint.”