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Fashion and Culture Dissertation Topics

Published by Owen Ingram at January 5th, 2023 , Revised On April 19, 2024

The fashion trends reflect culture.  The influence of culture on major styles and trends of the past can’t be understated. This is predominantly true in the world of  women’s fashion . As the 20 th century kicked off, women started to fight for equal rights, reflected in their fashion trends.

Thus, early in the 20 th  century, women were first seen wearing jeans. Fast forwarding, women of today’s world are now accustomed to smoking, which was previously seen as a strictly male habit. Cultures throughout the globe make use of clothing to make fashion statements.

Fashion trends further reflect the hierarchies, personal relationships, and social power structures within communities. Finding a good fashion dissertation topic can be a very daunting task, primarily because it should be intriguing and manageable in the given timeframe.

According to  Diverse World Fashion (2024), “ Culture is a largely inclusive concept, and the fact of fashion reflecting culture implies some consideration of some major cultural changes. Technological advances— such as the Internet— have been immensely transformative in culture. ”

To help you get started with brainstorming for your fashion and culture topic ideas, we have developed a list of the latest topics that can be used for writing your fashion and culture dissertation.

PhD qualified writers of our team have developed these topics, so you can trust to use these topics for drafting your dissertation.

You may also want to start your dissertation by requesting  a brief research proposal  from our writers on any of these topics, which includes an  introduction  to the problem,  research question , aim and objectives,  literature review ,  along with the proposed  methodology  of research to be conducted.  Let us know  if you need any help in getting started.

Check our  example dissertation  to get an idea of  how to structure your dissertation .

You can review step by step guide on how to write your dissertation  here.

2024 Fashion and Culture D issertation Topics

Topic 1: an investigation into the impact of fashion choices on the cultural values of the consumers..

Research Aim: The research aims to conduct an investigation into the impact of fashion choices on impacting cultural values of the consumers.

Objectives:

  • To evaluate the factors impacting the fashion trends.
  • To analyse the relationship between fashion choices and the perceptions of the consumers.
  • To investigate how the fashion choices of the consumers impact their cultural values and social identity.

Topic 2: An investigation into the relevance of culture on social accountability and natural fabric selection by fashion consumers.

Research Aim: The research aims to investigate the relevance of culture on social accountability and natural fabric selection by fashion consumers.

  • To analyse the influence of culture on the fashion choices of the customers.
  • To evaluate the impact of social accountability in the fashion industry.
  • To investigate how social accountability and natural fabric selection are influenced by culture.

Topic 3: An assessment of the impact of global culture on the UK fashion trends.

Research Aim: The research aims to analyse the impact of global culture on UK fashion trends.

  • To analyse the impact of global culture on fashion and the perception of the consumers.
  • To determine the effect of culture on fashion trends and emerging choices of silhouettes.
  • To examine the ways in which the global culture has impacted the fashion trends in the UK.

Topic 4: The relationship of religion with the fashion choices of the consumers in the UK.

Research Aim: To analyse the relationship of religion with the fashion choices of the consumers in the UK.

  • To analyse the influence of religion on the choice of clothing and fashion sense of the consumers.
  • To evaluate the impact of religion on reinforcing tradition through fashion.
  • To investigate the impact of religion on the individuality and fashion choices of consumers in the UK.

Topic 5: An assessment of the evolution of the fashion trends and colour choices in the UK.

Research Aim: The research aims to conduct an assessment of the evolution of the fashion trends and colour choices in the UK

  • To analyse the evolution of fashion in the UK since the 1900s.
  • To understand the factors impacting the colour choices of apparel in the UK
  • To abases the factors impacting the evolution of fashion trends and colour choices in the UK.

Covid-19 Fashion and Culture Research Topics

Impacts of covid-19 on the fashion industry.

Research Aim: This study will highlight the impacts of coronavirus on the fashion industry

The role of the fashion industry during the Coronavirus pandemic

Research Aim: Covid-19 has disrupted all industries, including the fashion industry. All textile and luxury brands were paused during the global lockdown. This study will investigate how the fashion industry has contributed to combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Impacts of COVID-19 on people and their culture

Research Aim: The lockdown situation during the crisis of COVID-19 has affected the people and their culture. This study will address those issues and the role of the public in maintaining a safe environment.

Coronavirus and creative sector

Research Aim: This study will highlight the impacts of coronavirus on the creative sector, the planning, and innovations to overcome the consequences of COVID-19.

The future of fashion, cultural and creative sector after COVID-19

Research Aim: This study will predict the future of the fashion, cultural, and creative sectors after COVID-19 by highlighting the challenges, various methods to overcome those challenges.

Fashion and Culture Dissertation Topics for 2023

Topic 1: wool vs. synthetic wool.

Research Aim: This research aims to identify the difference between wool and synthetic wool

Topic 2: The growing popularity of natural fabrics

Research Aim: This research aims to address the growing popularity of the natural fabric

Topic 3: Fashion designing in demand

Research Aim: This research aims to evaluate the demand for fashion designing

Topic 4: Occasion Shopping Vs. Obsession with shopping

Research Aim: This research aims to evaluate occasion shopping and obsession with shopping

Fashion and Culture Dissertation Topics for 2022

Topic 1: analysing the role of fashion in re-shaping the western-cultural values: a case study of any western country..

Research Aim: Fashion has always played a significant role in everyone’s life. The research aims to analyse the role and importance of fashion in re-shaping and mould Western cultural values.

Topic 2: How modern fashion of the 21st century represents the political and cultural ideals of the current era

Research Aim: Since the last few decades, the fashion industry has played a prominent role in influencing cultural values. However, this research will be focusing on how the modern fashion of the 21st century represents the political and cultural ideals of the current era.

Topic 3: How has western culture influenced the living standards and preferences of Asian Consumers: A case study of Pakistan and India

Research Aim: The main aim of the research is to analyse and find out how western culture has influenced the living standards and buying preferences of Asian consumers. It is a well-researched argument that The Western world and its culture influence Asian consumers. Therefore, this research will be focusing on consumers of Pakistan and India and how their buy decisions might be affected by western culture.

Topic 4: Assessing the fashion trends of royal families around the world: Comparative analysis of the UK and Saudi Arabia

Research Aim: Royal families have always been subjected to classy fashion trends, creating an intense impression on the general public. The main focus of the research is to assess the fashion trends of royal families around the world with a specific focus on the UK and Saudi Arabia.

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Iconography Dissertation Topics

For centuries fashion has remained connected to the world of celebrities and music, reflecting ever-changing cultural trends. Iconography based dissertations may discuss the role of icons in fashion and art from a historical perspective.

The iconography subject primarily provides an insight into the celebrity culture to understand how they are used and portrayed to promote a certain fashion trend. Some interesting fashion and culture dissertation titles under this field of study are listed below:

  • The involvement of affluent female consumers in the fashion industry
  • Cultural modernity and fashion journalism in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai
  • Alexander McQueen and the perception of fashion – A case study of the five fashion shows
  • The impact of fashion journalism on the current fashion industry
  • Mad for Madonna: The high and low fashions of Eighties pop culture
  • Lady Gaga : Glamorous fashions of the music industry
  • Selena Gomez : The teenage style icon for casual fashion
  • Eminently Eminem: Fashions of the rapping culture
  • James Dean and the Café Culture
  • Beyond the Pink: (Post) Youth Iconography in Cinema
  • Investigating the impact of celebrity culture on the fashion industry with a particular focus on females’ fashion clothing consumption
  • Do celebrity-endorsed advertisements in fashion magazines influence the purchase intentions of generation Y?

Also Read: Psychology Dissertation Topics for 2021

How Can ResearchProspect Help?

ResearchProspect writers can send several custom topic ideas to your email address. Once you have chosen a topic that suits your needs and interests, you can order for our dissertation outline service , which will include a brief introduction to the topic, research questions , literature review , methodology , expected results , and conclusion . The dissertation outline will enable you to review the quality of our work before placing the order for our full dissertation writing service !

History of Fashion Dissertation Topics

Charles Frederick Worth is the first known fashion designer who sewed his label into the garments, laying the foundation for the modern fashion industry, including individual designers, fashion houses and firms. Fashion history dissertations typically use pictorial analysis to draw specific comparisons between the fashion trends of different ages. There is a wide array of research topics to choose from in this very interesting and entertaining field of fashion and culture. Some fashion history dissertation topics are listed below to get you started without any further delays.

  • Fashion and Technology: Major fashion trends of the 21st century
  • The material culture of women’s accessories – Feminine display, race formation and middle-class performance (1825-1925)
  • Investigating American fashion trends through the decades: 1950-2010
  • Investigating British fashion trends through the decades: 1910-2010
  • Cultural transformation: Feminism in the American fashion industry between 1930 and 1980
  • Studying men’s fashion in Britain since 1800y
  • How English wedding dresses have evolved over the years – The history and origins
  • The impact of ethnic clothing on fashion trends in the UK
  • Fools and jesters through the ages
  • Women’s shoe fashion trends from 1700 to 2000
  • Fifties fashions on the streets today
  • Entering the era of liberalism: A closer look at the fashion trends of the 1920s

Fashion Design Dissertation Topics

Fashion designing can be described as the application of aesthetics and design to apparel and accessories. Both social and cultural factors influence fashion design which changes with place and time. In general, fashion designers’ responsibilities include but are not limited to designing apparel and accessories and anticipating varying consumer trends before the product is brought onto the market.

The primary aim of fashion designers is to design clothes that are functional and pleasing to the eye. Fashion design dissertations include research studies on the use of illegal material such as fur, regional styles and traditions, and the relationship between fashion design and leisure activities such as sports and theatre. Some interesting fashion design research questions can be explored in the following subjects:

  • How the ball gown has evolved over the decades
  • Fashion and Sports: The evolution of swimwear from early to modern
  • The influence of Shetland’s textile culture on fashion design
  • The modish Victorian challenge to design a bodice
  • The eta of manmade dress material: 1900-2000
  • Clothing of importance: The tuxedo and the suit since 1800
  • Investigating the history and evolution of the hat
  • Exploring the differences between UK urban and rural fashion design over the last two decades
  • Historical importance of fur with respect to clothing
  • Use of alternative materials for clothing

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Children’s Apparel Dissertation Topics

Any form of clothing designed specifically for children can be categorized as children’s apparel. It should be noted that children’s clothing is almost always more sensual and funky than adult clothing. In recent times, gender-based children’s clothing has attracted substantial attention in the world of fashion.

Nonetheless, children’s fashion is an extremely diverse and imaginative market that presents attractive business opportunities. Children’s fashion incorporates emblematic and symbolic imagery – especially relating to the fairytale, folk-lore, and hero-worship, more than any other type of Western clothing. Below are listed some key debates, ideas and discussions which would make enjoyable and  challenging research topics :

  • Modern sociology of children and consumption
  • Investigating the clothing needs of children with disabilities
  • A qualitative study about fashion trends in Western children clothing
  • Moral Failure: How media portrays teen girls as a symbol of sex
  • School uniforms designs – Society’s attitudes and perceptions
  • Embracing ambiguity in the historiography of children’s dress
  • Sweet girls and cool boys – A qualitative study to understand the relationship between children’s clothing and gender
  • The origin of the motif
  • Chains, T-Shirts, and baggy trousers: The meaning of skateboard culture
  • Halloween: Fashion and the children’s imagination
  • Superheroes: Symbolism and representation in fantastic fashions

Fashion Entrepreneurship Dissertation Topics

A person who owns and possesses a fashion idea, venture or enterprise is a fashion entrepreneur. The activities of a fashion entrepreneur are confined within the boundaries of the fashion industry.

Creating knowledge-sharing platforms and addressing structural and social issues are some of the most important fashion entrepreneurship elements. Starting a new fashion business can be extremely daunting, especially if the economic climate is not suitable. There is a wide array of dissertation topics available under this particular field of study:

  • Analyzing fashion design entrepreneurship – Challenges and Opportunities
  • Factors affecting the performance of small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK fashion and culture industry – A case study of any five enterprises
  • The impact of digital marketing on the performance of small and medium scale fashion business organisations in the UK
  • Studying iconic women entrepreneurs engaged in the fashion industry
  • Fashion enterprise and entrepreneurship education – Guidance for potential fashion entrepreneurs
  • Developing a viable business plan for a fashion brand
  • The making of the female entrepreneur in the world of fashion
  • To study the failure and success factors affecting apparel businesses.
  • The importance of the role of trade fairs in the international fashion business
  • Social media marketing for luxury fashion brands
  • Contemporary issues in fashion marketing

Important Notes:

As a fashion and culture student looking to get good grades, it is essential to develop new ideas and experiment with existing fashion and culture theories – i.e., to add value and interest in your research topic.

Fashion and culture are vast and interrelated to many other academic disciplines like civil engineering ,  construction ,  law , and even  healthcare . That is why it is imperative to create a fashion and culture dissertation topic that is articular, sound, and actually solves a practical problem that may be rampant in the field.

We can’t stress how important it is to develop a logical research topic based on your entire research. There are several significant downfalls to getting your topic wrong; your supervisor may not be interested in working on it, the topic has no academic creditability, the research may not make logical sense, there is a possibility that the study is not viable.

This impacts your time and efforts in  writing your dissertation , as you may end up in the cycle of rejection at the initial stage of the dissertation. That is why we recommend reviewing existing research to develop a topic, taking advice from your supervisor, and even asking for help in this particular stage of your dissertation.

While developing a research topic, keeping our advice in mind will allow you to pick one of the best fashion and culture dissertation topics that fulfil your requirement of writing a research paper and add to the body of knowledge.

Therefore, it is recommended that when finalizing your dissertation topic, you read recently published literature to identify gaps in the research that you may help fill.

Remember- dissertation topics need to be unique, solve an identified problem, be logical, and be practically implemented. Please look at some of our sample fashion and culture dissertation topics to get an idea for your own dissertation.

How to Structure your Fashion and Culture Dissertation

A well-structured   dissertation can help students   to achieve a high overall academic grade.

  • A Title Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Declaration
  • Abstract: A summary of the research completed
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction : This chapter includes the project rationale, research background, key research aims and objectives, and the research problems. An outline of the structure of a dissertation can  also be added to this chapter.
  • Literature Review :  This chapter presents relevant theories and frameworks by analyzing published and unpublished literature on the chosen research topic to address  research questions . The purpose is to highlight and discuss the selected research area’s relative weaknesses and strengths while identifying research gaps. Break down the topic and key terms that can positively impact your dissertation and your tutor.
  • Methodology: The  data collection  and  analysis  methods and techniques employed by the researcher are presented in the Methodology chapter, which usually includes  research design,  research philosophy, research limitations, code of conduct, ethical consideration, data collection methods and  data analysis strategy .
  • Findings and Analysis: Findings of the research are analyzed in detail under the Findings and Analysis chapter. All key findings/results are outlined in this chapter without interpreting the data or drawing any conclusions. It can be useful to include  graphs ,  charts  and  tables  in this chapter to identify meaningful trends and relationships.
  • Discussion and Conclusion:  The researcher presents his interpretation of the results in this chapter and states whether the research hypothesis has been verified or not. An essential aspect of this section is establishing the link between the results and evidence from the literature. Recommendations with regards to the implications of the findings and directions for the future may also be provided. Finally, a summary of the overall research, along with final judgments, opinions, and comments, must be included in the form of suggestions for improvement.
  • References:  Make sure to complete this by your University’s requirements
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices: Any additional information, diagrams, and graphs used to  complete the dissertation  but not part of the dissertation should be included in the Appendices chapter. Essentially, the purpose is to expand the information/data.

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To discover a fashion and culture dissertation topic:

  • Analyze cultural influences on fashion.
  • Explore historical and contemporary trends.
  • Consider cultural appropriation debates.
  • Investigate sustainability in fashion.
  • Examine fashion’s role in identity.
  • Select a topic resonating with your passion and research scope.

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Fashion refers to the popular and distinctive styles, trends, and choices in clothing, accessories, and personal grooming that individuals adopt as a form of self-expression. students must explore the various aspects of the fashion industry, its impact on society, and its intersection with culture and identity while selecting fashion dissertation topics .

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Fashion is a popular form of expression of style or clothing that varies in place and time. The fashion industry is an interesting field of study that encompasses the aesthetic sense of different people in different regions of the world. Selecting the best fashion dissertation topic includes a thorough assessment of various aspects to ensure the connection and accuracy of the examination. One strategy is to investigate sustainable fashion disse rtation topics to explore the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Moreover, research topics in fashion and textiles offer opportunities to explore innovative trends and sustainability in fabric development in the fashion industry.

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Fashion Dissertation Topics: 25+ Ideas and Examples

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by  Antony W

April 21, 2022

dissertation about fashion

Culture and fashion intersect to a great degree, and this is a great area to study and write a dissertation on. So if you’re interested in examining the relationship between culture and fashion and the role the two play in the human life, you should explore the best fashion dissertation topics, identify the topic idea that interests you, and present your research in your dissertation project.

The most important rule when choosing a dissertation topic in culture and fashion is to focus on a subject that reflects your concerns and interest. It also helps to ensure that the topic you choose merges well into the current trends and focuses on key areas.  

It’s important to note that the link between fashion and culture is complex and dynamic. Given that diversity, you will need to implement sociological and psychological research.

In this dissertation topics series, we look at some examples of topics that are worth looking at in the culture-fashion field.

Fashion Dissertation Topics

We’ve divided the following sections into categories to make it easy for you to identify the area you would find interesting to explore in your work.

Iconography Topics for Dissertation Research

  • Trying to keep up with the Kardashians: The Kardashians’ effect on the fashion industry is being tracked
  • Imagining Monroe: A look back at one of the world’s most stylish ladies
  • Fashioning the Elite: What Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn’s lifelong friendship contributed to the fashion industry
  • ‘Pride and Prejudice’: how Austen continues to captivate designers’ minds today.
  • What Elvis gave to the fashion world: glitz, glam, and an increasing girth.
  • Gender fluidity: Investigating the importance of androgynous fashion icons
  • If appearances could kill: Kylie Minogue and the pop princess image.

Co-creation in the Fashion Industry

  • To what degree has digital technology aided in the global fashion industry’s co-creation?
  • Is the ‘culture of co-creation’ in the fashion industry the way of the future?
  • ‘None of us are as strong as all of us,’ says the fashion industry on co-creation.
  • Co-creation via social media: A fashion industry case study
  • What is the function of co-creators’ culture in SME fashion brands?

History of Fashion Dissertation Topics

  • A discussion of 1970s fashion icons and what they contributed to the fashion industry
  • How fashion in the 1980s reflected political and cultural beliefs of the period.
  • Royal attire and the many identities of rulers across the world
  • Material marriages: The origins and evolution of the English wedding gown
  • The effect of vintage clothes on today’s fashion business is discussed in this article.

Fashion Topics on Clothing, Leisure and Place

  • Shakespearean theatre and the aesthetic image: how Shakespearean plays influence current fashion trends
  • Changing Times: The closure of the rural-urban fashion divide during the previous century
  • The uniform: the history and transformation of school uniforms in the United Kingdom during the last century
  • Celebrity fashion influence: an examination of celebrity-endorsed design lines
  • What is the function of the heel? A look back at the history of high-heeled shoes in fashion

Children’s Clothing Fashion Dissertation Topics

  • Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and the trendy imagination are the essence of the fairy tale.
  • A critical examination of the controversies around promiscuity and children’s clothes
  • T-shirts, chains, and baggy pants: In children’s fashion, the meaning of skateboard culture
  • Is children’s dress representative of current societal values? Children’s clothes from the Victorian era to the current day is being studied.
  • Return to nature: The incorporation of natural-world emblems and symbols into modern fashion.
  • “If everyone else can do it, why can’t we?” An examination of the impact of fashion advertisement on children

Dissertation Topics on Sex, Body, and Presentation in Fashion

  • Adoration and adornment: A critical examination of the significance of body art and piercing in Western civilizations
  • Fashion and religion: An investigation into the issues about appropriate dress
  • The real and the subversive: Mannequins and models have been used since the 1960s.
  • Dressing monks and nuns through the centuries is a lifelong practice.
  • To what extent is modern fashion concerned with appearing nice naked?
  • Have transgender models had an impact on mainstream fashion design?

Material and Designs Fashion Dissertation Topics

  • The impact of health and safety, as well as the expansion of gender shifting roles, are all factors to consider when it comes to public service attire.
  • Materials that matter: an examination of the shifting usage of materials during the nineteenth century
  • The morality and appeal of natural textiles such as leather and cotton are currently being debated.
  • Statements made by accessories: How diverse materials have influenced accessory styles.
  • From the 1990s to the present, distressed fashion and damaged garments have been popular.

COVID-19 Impact on Creative Industries

  • What role did digital advancements play in assisting the creative sectors throughout the pandemic?
  • Examine new crossovers in culture, education, and health resulting from the COVID epidemic.
  • Why did COVID have such a detrimental impact on the creative industries compared to many other sectors?
  • Investigate students’ perspectives on employment opportunities in the fashion industry following COVID-19.

Fashion Entrepreneurship Dissertation Topics

  • Describe the variables influencing the performance of small and medium-sized firms in the cultural and fashion industries in the United Kingdom.
  • Discuss the obstacles or concerns that fashion entrepreneurs encounter.
  • Fashion design entrepreneurship: Required skills and a solution Starting a business
  • Contribution of fashion entrepreneurship on the country’s economic growth
  • Education in fashion entrepreneurship: A handbook for aspiring fashion entrepreneurs
  • What criteria should you consider before starting a new fashion firm in the United States or the United Kingdom?
  • For luxury fashion firms, social media marketing is the most successful method.

Good Fashion Dissertation Topics

  • The effect of fashion on the young generation as a result of celebrity lives and movies they watch
  • What is the difference between a fashion brand’s brand image and brand identity, and how does it benefit entrepreneurs in today’s market?
  • Analysis and examination of the history of the hat and how it has evolved over the ages with new designs
  • Since the early 1800s, a chronological examination and study of men and women’s fashion has been conducted
  • Nuns’ and monks’ clothes and style during the last few decades
  • In today’s society, does luxury apparel necessitate good social media marketing?
  • What films, both past and present, have had a significant effect on society in terms of fashion?

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

Culture and Fashion Dissertation Topics

The relationship between culture and fashion is intrinsic and dynamic. Cultures across the world use clothing to make statements on the nature of power relations, personal relationships, and hierarchies within communities. The links are diverse and often complex, involving sociological and psychological research.

If you are interested in writing your dissertation on culture and fashion, it’s important to find a good topic that reflects these concerns while allowing room to focus on specific research questions.

Your chosen topic must also reflect your own interests and concerns, as well as the trends of contemporary research. We’ve come up with some interesting, original yet manageable culture and fashion dissertation topics focusing on a variety of key areas:

Iconography

Co-creation in the fashion industry, history of fashion dissertation topics, clothing, leisure and place, children’s clothing, sex, body, and presentation, material and designs, impact of covid-19 on the creative industries.

For centuries fashion has been identified as reflecting changing cultural trends and is especially relevant to the high-profile world of music and celebrity culture. What are icons? Why do we need icons in today’s society? Who creates icons? Do icons have any moral responsibilities? These are the sorts of questions raised during the study of celebrities and fashion. Dynamic and particularly relevant to young people’s culture, this subject offers a closer look at the celebrity culture and how it is used and portrayed in the fashion world and advertising media in general.

  • A window into another world: Understanding the fashion icon.
  • Keeping up with the Kardashians? Mapping the influence of the Kardashians on the fashion sector.
  • Royal influence: Kate Middleton as a contemporary style icon.
  • Imagining Monroe: A retrospective encounter with one of the world’s most fashionable women.
  • Hepburn, De Givenchy and Haute Couture.
  • James Dean and the Café Culture.
  • Fashioning the Elite: What the life-long friendship between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn brought to the fashion world.
  • Mad for Madonna: The high and low fashions of Eighties pop culture.
  • If looks could kill: Kylie Minogue and the image of the pop princess.
  • Fashioning an Idol: Boy band culture and teenage clothing.
  • Eminently Eminem: Fashions of the rapping culture.
  • Glitter, glam, and an expanding waistline: What Elvis brought to the fashion world.
  • Beatle Mania and the Sixties look.
  • Westwood, Punk, and The Sex Pistols.
  • What celebrity culture has done for high street fashion.
  • ‘Pride and Prejudice’: how Austen still captures the imaginations of designers today.
  • Iconic fashion models and their personal signature looks.
  • Celebrities as fashion icons.
  • The rise of the sneaker.
  • Can women over 70 still be fashion icons?
  • What part does plastic surgery play in the formation of an icon?
  • Gender fluidity: Exploring the significance of androgenous style icons.

In recent years, it has become more common for consumers to play a ‘co-creative’ role in the development of fashion lines. Take, for example, A Way to Mars – a fashion brand that encourage designers (whether qualified or novice) to share their designs. and the brand chooses to collaborate with the best submissions. The benefit to the brand is that they are able to access a range of rich (often culturally-informed) ideas from designers throughout the world. That said, you might choose to focus your dissertation on co-creation in the fashion industry.

  • ‘None of us are as strong as all of us’: co-creation in the fashion industry.
  • Co-creation through social media: A case-study of the fashion industry.
  • Co-creation and SME fashion brands: What is the role of co-creators’ culture?
  • Zara and customer co-creation: A case study.
  • Co-creation and brand equity: An exploration of luxury brands.
  • Global/cross-national collaborations in the fashion industry.
  • To what extent has digital technology facilitated co-creation in the global fashion industry?
  • Upcycling garments: A strategy for tackling fast-fashion?
  • Cross-disciplinary collaborations: When science meets fashion.
  • Analysing the ‘culture of co-creation’ in the fashion industry: Is it the future?
  • Fashion co-creation in the circular economy.

Fashion history has the largest body of research from which to draw from in writing a dissertation. Pictorial analyses are useful to make specific comparisons between certain aspects of clothing that has changed over the years and those that have stayed remained relatively the same. This subject is a rich and interesting field of research, with an array of historical research to choose from. Some of the more obscure, rare books on fashion through the ages and cultures can be particularly useful. It is important to remember that contemporary fashions bear obvious and subtle links to fashions throughout the ages, and between different cultures and that most items – such as the hat, jacket, and shoe – have remained relatively unchanged in shape, concept and function for a very long time. It can also be linked to economics and commercialism, reflecting financial climates by responding with various styles of clothing.

  • A sense of Englishness: British fashion through the ages.
  • Mods and Rockers and the age of the teenage rebel.
  • Age of Liberalism: 1920’s fashions.
  • Fashions of the Second World War in America and the UK.
  • Fifties street fashion in the UK and America.
  • The Sixties: Flowers, flares, and bells.
  • A discussion of Seventies fashion icons and what they brought to the fashion world.
  • How Eighties fashions represented political and cultural ideals of the time.
  • Young people’s clothing in the Nineties.
  • Chasing an elusive dream? Fashions of the future.
  • Royal clothing and the different identities of monarchs across the World.
  • ‘The Cobbler and the Tailor’: Forgotten trades.
  • A chronological study of men’s fashion since 1700.
  • What we still love about Dickensian fashion.
  • Material marriages: The origins and history of the English wedding dress.
  • The symbolic aspects of Greco-Roman fashions.
  • Ethnic clothing in London; markets and bazaars.
  • How important was fashion to the Tudors and Stuarts?
  • A history of peasant costume.
  • Fools and jesters through the ages.
  • A history of women’s shoes.
  • Retro is all the rage: A discussion of the influences of retro fashions on today’s fashion industry.
  • The advent of Primark: Affordable fashion.
  • The British Royal Family as leaders of fashion today.
  • How children’s wear has changed over the last two decades.
  • Twenty-First Century wedding clothing for ‘alternative’ couples.
  • Beach-wear and its evolution.
  • The current crisis in the fashion industry and possible solutions.
  • Androgyny: its own statement in the fashion industry.
  • Goths and gothic styles in fashion.
  • Steam punk, its rise and relevance.
  • The application of jewellery in the haute couture fashion industry.

Clothing choices are often a reflection of where we are from, current social norms and choice of leisure activities. As such, study of these issues is interesting and relevant. An exploration of contemporary styles is also interesting in this context as it has the capacity to both diversify and limit traditional looks. For example, fur has gone out of fashion to the extent of being illegal, while tartans remain ever as fashionable as they always have been. Regional styles are interesting to study as they can be effectively compared across the country, e.g.: Rural/Urban wear. Fashion has been intrinsically connected to leisure for centuries – especially through mediums such as the theatre and sports. Within this relationship exists a complex and powerful history of evolving beliefs and cultural change. Why do we wear certain items of clothing in certain places or for certain activities? What would happen if we didn’t? Why do we need to conform? These are the sorts of questions and ideas explored in the following topics:

  • The rise of Athleisure since COVID-19.
  • The rise and rise of vegan leather.
  • Labelling and branding: The power of representation.
  • The power of marketing in the contemporary fashion world.
  • Clothes for clubbers: The use of alternative materials.
  • Sustainable footwear: Exploring the attitude-behaviour gap.
  • Tartans today: How colours represent ideas.
  • Tracing the history of fur in fashion.
  • Hunting wear: Stigmas and tradition.
  • Shakespearian theatre and the aesthetic image: how Shakespearian productions reflect contemporary fashion trends.
  • Translating Tolkien: Costume from book to screen.
  • A history of the hat.
  • Hats and the imagination: Magicians, witches and Ascot.
  • Changing Times: The closing divide between rural and urban fashions over the last century.
  • Wigs, rings, and tails: Symbols of power since 1700.
  • Clothing of importance: The tuxedo and the suit since 1800.
  • Sci-Fi culture and fashion.
  • Water and fashion: Swimwear early to contemporary.
  • The evolution of the ball gown.
  • The uniform: the evolution and change of UK school uniforms over the last one hundred years.
  • The influence of celebrities on fashion: an exploration of celebrity-endorsed fashion lines.
  • The purpose of the heel? A historical review of high-heeled shoes in fashion.

Children’s fashion is an incredibly imaginative and diverse market that caters for all segments of the market. On the more affordable end of the scale, second-hand clothing shops are very popular as children outgrow clothes so readily that high quality, and even new items can be bought at low prices. At the other end of the scale, designer children’s clothing can be extremely expensive and affords a competitive market. More than any other types of Western clothing, children’s fashion incorporates emblematic and symbolic imagery – especially relating to fairy tale, folklore and hero worship. Furthermore, children’s clothing has attracted some controversy in recent years due to its connection to debates about gender and sexuality. Beneath are listed some key debates, ideas and discussions which would make enjoyable and challenging fashion dissertation topics:

  • The essence of the fairy tale: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the fashionable imagination.
  • What is too short? A critical analysis of debates surrounding promiscuity and children’s clothing.
  • Superheroes: Symbolism and representation in fantastic fashions.
  • Halloween: Fashion and the children’s’ imagination.
  • Baby Boom: Post-war culture and baby fashion.
  • “Everyone else is doing it so why can’t we?” An Investigation into the effects of fashion advertising on children.
  • Returning to nature: The use of natural-world emblems and symbols in contemporary fashion.
  • ‘All the colours of the rainbow’: Exploring why colour matters to fashion.
  • The origin of the motif in children’s fashion.
  • Chains, T-Shirts, and baggy trousers: The meaning of skateboard culture in children’s fashion.
  • Alice In Wonderland: The decline of the dress in girl’s fashion.
  • Fairies and Pixies: Casting a spell on the creative imagination.
  • Gender neutral clothing for children: Is it necessary?
  • “Blue is for boys, pink is for girls”: Gender stereotyping in children’s fashion.
  • Is children’s fashion a reflection of present social values? Studying children’s fashion from the Victorian era to the present day.

These topics look at how sex and the human body are explored in fashion. The image of the body is pivotal to our understanding of the fashion world. This area of research is one of the most popular and contemporary fashion dissertation topics due to the ‘cutting edge’ nature of the topics under discussion. Often involving the complex interplay between perception of self and others, our understanding of image is closely associated with the media. Powerful presentation is vital to the appreciation of the aesthetic image, and the media has had a very important role to play in promoting and shaping body image over the last fifty years. This is a challenging and interesting area to study, and offers the potential to use a wide range of research methods, such as interview and ethnographic research. Below are a list of fashion dissertation topics that explore these issues:

  • The origins of power dressing.
  • Gender representation in men and women’s fashions since the Fifties.
  • Adoration and adornment: A critical analysis of the meaning of body art and piercing in western societies.
  • The place of fetish wears in contemporary fashion.
  • Fashion and religion: An inquiry into the debates surrounding acceptable dress.
  • Hair and makeup: Do we really need it?
  • Cross-dressing since the Victorians.
  • Reality and the subversive: The use of mannequins and models since the Sixties.
  • The importance of presentation: Catwalks, lights and cameras.
  • Sex, gender and the body in the media.
  • Power, Status, Ambition: An analysis of what clothing represents.
  • Exploring the relationship between nudists and fashion.
  • The habit of a lifetime: Dressing monks and nuns through the ages.
  • To what extent is contemporary fashion about looking good naked?
  • Have transgender models influenced popular fashion design?
  • Plus-size fashion: a reflection of the obesity epidemic.
  • Gender neutral clothing: here to stay?

Design is an integral area of study in culture and fashion as it is constantly subject to change reflecting current tastes, economic climates and cultural trends. Some designs and materials – such as denim jeans – have a durable marketability, often reflecting retro trends, whereas public service wear – such as flame-retardant clothing for firemen – often has to comply with current developments in technology regarding health and safety. The following list is especially useful for students looking for less abstract, more tangible fashion dissertation topics:

  • A history of the undergarment.
  • PVC: uses and connotations.
  • Fashion and manmade materials.
  • The wool trade and its contribution to western fashion.
  • The history and importance of the bodice.
  • The eras of the mini and maxi skirt.
  • Public service wear, the influence of health and safety and the growth of gender changing roles.
  • Materials that matter: an analysis of the changing uses of materials since the 19th Century.
  • Wool and its uses: from prehistoric times up until today.
  • The dawn of nylon and what it meant for Fifties fashion.
  • Is it Fair-trading? Cotton and hemp production and its place in British shops.
  • Current debates surrounding the morality and popularity of natural fabrics such as leather and cotton.
  • Just what is it about shoes? An ethnographic study into women’s and men’s love of shoes.
  • Accessories and their statements. How different materials have affected the styles of accessories.
  • The fascination of the sari. The material designs and adaptations over the years.
  • Distressed fashion, torn clothing from 1990’s to the present day, its message.
  • Horse racing and hats: where’s the fashion?

According to OECD, cultural and creative industries (including fashion) were some of the worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It will be important for creative students to evaluate the impacts of COVID, and also consider how the creative industries are likely to evolve in the future. Many industries became more innovative and resilient as a result of COVID, whereas others struggled to keep their heads above water. What is the case for the creative industries?

  • How did digital innovations support the creative industries during the pandemic?
  • Return of the museum? A plan for resilience for 2021-2025.
  • Culture, education, and health: New cross-overs as a result of the COVID pandemic.
  • The creative recovery of cities and regions post-COVID-19 .
  • Why were the creative industries so negatively impacted by COVID compared to many other sectors? An in-depth analysis.
  • COVID-19 and the fast-fashion industry – a wakeup call?
  • COVID-19 and creativity: The rise of loungewear and activewear.
  • Exploring fashion students’ attitudes towards career prospects post COVID-19.
  • Graffiti and protest during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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Fashion, Dress and Merchandising Graduate Theses and Dissertations

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Fashion Dissertation Topics (28 Examples) For Your Academic Research

Mark Dec 25, 2019 Jun 5, 2020 Fashion No Comments

A list of fashion dissertation topics is developed, which outlines the emerging trends and concepts in the field of fashion. Fashion is a routine trend in the style and the aspects of fashion can be both masculine and feminine. Our team of expert writers can help you in writing a dissertation of culture and fashion […]

fashion dissertation topics

A list of fashion dissertation topics is developed, which outlines the emerging trends and concepts in the field of fashion. Fashion is a routine trend in the style and the aspects of fashion can be both masculine and feminine. You can select any of the given topics to write your project on fashion topics.

Our team of expert writers can help you in writing a dissertation of culture and fashion from the research topics on fashion. We can help you in exploring the different areas pertaining to clothing, fashion and values.

A list Of fashion dissertation topics

Analysing the fashion trends in the current era and the role of women in it.

Examining the impact of fashion on youth from the celebrity’s life.

Analysing the role of fashion in reshaping the western cultural values.

Examining the evolution in the fashion trends in Eastern countries.

The analysis of the modern fashion of the 21st century represents the political and cultural ideals of the current era.

How has western culture influenced the living standards and preferences of Asian consumers.

Impact of ethnic clothing on fashion trends in the UK.

Exploring the role of fur with respect to clothing.

The evolution of swimwear from early to modern.

To study the use of alternative materials for clothing.

Investigating the needs of clothing of children with disabilities.

Examining the fashion design entrepreneurship focusing on the challenges and opportunities.

The role of fashion police experts shapes the way marketers advertise and promote their clothing to the public.

Investigating the today’s fashion from the lenses of fashion designers of yesteryear.

Fashion and function in the technological era.

Studying the cosplay evolution in the fashion world.

The influence of fashion on everyday life.

Role of economic issues shaping the fashion trends.

Studying the relationship between fashion, culture, and identity.

Can fashion be leveraged to communicate an ideology or characteristics of the personality?

How is fashion considered as a social equalisation tool?

Examining the fashion and modernity in the 21st century by tracing the cultural and social history of fashion.

Investigating the fashion system studying the descriptions of women clothing by reputable fashion writers.

To study the cyclical changes in fashion and its impact on consumerism.

Analysing the negative effects of fashion on the behaviour and attitude of people.

Investigating the views of youngsters towards the continuously changing fashion trends.

How eastern countries are adopting western fashion trends.

The negative effects of fashion on juvenile minds.

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100+ Fashion Dissertation Topics and Ideas – 2024

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Your love for designs and passion for stitching brought you to your dream fashion institute. But you had the least expectations that here you may also have to write a dissertation paper. Well, this is the reality, whether you like it or not.

Now, instead of procrastinating, it is better that you start working on the dissertation as soon as possible.

It is understandable if you have questions regarding the same keep reading this blog to the end. It intends to give you an overall idea of doing a fashion dissertation alongside highlighting the core areas of the dissertation and the most relevant topics for you.

So, let’s get started.

Fashion and Its Importance

Although fashion is fleeting and doesn’t significantly contribute to social progress, it does fulfil two essential needs for most people.

The first is the need for “acceptance.” People often make snap judgments about others based on their appearance, including their clothing, hairstyle, footwear, and behaviour in public. Individuals may face rejection if they do not possess desirable qualities that align with societal norms.

The second is “novelty”. Creating a new fashion trend or adopting an established one is always welcomed and valued by society. People with these traits are seen to be progressive, trendy, and up-to-date, whereas society labels others who do not adhere to these trends as orthodox.

This should explain why research is important in fashion.

Significance of Research in the Fashion Industry

The fashion industry might look very glittery afar, but it is not always about the glitz.

As a fashion designer, your primary focus should stay on how to make beautiful fashion trends and live up to modern fashion needs. But alongside, you must also ensure you have the technical knowledge of the market, and only then will you taste real success. So, a fashion dissertation will be the perfect medium of digging deep using data and analysis techniques.

Moreover, the fashion industry is constantly changing and getting better, it is important to constantly evaluate your competition. Therefore, you must constantly be on the lookout for fresh trends.

Your final semester research paper will help you better understand your area of interest by letting you know what you can do and what work has previously been done in the field.

On that note, let’s discuss the scope for fashion dissertations and research.

  • Evolution of Fashion

The late 1700s and the early 1800s saw the creation of some of the earliest examples of fashion design. For the French Queen Marie Antoinette, a dressmaker was employed. She ultimately decided to create her own store in Paris, where she sold her work to locals. The French Revolution caused her to flee to London, which jeopardised her fashion career.

The art of fashion involves designing various clothing items such as shirts, dresses, skirts, and trousers and selecting accessories, colour schemes, and materials to create a complete appearance. Fashion designers have different collections, but all follow a similar design philosophy. The ancient Egyptians and Romans were pioneers in perfecting their appearance and designing specialised clothing items to showcase their status, wealth, or profession. For instance, Roman ladies wore Pallas, shawls draped over their heads, while the men wore Togas, circular garments draped over their bodies.

Fashion design is thought to have started in the 19th century with a man named Charles Frederick Worth who sewed his own label sewed into apparel that he designed.

Worth decided on the course that fashion would soon take. Soon, the practice of designing began to grow, with artists creating sketches of garments for potential clients. These sketches are now created by designers who then create clothing samples for interested parties to try on. The affluent clientele ultimately decides if they want the item created based on these sketches.

Here’s a glimpse of the fashion through the years –

  • The Social and Cultural Impact of Fashion

Fashion plays a number of roles in society since it has integrated seamlessly into human civilisation. When a farmer is seen wearing skin-tight pants, it is clear that fashion has affected the village’s residents as well as the community at large. On the other side, if celebrities and other Haute couture designers are influenced by the ethnic clothing of a certain region, then society has influenced fashion and vice versa.

According to a recent study, more than 50% of the younger crowd closely follows the most recent fashion trends. They are also the ones that buy first and help a new fashion design become fashionable.

But everything has a positive and negative side. So does fashion. The same is discussed below –

Positive Impacts of Fashion

  • The ever-evolving fashion trends foster an environment of healthy competition that motivates the following generation of fashion designers and other related professionals to put in a lot of effort and produce innovative and relevant new ideas.
  • It opens up new work prospects for a large number of aspiring fashion students.
  • The wearer’s appearance is improved by the modern, fashionable formal attire, which also gives the wearer the assurance needed to perform well, particularly in an interview.
  • An average individual might become extraordinary thanks to the latest fashion trend.
  • In order to avoid being unrecognised, it provides the wearer with identification.
  • Last but not least, it offers a chance to meld many cultures and traditions.

Negative Impacts of Fashion

  • Traditional design and accompanying culture are vanishing as a result of an obsessive focus on the latest fashion trends.
  • The Western fashion culture has a far greater impact on the younger generations.
  • The latest fashion trends, which are largely influenced by Western and Bollywood culture, cause confusion in the minds of the younger generations, leading to a lot of them engaging in antisocial behaviour.
  • These new fashion trends also impact younger generations’ psychology; hence, if they do not adopt them, it negatively impacts their minds and increases their likelihood of developing psychological problems.

Ethical and Sustainable Considerations in Fashion

Ethical and sustainable fashion is a method of sourcing, manufacturing, and designing clothing that focuses on providing benefits to the industry and society while minimising environmental harm. Ethical and sustainable fashion begins in cotton fields and ends in the consumer’s wardrobe.

Sustainability is no longer simply a theory; it is a way to conduct business. Ecological and ethical fashion forerunners include companies like NOIR and Stella McCartney. Nowadays, a lot of businesses have adopted and incorporated the idea of sustainability. These businesses are aware that integrating issues related to society and the environment into their operations will benefit them in the long run.

Today, blogs, ethical fashion forums, and fashion shows are all centred on the idea of sustainable fashion. Profits and business are both factors in going green. It’s crucial for companies that promote sustainable and ethical fashion to honour their pledge. By doing so, they may uphold the business’s ethical standards and gain the confidence of the customer.

Explore Our Trendy Dissertation Topics to Write a Fashion Thesis with Flair

Whether you want to craft a flawless paper on the evolution of luxury brands or the cultural importance of streetwear, choosing the right topic is important. To make things easier, you can take a look at our collection to choose fashion dissertation topics that resonate with your passion and scholarly pursuits effectively.

Check This Fashion Dissertation Example

Fashion and Technology

Technological advancements in both design and manufacturing have made it possible to develop new materials and production methods. This has led to innovative fashion designs and the use of more environmentally friendly materials. Social media and online shopping have completely transformed the way consumers find and buy clothing. Virtual try-on technology has changed the way they choose what to buy. High street retail is no longer dominating the shopping process, and this shift may be irreversible. Fashion companies now rely on social media channels to promote their products and engage with customers.

Advancement of technology has brought in the following innovations in the fashion industry –

  • Clothing and accessories made using 3D printing now feature detailed and complicated designs that weren’t possible to make with conventional production techniques.
  • Thanks to technology, it is now possible to make biodegradable materials, which can be utilised to make more environmentally friendly and long-lasting clothing and accessories.
  • With the help of technology, one can now create recycled materials such as recovered polyester and repurposed plastic. These materials can be used to produce eco-friendly clothing and accessories.
  • With the ability to make personalised prints on cloth, digital printing enables designers to produce distinctive and striking designs.

Fashion and Globalisation

Globalisation has allowed consumers in Western countries to access a wide range of clothing options from large retailers who can easily update their inventory, negotiate international trade agreements, and easily distribute products worldwide. As a result, consumers tend to be more interested in corporate brands such as Nike, Victoria’s Secret, or Abercrombie & Fitch rather than the actual clothing itself. These brands use extravagant, pervasive, and hyper-visible marketing on high-tech electronic media to spread images of sex appeal, athletic prowess, coolness, or carefree happiness that consumers want to buy. However, the impact of globalisation on fashion creation is not as obvious.

Fashion images spread rapidly across the world through various media channels such as magazines, music videos, movies, the internet, and television, creating a global style that surpasses national and cultural borders. Blue jeans, T-shirts, sports shoes, and baseball caps are now worn by people all over the world, from Manhattan to African villages. The fashion systems of Asia, Africa, and the West all borrow stylistic and textile elements from each other. In rich countries, large malls offer a wide range of these fashion styles to customers of all ages, genders, races, careers, and subcultures, resembling modern global bazaars.

Fashion and Body Positivity

One of the biggest protests against the fashion industry’s lack of diversity and favourable self-images is the body positivity movement. The body positivity movement opposes how society promotes unattainable beauty standards and upholds the notion that all people should have a positive body image. The movement promotes the portrayal of all ethnicities, genders, sizes, and physical abilities.

The majority of models used by the fashion industry to promote new collections in publications, on TV and other media, and on catwalks have been young, female, and of the white, slender, and feminine kind. Sample-sized clothing in the fashion industry is normally between a size 0 and 4, which is not indicative of the regular body type. People began rebelling when studies and numbers began to emerge, demonstrating how people were being adversely affected by all of this.

The movement for body positivity is not the first to call for accepting all body forms. One of the earliest of its kind, the Victorian Dress Reform Movement, which took place between the 1850s and the 1890s, sought to eliminate the practice of forcing women to alter their bodies through the use of corsets. Women also pushed for the right to wear trousers at this time.

But today, the positivity movement is at its peak. Around the globe, models are working in the fashion industry of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Dresses are being made to suit all body types. The idea is to make everybody feel included. The most amazing fact is that today influencers are making a career out of it.

E-commerce and the Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is a major contributor to the global economy and has seen significant growth through eCommerce. With more companies going digital each day, competition in niche sectors is on the rise. This expansion surprises many, as the industry’s growth and sales have been impressive. The retail industry’s top priorities are exploring trends to boost sales and developing lead-generation strategies.

The fashion industry is experiencing major changes due to factors such as globalisation, technological advancements, and shifts in consumer behaviour. This article analyses relevant data and factors that will greatly affect the eCommerce fashion industry in 2022 and beyond to provide insight into its current and future state.

Fashion eCommerce pertains to the buying and selling of clothing and accessories through online platforms. This has provided a means of livelihood and has elevated the fashion industry among sellers, designers, producers, and merchants. The convenience and benefits of eCommerce have made it popular among retailers and consumers, especially during times of lockdown due to the pandemic.

The areas discussed above are the most relevant research areas in the field of fashion. You can also go for something else, like material selection for fashion, but the only advice for you is to make sure whichever area you choose is relevant enough to the industry’s needs.

The Most Relevant Fashion Dissertation Topic.

35 interesting fashion dissertation topics.

  • Fashion trends’ development in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • The effect of social media on marketing tactics in the fashion business.
  • Influencers and fashion bloggers’ impact on consumer behaviour.
  • The relevance of traditional dress in non-western cultures.
  • The moral implications of rapid fashion and its environmental effects.
  • The origins of haute couture and how it influenced modern fashion.
  • How did the fashion scene of the 1990s start?
  • What kind of fashion sense was exhibited by the youth of the 1960s?
  • Are leather clothes progressively disappearing from the scene?
  • What is the evolution of leather jackets’ history?
  • Do animals play a significant role in the fashion industry? How far is it acceptable?
  • How did ties and bow ties come into being?
  • The psychology of cross-dressing: What is causing such high levels of transgender activity in contemporary society?
  • During the Cold War, opulent and royal fashions were popular.
  • Describe the impact of the media on what individuals dress.
  • What connection exists between fine art and expensive clothing?
  • What effect is the LGBTQ community having on the modern fashion industry?
  • How music has inspired Fenny Beauty’s effective operation is the subject of an icon case study.
  • How much of an impact do celebrities have on fashion trends: Beyoncé as a case study
  • Exceptional fashion brands’ Effects on prevailing fashion trends
  • Looking at whether the entry of designer goods in the fashion market has made them more affordable or if there is a market leak.
  • The development of high-ankle boots and leather
  • Lady Diana’s dress choice and its impact on society at the time
  • How is the modern smartphone influencing young fashion?
  • Is Justin Bieber the newest teen superstar and youth fashion icon?
  • Which old and new films have had a significant impact on society’s sense of style?
  • The impact of haute fashion on street style.
  • The psychology of fashion choices made by consumers.
  • Celebrity endorsements function in the fashion industry.
  • Political events’ effects on fashion trends.
  • Nostalgia’s impact on current fashion trends.
  • The connection between art and fashion.
  • Social movements’ effects on current fashion trends.
  • The development of menswear.
  • The portrayal of diversity in media and advertising for fashion.
  • The part gender plays in the fashion world and how it affects consumer behaviour.

Fashion and Culture Dissertation Topics for 2024 

  • How is fashion reshaping western cultural values? Could you share your thoughts on it?
  • What is the reason for the increasing demand for natural fabric in 2021?
  • Impact of COVID-19 on the fashion industry
  • Difference between occasional shopping and obsession with shopping.
  • Comparative analysis of the fashion of royal families around the world.
  • The role of the fashion industry during coronavirus pandemic
  • The strong influence of western culture on political and cultural ideas of the current era
  • Influence of traditional wears on a society
  • Determine the relationship between culture, fashion and identity
  • Influence of western fashion on people across the globe
  • Share a significant connection between fashion and religion.
  • Crossover trends in the fashion industry
  • Influence of celebrations on the fashion industry
  • Impact of ethnic clothing on fashion trends in the UK and USA.
  • Tracing the social and cultural history of fashion to examine the fashion of modernity n the 21st century
  • Analyzing the clothing of reputable fashion writers
  • How eastern countries are adopting western fashion trends
  • The evolution of fashion trends in Eastern countries
  • Influence of western culture on the preferences and living standards of Asian consumers
  • Fashion trend introduces by the members of famous brands The Beatles.

Iconography Dissertation Topics 

  • Influence of celebrity culture on high street fashion
  • The unique look of the Sixties and Beatle Mania
  • The rise of the sneaker
  • The role of plastic surgery play in the formation of an icon
  • List of celebrities as fashion icons
  • James Dean and the café culture
  • Personal signature looks of iconic fashion models
  • Punk, The Sex Pistols and Westwood
  • Why Kylie Minogues is known to have the image of the pop princess
  • Mad for Madonna: The high and low fashions of eighties pop culture
  • Fashion revolution bought by Audrey Hepburn in the society
  • Do you find Justin Bieber is the fashion youth for the teenagers
  • Evolution of ball gown in the society
  • The little black dress of Audrey Hepburn
  • Elizabeth Taylor: Queen of diamonds
  • Iconic feminine dress of Grace Kelly
  • Katherine Hepburn: The first lady of princess
  • Laurel Bacall’s seductiveness in pencil skirts, pleated trousers, blazers and silk blouses
  • Madonna: Costume culture
  • Marilyn Monroe: The Seven year Itch look

Fashion Design Dissertation Topics 

  • The historical importance of fur in the fashion industry
  • Influence of digital marketing tools on the modern fashion world
  • Tuxedo and the suite since 1980
  • The evolution of swimwear from early to modern wear
  • The evolution of ball gown from the decades
  • Use of alternative materials for clothing
  • The modish Victorian challenge to design a bodice
  • Check Vs. Plaid
  • Bright street style trends
  • Textile and apparel resting
  • The emergence of T-shorts
  • Nylon- Most ravishing fashion innovation
  • The origin of maxi and mini skirts
  • Why do you think leather garments are going out of existence?
  • The concept of school dresses and designing
  • Evolution of beach-wear
  • How do you think Sari came into existence
  • Investigate the decline of the tie
  • How is formal wear becoming less prevalent in workplaces?
  • The origin of the waistcoat

Children’s Apparel Dissertation Topics 

  • Twinning or mini-me trends
  • Unisex trends
  • Floral prints
  • Asymmetrical cut dresses
  • The role of a smartphone with designing fashion trends among children
  • Academic dress in the education arena
  • The demand of hair accessories like hair tiaras, hairpins, hair bands for children
  • Street style
  • Warm looks with embroidery
  • Impact of COVID-19 on children’s apparel
  • Ocean and sea themes for children’s apparel
  • Preference for easy movement, convenience and comfort in children’s apparel
  • Down Syndrome Toddlers: New face of UK fashion brand
  • Do you think personalised baby clothing is making its way to the forefront in the market?
  • Demand for organic clothing for young ones
  • Why are people shifting from fast fashion to children’s wear?
  • The obsession of trying adult look in children’s fashion wear
  • Boho-chic swimming costumes for the summer season
  • The origin of the motif

Fashion Entrepreneurship Dissertation Topics

  • State the factors affecting the performance of small and medium-sized enterprises in the culture industry and UK fashion. Explain it with a case study of any five enterprises.
  • Analyse iconic women entrepreneurs in the fashion industry
  • Developing a viable business plan for a fashion board
  • Social media marketing is the most effective tool for luxury fashion brands.
  • Fashion marketing and its contemporary issues
  • Describe the making of a female entrepreneur in the world of fashion
  • Challenges and opportunities of fashion design entrepreneurship
  • The role of trade fairs in the international fashion business
  • Discuss the challenges or issues faced by entrepreneurs in the fashion industry
  • The role of women in today’s fashion trends
  • Discuss the success and failure factors that are affecting the apparel business
  • Fashion entrepreneurship education: A guide on potential fashion entrepreneurs
  • The role of entrepreneurship in the fashion industry
  • Fashion design entrepreneurship: Necessary skills and solution for Creating a business
  • How clothes are becoming a way of showing the class of a person
  • Popular fashion trends followed by top entrepreneurs
  • What factors to consider for opening a new fashion business in the US or UK?
  • Influence of digital marketing tools on the growth of small businesses
  • Entering the era of liberalism: A closer look at the fashion trends of 1920s
  • Contribution of fashion entrepreneurship to the economic growth of the country

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List of Best Fashion Dissertation Topics and Examples

Fashion Dissertation Topics: If fashion design is your major in university, you have to come up with some fashion dissertation topics to research about your chosen area of study. Before choosing to do a fashion research title, you must decide first what the focus of your dissertation will be. You can choose to do either […]

fashion dissertation topics

Fashion Dissertation Topics : If fashion design is your major in university, you have to come up with some fashion dissertation topics to research about your chosen area of study. Before choosing to do a fashion research title, you must decide first what the focus of your dissertation will be. You can choose to do either research on the history of fashion in your chosen era or a look into the various fashion designs during different time periods.

Check out our related posts:

  • Fashion Dissertation Writing Help
  • Graphic Design Dissertation Topics Ideas

Here is the list of Fashion dissertation topics in various popular categories:

Table of Contents

Sustainable Fashion

  • The impact of sustainable materials on fashion design
  • Strategies for promoting sustainable fashion practices in the industry.
  • Consumer perceptions and behaviors towards sustainable fashion
  • Circular economy initiatives in the fashion industry
  • Ethical considerations in sustainable fashion production

Fashion Marketing and Branding

  • The role of social media influencers in fashion marketing
  • Brand positioning strategies in the luxury fashion segment
  • Consumer engagement through experiential marketing in fashion
  • The influence of celebrity endorsements on brand image
  • The effectiveness of digital marketing campaigns in the fashion industry

Fashion Retailing and Merchandising

  • The impact of omnichannel retailing on fashion consumption
  • Visual merchandising techniques for enhancing in-store experiences.
  • Strategies for optimizing inventory management in fashion retail.
  • The rise of pop-up stores as a retailing strategy in fashion
  • Consumer behavior analysis in online fashion retailing

Fashion and Technology

  • The integration of wearable technology in fashion design
  • Augmented reality applications in virtual fashion try-on experiences
  • Artificial intelligence in personalized fashion recommendations
  • Sustainable innovations in textile technology
  • Blockchain technology for transparent supply chains in fashion

Fashion History and Culture

  • Evolution of gender roles in fashion throughout history
  • The influence of subcultures on mainstream fashion trends
  • Cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation in fashion
  • Fashion and identity expression among marginalized communities
  • The role of fashion in shaping societal norms and values

Fashion Psychology and Consumer Behavior

  • The psychology of color in fashion marketing and design
  • Impulse buying behavior in fashion consumers.
  • Body image perceptions and their influence on fashion choices
  • The role of nostalgia in fashion trends and consumer preferences
  • Fashion consumption as a form of self-expression and identity construction

Fashion and Sustainability

  • Innovations in sustainable textile production methods
  • The role of fashion brands in promoting sustainable consumption
  • Consumer attitudes towards eco-friendly fashion choices
  • Circular fashion models: challenges and opportunities
  • Collaborative efforts towards a more sustainable fashion industry

Fashion and Globalization

  • Cultural exchange and hybridization in global fashion trends
  • The impact of globalization on traditional craft industries in fashion
  • Transnational fashion corporations and their influence on local markets
  • Ethical implications of outsourcing fashion production to developing countries
  • Cross-cultural perspectives on beauty standards and fashion ideals

Fashion and Politics

  • Fashion as a form of protest and political expression
  • The use of fashion diplomacy in international relations
  • Political activism and sustainability in the fashion industry
  • Fashion regulations and their socio-political implications
  • The intersection of fashion, power, and social status

Fashion and Technology Integration

  • The role of AI and machine learning in predicting fashion trends
  • Virtual reality fashion shows and their impact on the industry
  • 3D printing in fashion: challenges and opportunities
  • Smart textiles and their applications in wearable technology
  • The future of fashion retail: AI-driven personalized shopping experiences

Fashion and Identity

  • Fashion as a tool for self-expression and identity formation
  • Cultural appropriation in fashion and its impact on identity politics
  • Gender fluidity and inclusivity in contemporary fashion design
  • Subcultures and their influence on individual fashion identities
  • Fashion’s role in challenging societal norms and stereotypes

Fashion Journalism and Media

  • The evolution of fashion journalism in the digital age
  • Ethical considerations in fashion reporting and criticism
  • The influence of fashion bloggers and influencers on media coverage
  • Fashion magazines and their portrayal of diverse body types and identities
  • The role of fashion documentaries in shaping industry narratives

Fashion and Body Image

  • The impact of fashion industry standards on body image perceptions
  • Body positivity movements and their influence on fashion advertising
  • Plus-size fashion: challenges and opportunities in the industry
  • The portrayal of idealized beauty standards in fashion media
  • Fashion’s role in promoting diverse representations of beauty.

Fashion and Art

  • Fashion as wearable art: exploring the intersection of fashion and fine art.
  • Collaborations between fashion designers and contemporary artists
  • Fashion photography as a form of artistic expression
  • The influence of art movements on fashion design and aesthetics
  • Fashion exhibitions and their role in promoting cultural exchange.

Fashion and Technology Ethics

  • Ethical considerations in data collection and privacy in fashion tech
  • The implications of AI bias in fashion algorithms
  • Sustainable practices in the development and disposal of fashion technology
  • Ensuring inclusivity and accessibility in technology-driven fashion solutions
  • Regulation and governance frameworks for ethical use of technology in fashion

Best Fashion Dissertation topics ideas for college students

In doing research on fashion design in the past, you need to find as many facts as possible and compile them into an impressive overview. The same thing goes for your research on the current fashion industry. You need to gather all information about the industry and put them in easily readable fashion topics in the fashion industry dissertation.

Fashion trends further reflect the chains of importance, personal relationships, and social power structures inside networks. Finding some good fashion dissertation topics can be an overwhelming assignment necessarily because it must intrigue your supervisor.

Some examples and ideas of Fashion Dissertation Topics:

  • The evolution of fashion trends in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • The impact of social media on fashion industry marketing strategies.
  • The role of fashion bloggers and influencers in shaping consumer behavior.
  • The cultural significance of traditional clothing in non-Western societies.
  • The ethical considerations of fast fashion and its impact on the environment.
  • The history of haute couture and its influence on contemporary fashion design.
  • The influence of street style on high fashion.
  • The representation of diversity in fashion advertising and media.
  • The role of gender in the fashion industry and its impact on consumer behavior.
  • The impact of globalization on the fashion industry.
  • The sustainability of luxury fashion brands.
  • The influence of technology on fashion design and production processes.
  • The impact of cultural appropriation on fashion design.
  • The representation of body image in the fashion industry.
  • The role of nostalgia in fashion trends.
  • Study of fashion: A chronological analysis and study of fashion among men and women since early 1800.
  • Dresses and style fashion: The dresses and styles followed by nuns and monks over the past decades.
  • Luxury clothing fashion: Does luxury clothing fashion require effective social-media marketing in today’s world?
  • New designs fashion: Analysis and evaluation of the history behind the invention of the hat and how it has changed over the eras with new designs.
  • Cinemas influenced fashion: What cinemas in the past and in today’s world have influenced society in terms of fashion to a large extent?
  • Fashion brand: Brand image and brand identity of a fashion brand, and how far are they helpful for entrepreneurs in today’s market?
  • Traditional dressing: Fashion sense and traditional dressing among magicians over the decades.
  • The influence of music on fashion trends.
  • The impact of economic recessions on the fashion industry.
  • The psychology behind consumer fashion choices.
  • The role of celebrity endorsements in the fashion industry.
  • The impact of political events on fashion trends.
  • The influence of nostalgia on fashion trends.
  • The relationship between fashion and art.
  • The impact of social movements on fashion trends.
  • The history of men’s fashion.
  • The influence of travel on fashion trends.
  • The impact of the fashion industry on employment and labor practices.
  • The role of media in shaping fashion trends.
  • The representation of masculinity in fashion advertising and media.
  • The impact of online retail on traditional brick-and-mortar fashion stores.
  • The influence of cultural exchange on fashion trends.
  • The impact of consumerism on the fashion industry.
  • The history of women’s fashion.
  • The role of consumer psychology in fashion branding and marketing.
  • The impact of consumer behavior on fashion industry innovation.
  • The role of sustainability in fashion branding and marketing.
  • The history of children’s fashion.
  • The influence of nostalgia on vintage fashion trends.
  • The impact of consumer nostalgia on fashion industry marketing strategies.
  • The role of storytelling in fashion branding and marketing.
  • The influence of consumer personality on fashion choices.

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Guidelines For Writing a Dissertation on Fashion Designing

Guidelines For Writing Dissertation on Fashion Designing

When writing a dissertation on fashion design, there are many important guidelines to follow. First, you should choose a topic that you are interested in. Also, you should consider the limits of the study area. A dissertation on fashion design can involve research on many different aspects of the field. For example, fashion problems are often connected to broader social and economic issues. You should mention these in your proposal.

Research methods in fashion design

Understanding the research methods involved in fashion design is essential for professionals working in the industry. During the design process, there are three main stages to complete: a research proposal that describes the topic and research methods, the research project itself, and the written research report. The research proposal should include the purpose of the research, working definitions, and a review of the literature. The research project should also document the results, including implications.

Primary research aims to gather unique data about the market, including consumer demand. This method is labour-intensive but rewards a high quality of data. It allows businesses to observe consumers in their natural environments to better understand what they want. In some cases, it can identify areas for growth and new markets. In other cases, it helps identify customer segments.

Research in the fashion industry

Research in the fashion industry includes a variety of subjects, including apparel design, clothing economics, clothing history, and consumer behaviour. Besides studying the needs of consumers, research also helps fashion entities develop marketing plans. This allows them to improve their products and services based on the needs of their consumers.

Creating a research paper title

The first step in writing a fashion dissertation is to come up with a topic. The topic should be something related to your subject area or niche. It should also be something that readers would be interested in reading. Moreover, it should be something that would allow you to present your ideas and arguments, and also allow you to conduct research and analyze data on the topic. A good dissertation topic for fashion designing would have a wide research scope, include a significant amount of references, and be relevant and informative.

Once you’ve come up with a general topic, you’ll need to come up with a specific thesis statement. The thesis statement is crucial in this process, as it guides the direction of your essay. Make sure to think deeply about your topic and come up with a statement that captures the theme of your dissertation.

Choosing a topic for your dissertation on fashion design

Choosing a topic for your dissertation on fashion design depends on how well you understand the subject. How to Write a Dissertation in Fashion Marketing? You should be able to pinpoint the gaps in your research and choose a topic that will communicate your idea effectively. As a rule of thumb, a dissertation title should be catchy, short, and attractive to the reader.

Choosing a topic that suits your interests

When writing a dissertation, it is vital to choose a topic that reflects your interests and needs. It is important to choose a topic that is challenging yet allows you to express your personal opinions. For example, you might choose to write about the ancient history of fashion or the latest trends. However, you must keep in mind the demands of your teacher.

One of the most important rules when writing a dissertation on fashion design is to choose fashion dissertation topics that you are interested in. It can be difficult to write a dissertation about a topic that does not interest you. You can choose to write about trends in the fashion industry or a specific niche of the industry.

Creating a dissertation proposal

A dissertation proposal is a summary of the important aspects of your research. It also outlines the structure of your thesis. It should be specific and define the area of focus for your research. If you are looking to do research in the field of fashion, a dissertation proposal can help you define your topic and direction. Whether you want to investigate student fashion, pets, or men’s neckwear, you’ll need to create a proposal that clearly states your research question.

In writing a dissertation proposal, make sure to be concise and avoid complex language. Remember that your reader is not an expert on the subject; you need to be able to explain your work in a manner that your supervisor can understand. In some cases, your proposal may need to contain additional bits, such as a personal development objective or a structural outline. It’s also a good idea to check the brief for additional requirements.

Jesse Pinkman is a research-based content writer, who works for Cognizantt, a globally recognised  wordpress development agency uk  and Research Prospect, a  Tjenester til at skrive afhandlinger og essays . Jesse Pinkman holds a PhD degree in mass communication. He loves to express his views on a range of issues including education, technology, and more

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Article Contents

1. introduction, 2. what is ‘digital fashion’, 4. ‘authorship’ in copyright v ‘authorship’ in fashion, 5. digital fashion designers, authorship and originality, 6. conclusions.

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Copyright and digital fashion designers: the democratization of authorship?

This research has been partly funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Fulbright Finland and the Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture (IDA) project, which was funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland (funding decision no. 327391). Härkönen worked in the IDA consortium as a senior researcher in 2021–2022 and Särmäkari since 2019. We are grateful to Dr Tuomas Mattila and Dr Mikko Antikainen for their valuable comments on the early draft of this article. We thank the audience of the European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) 2022 conference for their feedback on this research.

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Heidi Härkönen, Natalia Särmäkari, Copyright and digital fashion designers: the democratization of authorship?, Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice , Volume 18, Issue 1, January 2023, Pages 42–57, https://doi.org/10.1093/jiplp/jpac115

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Heidi Härkönen (LL.D., trained on the bench) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku Faculty of Law, with a focus on multidisciplinary and sustainable IP law research. Natalia Särmäkari (D.A.) is a postdoctoral researcher in fashion studies and design research at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, specifically focused on digital fashion and the profession of fashion designer.

‘Digital fashion’ has been widely recognized by the fashion media and increasingly embraced by companies and institutions. This article gives a multidisciplinary perspective on copyright protection of digital fashion designs. It places particular focus on the concepts of ‘authorship’ and ‘originality’.

Authorship conventions of the traditional, physical fashion industry differ significantly from those of copyright law. In fashion, generally, authorship is hierarchic and includes many ‘gatekeepers’. However, in digital fashion specifically, authorship is more democratic and resembles its legal definition. This democratizes the authorship practices of fashion, bringing the concept of ‘author’ in fashion closer to the legal meaning of authorship. Moreover, certain practices of digital fashion designers suggest that it might be easier for digital fashion to comply with European Union copyright law.

The digital leap that the fashion industry is taking deserves to be recognized from an IP law perspective. The diverging meanings of authorship between law and fashion must be inspected to avoid various legal risks related to the ownership of fashion designs.

Copyright protection of fashion designs has been a popular topic of discussion within IP law, especially over the past two decades. This discussion has primarily focused on physical garments and accessories. However, fashion is now taking a digital leap. An increasing number of garments are designed using fashion-specific 3D software, producing digital 3D prototypes and samples for physical collections or digital-only clothing. Digital-only clothes can be worn in photographs or videos and in various virtual spaces. The rise of ‘digital fashion’ has been boosted by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the development of blockchain technology for creative industries. Lockdowns and restrictions have virtualized our lives, creating demand and opening new markets for digital(-only) fashion designs. 1

Although technological change is rapid and disruptive, the current regulatory framework is still somewhat built on the assumption of physical fashion products made by humans using traditional tools. 2 This article explores a few outstanding questions of IP law regarding the regulation of digital fashion designs and builds a bridge between legal research and the research that investigates data-driven fashion design. Generally, the principal method of protecting digital fashion designs is copyright. 3 This will also form the focal perspective of this article. ‘Digital fashion designers’ and their works are analysed from the following copyright viewpoints: (i) how the concept of ‘authorship’ is formed in fashion, and how it is related to authorship conventions in copyright law; (ii) the extent to which the author practices of digital fashion designers comply with the European Union (EU) standard of originality and (iii) the effects that authorship practices in digital fashion can have on fashion authorship in general and how the democratization discourse impacts fashion designers’ authorship from a copyright perspective. 4

The above-described viewpoints of ‘authorship’ and ‘originality’ were chosen as the focus of this article for the following reasons. Given that ‘digital fashion’ is not only a tool but also a novel fashion culture linked to digital culture, 5 the open-source attitude that characterizes the values of digital fashion designers 6 impacts their views of themselves as authors. This has an intriguing link to copyright: the research findings suggest that digital fashion designers’ perceptions of authorship are reminiscent of how authorship is understood in copyright, whereas the same cannot be said about authorship conventions in physical fashion design. In this article, the concept of authorship is viewed from two different angles: the terms ‘fashion authorship’ and ‘fashion author’ are used when referring to the understanding of authorship in the fashion industry, and the terms ‘copyright authorship’ and ‘copyright author’ when viewed from a legal perspective.

In addition to the issue of authorship, the emergence of digital fashion requires reconsideration of how the copyright law concept of ‘originality’ is viewed in the context of fashion. This is important, as originality is the only criterion for an identifiable subject matter to be protected under EU copyright, including the InfoSoc Directive. 7 Although, as recently ascertained, fashion designs only require the same level of originality as any other works to be protected under the InfoSoc Directive, 8 one cannot conclude that the door to copyright protection would always be open for (physical) fashion designs. One major reason for this is the functionality of physical fashion designs, which may occasionally undermine their originality. Nonetheless, when the result of a creative process is merely digital, the same copyright law arguments to which we are accustomed in the context of physical fashion may not apply.

This article provides a multidisciplinary approach to digital fashion design, combining the doctrinal study of law with fashion studies and design research. The focus of the doctrinal analysis is EU copyright law. Legal analysis is supported by a qualitative online survey of 42 ‘digital fashion designers’ and three ethnographically researched case studies. First, this article will introduce ‘digital fashion’ from an IP perspective in Section 2 . The methods and empirical research material used are outlined in  Section 3 . Section 4 elaborates on the meaning of fashion design ‘authorship’, in the realms of both physical and digital fashions, and compares fashion authorship to copyright authorship. In  Section 5 , the manner in which the evolution of authorship practices in (digital) fashion may affect the copyright protection of their creative efforts is assessed. Section 6 concludes the article.

Digital apparel has long existed in games and virtual reality (VR) platforms, where fashion choices are as social, expressive and economically vibrant practice as in the real world. 9 Lately, the use of designer-friendly digital 3D software and the design of virtual or ‘digital-only’ garments have increasingly gained ground in the fashion industry. 10 According to the proponents, practitioners and researchers of digital fashion, designing in and for the virtual realm, or the ‘Metaverse’ and ‘Web 3.0’, 11 enables unlimited creative experimentation, minimization of resources, participation of large communities in fashion production, an inclusive approach to bodies and identities and learning about garment construction as well as global accessibility of digitized archival fashion. 12 Although wearing digital-only clothing today remains a niche phenomenon, the use of the digital fashion paradigm in design and production processes is becoming normalized. 13 It is even anticipated that digital garments will replace perfumes and bags as the main revenue of luxury brands and become a new medium for designers to express their ideas without social limitations or economic boundaries. 14 Furthermore, blockchain technologies can turn virtual garments into unique pieces, investments and collectables. 15 The revolution of digital fashion can be further exemplified in the recent inclusion of digital 3D design in the curricula of numerous fashion schools, including Parsons School of Design. 16

When designing in and for the virtual space, designers create quantified representations and simulations of garments that are 3D files often containing the same material and shape data as the real garments. 17 Digital fashion designs are graphically represented and projected, normally through a display unit, such as a smartphone or a computer screen, in 2D form. 18 Digital garments can be worn in VR and augmented reality environments, games, online stores and museums, virtual fitting rooms and smart mirrors, providing ‘phygital’ experiences, merging physical and digital realms. 19 The physical studio turns into a virtual 3D software working space where avatars can be used as instruments instead of a mannequin or a fitting model. The avatars can also be the ultimate targets, the only bodies wearing the designs in simulations of real or surreal environments. The digital design includes prototyping and sampling phases, and in theory, the products can be sold before physical production, bridging the gap between design and consumption, as well as design and production.

If a digital design passes the threshold of originality, it can be considered an artistic work, warranting protection under the InfoSoc Directive, rather than the Directive on the Legal Protection of Computer Programs (2009/24/EC, Software Directive 20 ). 21 It is important to note that digital fashion designers typically do not create the code themselves, but rather use fashion-specific 3D software, such as CLO3D. The choice of software used for designing a digital garment has minimum, if any, effect on the copyright status of the resulting design. This is because the possibilities for designing generally depend on the designer’s skills to use such software, but not from the software itself. Copyright-wise, the situation does not differ much from an event where a designer is choosing tools to create physical garments. Therefore, the authorship/ownership of the code is a rather marginal issue when evaluating copyright protection of digital fashion designs. In the sphere of artificial intelligence (AI)–assisted ‘fashion design’, however, issues related to the authorship of the code become more relevant, as the designer might write the code and create the method for co-designing with computer and data. For the reasons described previously, assessing authorship of the software or code used for digital fashion design is excluded from this article.

Another factor to highlight in the context of digital fashion and copyright is that although digital fashion designs can be worn in various digital platforms, they are generally not created in these platforms. Instead, digital fashion designs are created by using fashion-specific 3D software, outside of these platforms. Correspondingly, the terms and conditions of digital platforms do not affect the designer’s status as an author, nor the protection status of the design. 22 Wearing digital fashion designs in social media platforms does not differ much from a scenario where a physical, copyright-protected garment is worn in a photograph or a video, which is then uploaded to a platform. It is also worth noting that the practitioners of digital fashion pursue ‘interoperability’, meaning that the same asset can be worn on different platforms, including social media, games and VR spaces.

In digital fashion design, copyright is increasingly relevant, as copyright protects creations (and indirectly, designers) from copying and piracy. Digital fashion significantly raises the possibilities for fashion piracy, as the copying of digital creations is generally much easier than that of physical fashion designs.

3.1 Overview

This article is partly based on a qualitative survey of 42 digital fashion designers and three case studies. The doctrinal study of law is applied to analyse these data, combined with relevant legal sources, from a copyright perspective.

The qualitative online survey was conducted between 30 January and 28 February 2020. A total of 207 digital fashion designers were approached through the online community Clollab 23 (105), Instagram and snowballing. A Google Forms survey included seven broad open questions, one anonymity question and three optional questions. The return rate was rather high, with 42 respondents. The majority (28/42) did not desire anonymity. The detailed information regarding the research project was presented in the introduction at the beginning of the survey, and informed consent was given by answering the survey. The original research material was analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. 24

The research material on the case studies was collected during 2018–2021. The cases are a Swedish company, Atacac; an Amsterdam-based Dutch-Finnish company, The Fabricant and a New York-based company, Superficial. The empirical research material comprises primary and secondary data. Primary data were collected through semi-structured interviews, ethnographic observation on-site and content produced by the cases, including talks, reports, plans, social media posts, streaming sessions and blog posts. The secondary data comprise media publications on the cases.

3.2 About the qualitative online survey

For many of the respondents, virtual fashion is a path to practice fashion design without physical requirements (studio, storage, machines, production facilities, etc.) and expertise in making clothes. Most have fashion design education, and some have lengthy experience in the fashion industry.

The survey findings reveal that digital fashion designers value the creative and organizational independence of their work. When designing digital-only garments, designers are not constrained by functional, material, financial, social or geographical requirements. As it will be illustrated further later, some of the values of digital fashion designers connect to the likelihood of their creations receiving copyright protection. Regardless of the immaterial nature of digital fashion, most designers emphasize the importance of physical fashion design and pattern-making knowledge as forming the basis of their work. Some designers juggle between the workability of the garments in the physical world and the visualization quality in the virtual world, which sometimes conflicts with physical detail requirements. Constituting a diverse group of fashion professionals, computer-generated imagery artists and amateurs, respondents do risk a gimmicky outcome if lacking refined digital craftsmanship and time. Many of the digital designers feel liberated in the digital design environment. As one of the participants described their work:

[…] [I]n my case physical body is completely forgotten. […] Within a virtual experience I would wear something I would never wear in real life, in digital fields people choose by emotion. In real life we are always constricted and limited in some way by our social environment. Again, the sense of freedom is what drives me.

Much like several other participants of the survey, the above-cited participant highlights the aspect of freedom of such design work. From a copyright perspective, this is interesting, as the creative freedom of the designer—both factual and experienced freedom—is an essential step for fulfilling the originality requirement and thus for protectability. 25 Moreover, the non-hierarchic nature of digital fashion design compared with the physical fashion design contributes not only to the freedom of design but also to the status of digital fashion designers as authors. Lastly, the authorship of digital fashion designers resembles the authorial role of artisans who originate the idea, design the structure and visual elements of the artefact and realize it themselves, using cultural knowledge and hands-on know-how. For example, one digital fashion designer described the authorial process in the following way:

[D]igital design […] combines imagination with sewing techniques and incorporates the production process into the design. This strengthens the link between design and production.

3.3 About the case studies

Atacac developed an upside-down process of designing, presenting, selling and producing garments. Inspired by the possibilities of designer-specific 3D software, Atacac primarily creates and sells their garments virtually, with minimum inventory, producing pre-ordered items on-demand in their in-house micro-factory. As Atacac produces garments for both physical and virtual worlds, their design starts from the pattern and the real human body. From the designer’s table, the 3D file takes two directions: either to the pattern-maker for production preparations or to the digital creative for visual and communicative development of images, animations and digital-only garments. Atacac believes that an open-source mindset engages their customers and facilitates growth of the Atacac community. Therefore, they share some of their patterns and 3D files in their online platform Sharewear, encouraging consumers to download them, make and modify their designs.

The Fabricant creates virtual fashion experiences entailing digital-only garments, avatars, environments and films, ranging from the hyperreal to the surreal or a combination of the two. Instead of creating tailored couture in a studio, The Fabricant can practice digital craftsmanship and eliminate waste. The Fabricant also invites their community to co-create by sharing various outfit files online for free, streaming their design processes via the gamer streaming platform Twitch and running a Discord social media group where digital fashion designers can exchange knowledge. The Fabricant has also collaborated with blockchain companies that can tokenize digital assets and thus authenticate the digital garment and ensure exclusivity. 26 This way, a digital garment seizes to be copy-pastable and instead becomes a collectable. Blockchain technology can trace all the layers of making and owning: all the contributors to the garment can be attached to the particular, unique piece, 27 helping to clarify issues related to ownership, authorship and co-creation.

Superficial, also known as Super Bureau, is a design studio that began digitizing the archives of the Museum at FIT in 2019 when the digital 3D fashion phenomenon was in its infancy. 28 Founders Andrew Kupresanin and Belinda Chen are not fashion designers but digital designers and 3D artists who provide digital design services, creating everything from digital humans to environments. Superficial aims to build a virtual fashion archive with digital 3D models of historical garments. They seek solutions to ‘bring these garments back into the poetics of motion and give a broader audience access to appreciating their extraordinary design’. 29 The virtualization project began with outfits by Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler and Claire McCardell, proceeding beyond the Museum at FIT to a Comme des Garçons collection. In their words, the archive is ‘a new online space bringing archival fashion garments beyond the constraints of their physical form, and into the added digital dimensions of motion, interaction, and participation’. 30 Superficial founders state that they have developed a new type of process that includes documenting and reconstructing the garments digitally and simulating fabric dynamics.

4.1 About authorship conventions

The concept of ‘author’ is an essential element of copyright law, as authorship disciplines copyright. 31 Ideas of authorship have always affected the development of copyright law and justified the exclusive right of creators to their works. The need to recognize the right to literary and artistic works became crucial following the invention of the printing press, which generated the idea of an author as someone detached from making the work and someone whose original contribution should be compensated. 32 It is therefore no wonder that legal scholars have been eager to define ‘authorship’. However, it is difficult to imagine an exhaustive legal definition of authorship, as new technologies and cultural phenomena shape the humane possibilities for creative work and our understanding of it. 33 Digitalization has repeatedly challenged the traditional view of author in several instances: 34 for example, in online user-generated content 35 and in the development of AI designers and artists. 36

In the 18th century, the term ‘authorship’ in copyright law was coined solely in the context of literary works. The ‘author’ was an individual creator who was created in solitude. Since then, the concept has been expanded under copyright law and the notion of ‘author’ now includes creators from any field of art or literature. Accordingly, a fashion designer can also be a copyright author. 37 However, regardless of these developments, the idea of ‘author’ as an individual creator remains the cornerstone of copyright, 38 albeit with the caveat that two or more individual authors can share authorship (joint authorship).

Law is not the only discipline interested in authorship. 39 Both the emergence of copyright law and the notion of art as understood today have existed from approximately the mid-18th century. 40 To some extent, the legal literature on authorship discusses with the texts of literary critics. 41 Fashion studies, considered as a branch of cultural studies, art and design research and sociology, have also touched upon the debate around authorship, 42 but this has, until now, never been linked with legal analysis on authorship. The legal conventions surrounding authorship identified in fashion research connect to several doctrinal viewpoints. Perhaps, the most interesting issue is related to the intertwining of authorship with protection requirements. This means inter alia assessing whether the perception of ‘authorship’, as viewed by fashion scholars, permits the standard of originality to be fulfilled and thus for a design to merit copyright protection and whether authorship conventions in fashion follow the rights and privileges that copyright law grants to authors.

There are several differences between the disciplines concerning ideas of authorship. In literary criticism, for example, the author has even been declared ‘dead’. 43 However, in law, this is hardly the case, considering how the EU standard of originality highlights the author’s choices and personality in the establishment of originality, the fundamental requirement for protection. 44 Nor is the author deceased in fashion, which, due to the emergence of digital fashion designers, appears to be undergoing renegotiation and even ‘renaissance of authorship’. In this sense, the post-structuralist philosopher Foucault’s notion of an ‘author function’ resonates with the legal discourse on a meta-level: the context, particular time, place, society and discourse define the function of authorship, namely, for what purpose authorship is required in certain circumstances. 45

4.2 Authorship in EU copyright law: a union with the standard of originality

Resulting from rigorous harmonization efforts from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), there is now an EU-wide approach to the foundational requirements of copyright law. This is the case even for the requirement of authorship, regardless of the fact that for the time being no referral on this specific issue has reached the CJEU. 46 The EU still lacks express guidance on what makes one an author, whereas there are hints provided to the question of who may be regarded as an author. 47 Rosati anticipates that when the time comes and the CJEU is asked what constitutes authorship, it will follow the same path as in defining other fundamental concepts of copyright law, such as ‘originality’ and ‘work’: ‘authorship’ must be regarded as an autonomous concept of EU law, requiring uniform interpretation and application across the EU. 48 The current lack of such definition, however, does not prevent us from drawing some conclusions on the role of the author in EU copyright law from the existing CJEU case law. In particular, judgments concerning the standard of originality are helpful in assessing the significance of authorship in EU copyright law.

In the EU, authorship and originality form a tight union. 49 Without human authorship, there is no originality, and without originality, the issue of authorship is irrelevant. This is because in CJEU case law that establishes the EU standard of originality, the concept is tightly connected to the personality and personhood of the author. Copyright creates a personal relationship between the author and their creation, creating a special bond between the two. 50 Copyright is born as a result of the author seeking to express themselves. 51 The notion of ‘author’ is consistently repeated in the most significant judgments, especially Painer 52 and Infopaq , 53 even Brompton . 54

EU copyright law views originality as deriving from the personality of the author. It is intended as the ‘display of personality, freedom and creativity of the author’. 55 Originality is thus not ‘sweat of the brow’, nor is it ‘skill, labour and judgement’ 56 —it is its ‘author’s own intellectual creation’, as defined by the CJEU in the landmark judgment Infopaq (2009). This standard is only codified in the Software Directive (for computer programs), Database Directive (for databases) and Term Directive (for photographs), 57 but Infopaq extended it to apply to all work categories. 58 Of the other judgments, Painer (2011), in particular, highlights the intimate bond between the work and its author’s personality. In this case, the CJEU states that an intellectual creation is an author’s own if it ‘reflects the author’s personality’. 59 That is the case if the author was able to express their creative abilities in the production of the work by making ‘free and creative choices’ 60 and that way stamped the work with their ‘personal touch’. 61 Brompton (2020) strengthens this by further highlighting the importance of free and creative choices above anything else, even technical considerations. 62

When assessing these CJEU judgments that define the standard of originality and possibility for a subject matter to be protected by copyright, one can make the following observation: originality is not merely tied to the outcome and result of the artistic or literary work. It is just as much connected to the creative process itself and the activities of the author . The key elements of originality all refer to the author of a subject matter, highlighting the connection between originality and the author’s personality. Therefore, it can be concluded that ‘authorship’ and the way in which it is defined are fundamental elements of copyright protection in the EU.

In digital fashion, the issue of authorship is just as important as in physical fashion. Whether a design is digital or physical, it must meet the standard of originality to qualify for protection. However, the authorship practices in digital and physical fashion appear to differ. As presented in Subsection 4.3 , different authorship practices affect the likelihood that fashion designs will pass the threshold of originality and receive protection.

4.3 A fashion designer as an author: a legal perspective

The occupation of fashion designers was formed by the technological, societal and economic changes of the First Industrial Revolution. 63 A profession of a designer instead of a tailor or a seamstress was needed to locate the design of reproducible garments and separate high-level couture from mass-produced garments for the less wealthy. Furthermore, the guild system of artisans and merchants was disbanded after the French Revolution in 1789, giving new possibilities to practice fashion and establish businesses. 64 The fashion designer then became an artist instead of a tailor merely fulfilling the customer’s wishes, 65 and the hierarchy between front-end creative work and the behind the scenes production of clothes was established. 66 Authority of the fashion designer defines their social position in the hierarchy of fashion design. 67

For a long time, the law retained a sceptical attitude towards fashion designers as artists and the hierarchies of the fashion world for several reasons. 68 Garment-making, whether artistic or merely dictated by practical needs, has long been labelled as a ‘craft’, instead of art. 69 This connects with the history of copyright distinguishing between ‘pure art’ (fine art) and ‘applied art’, the latter referring to products, which, in addition to their aesthetics, have a functional purpose. 70 Works of applied art have been discriminated against in the copyright regime. They have not always been considered as worthy of protection on the same grounds as pure art, 71 which has affected the legal status of fashion designs. 72 Even though early fashion designers made efforts to protect their works and labels through, for example, licensing practices and social recognition, the exclusivity of haute couture creations did not convince legal entities to align fashion designers with fine artists. Distinguishing between different ‘levels’ of creativity and categorizing them based on their (alleged) ‘worthiness’ of protection reflect a certain kind of cultural elitism in copyright tradition. 73 However, especially in the contemporary European copyright framework, which appears to be embracing the unity of art, 74 such separation between art and craft, as well as between pure art and applied art, is superfluous. The art v craft dichotomy is not only a sensitive issue in copyright scholarship but also an issue that divides fashion practitioners themselves. One respondent to the survey described their artist/designer/craftsperson identity in the following way: 75

I hope to have a career not as a 3D fashion designer, but as a 3D artist who focuses on fashion. I am more interested in creating fantastical digital worlds than creating real-life samples of my clothes.

In practice, the hierarchic structures of fashion have the potential to lead to situations whereby someone is wrongly promoted to the rank of author merely due to their high status as a star designer in the fashion world. For instance, a fashion house that is named after its founder or head designer may very well name this person as the designer of all of its products, even those designed by nameless, employed or freelance designers. If these designs pass the threshold of originality, they are copyright-protected works, meaning that their authors have moral rights to them in accordance with the Berne Convention 76 Article 6 bis , such as a right to claim authorship. Specifically, if such moral rights are strictly interpreted, the above-described practice is questionable. If a fashion designer creates an original design, they have the right to claim authorship to their work—not for instance, the person after whom the fashion brand is named. The designer–creator’s position in the hierarchy of fashion is irrelevant in this legal assessment. It is also worth noting that unlike the author’s economic rights (such as reproduction, communication to the public and distribution rights), moral rights are not transferable. In other words, a fashion brand can never own its designers’ moral rights, not even if the author–designer agrees. A fashion designer can, however, choose to waive their moral rights in some jurisdictions. 77 The complex relationship between moral rights and the hierarchic fashion authorship may lead to situations where the law and fashion industry practices fundamentally conflict. When it comes to authors’ economic rights, then conflicts between fashion authorship and copyright authorship can be managed more easily, as it is possible for a designer to surrender such rights to a fashion company. This kind of contractual agreement is typical especially in employment relationships. 78

Another typical feature of fashion authorship is that designers rarely create in solitude. Instead, they tend to work closely with their team and collections are often outcomes of collective efforts. 79 Small-scale designers might be the team, whereas designers working in big companies might have a narrow task dictated by a planner. 80 The narrower the designer’s task and the more this task is dictated by anything other than the designer’s free and creative choices, the less likely it is that the designer will be considered as an author under copyright law. 81 The authority of a designer will therefore strongly contribute to the possibility of claiming copyright to their design. Also, the balance between the authority and creative input of a fashion designer and the role of a pattern-maker varies depending on the type of design that is practised: for some, the pattern-making itself is the design, whereas for some, their work is limited to image creation. 82 The fashion industry is in no way the only industry where creative outputs are typically results of teamwork. Specifically, in the field of entertainment, such as the music and film industries, the authorship of a creation is typically divided into separate ‘units’. For example, musical compositions with words are overwhelmingly co-written. An opera is often the work of a librettist and a composer. In musical genres such as jazz, rock and pop, the creative process is often collaborative in nature. 83 The songwriter, composer and performer might all be different individuals, and each of them credited as an author. In fashion, however, it is not typical to credit each designer who participated in the creation of a work, regardless of their creative input. Rather, the head designer or another person with fame and merit tends to be credited as an author, regardless of their de facto participation in the creative process of a work. 84 This reflects the ‘star culture’ of the traditional, physical fashion industry: the industry contributes to maintaining the illusion of the fashion designer as a creative genius. The star culture elevates the value of fashion brands’ products and is therefore commercially beneficial. This is how ‘stars’ in fashion become brand names. 85 This practice of elevating a single author above the rest of the authors in co-creation situations appears to conflict with the spirit of copyright in civil law jurisdictions, where the author and their personality are at the centre of everything. Failing to recognize (co)designers as (co)authors merely because of their low position in the fashion hierarchy is a grievance of the fashion world and requires a system-level change within the industry.

From a copyright viewpoint, it is also interesting that fashion designers tend to value artistic integrity over commerciality. 86 In their work, designers are expected to balance between newness and familiarity as well as creativity and branding. 87 Ruppert-Stroescu and Hawley argue that there are two types of creativities in fashion design practice: leadership creativity and adaptive creativity . 88 Leadership creativity changes the paradigms and direction of fashion, whereas adaptive creativity absorbs existing frameworks and trends. 89 When viewed through the copyright lens, acts of adaptive creativity might be more likely to face challenges in fulfilling the originality requirement than acts of leadership creativity. The more the creativity is based on something that already exists, such as pre-existing garments and trends, the less the room there is for an author to make those copyright-relevant free and creative choices. This, however, does not mean that adaptive creativity would per se exclude the possibility of copyright authorship from a designer. Even if factors other than the designer’s personality are the determining factor of the creative process, the standard of originality can be fulfilled, if, regardless of those external factors, the designer has made free and creative choices in the design process. 90 Leadership creativity has the potential to create new concepts, trends and broader directions by their design work, whereas adaptive creativity focuses on product development within these directions. However, it must be noted that an act of leadership creativity only leads to a copyright-protected result if such an act produces something concrete (eg, an identifiable garment design). This is due to the idea v expression dichotomy: copyright protects expressions, but not ideas. 91 Concepts, trends and broader directions would assimilate to ideas, leaving them without protection. 92

Traditionally, the fashion industry has valued professionalism from authors. In fashion terms, the professionalism of designers relies on creativity and their sensitive and conceptual ‘zeitgeist’ interpretation, combined with technical skills and tacit knowledge as human bodies, cultural beings, wearers and designers. 93 Copyright law, however, makes no distinction between professionals and amateurs, nor does it require any merits from authors. Literally, anyone can become an author, as long as they are a human being. 94 Unlike fashion authorship, copyright authorship is very democratic in nature. In fashion, there are thus two competing definitions of authorship: one may dictate the internal practices of the fashion world and maintain established hierarchies, while the other legally governs the ownership of fashion creations. For fashion practitioners, it is important to be aware of this competing definition of authorship, as it has a certain power that the self-determined authorship conventions in fashion do not have. As the legal definition of authorship is the only significant definition in the eyes of law, ignoring the authorship conventions of copyright while merely interpreting authorship from the perspective of the fashion industry has its risks. For example, if designers who are de facto authors but discredited from that position choose to dispute their unfavourable position, the fashion industry’s own authorship conventions are insignificant in legal evaluation. 95

To conclude, there are remarkable differences between the status of a fashion designer as an author within the fashion field itself, compared to fashion designers’ status within the copyright regime and how authorship is established in law. However, it is interesting that in many ways, the above-described view of authorship in physical fashion diverges from the ways that digital fashion designers understand authorship. The most striking differences are related to digital fashion’s lack of ‘gatekeepers’ and digital fashion’s tendency to credit the de facto author (instead of promoting someone as an author, who in copyright terms would not be an author). While the traditional view of fashion authorship in the realm of physical fashion is very hierarchic, in the sphere of digital fashion, authorship is more democratic, inclusive and within the reach of every digital fashion practitioner. 96 Digital fashion therefore has the potential to shape the conception of fashion authorship in a way that brings it closer to copyright authorship. There is, however, a threat involved: when luxury houses and other traditional fashion brands fully enter the sphere of digital fashion, they might try to push their hierarchic concept of authorship into this field of fashion as well.

5.1 Digital fashion: from ‘applied art’ to ‘pure art’?

In the qualitative online survey and case study interviews, the practice of digital fashion design was often referred to as ‘digital craftsmanship’, meaning that the artist status of fashion designer is moving closer to the pre-industrial concept of artisan. According to contemporary artisanal fashion designers, they combine traditional craftsmanship with contemporary fashion. 97 Literally stitching the garments together in virtual form, digital fashion designers translate the tacit knowledge and the physical garment construction skills of a designer as well as the situated embodied experience as a human being 98 into the virtual space.

From a copyright perspective, digital fashion designers taking a step back to craftsmanship might sound alarming considering the ‘art v crafts’ dichotomy in copyright scholarship. 99 For some, associating digital fashion design with crafts (instead of art) could suggest that they may be less likely to reach the standard of originality. However, as mentioned, the distinction between art and craft reflects a certain kind of elitism from (copyright) scholarship and can be seen as a fundamental failure in the copyright tradition. The methods and tools of manufacturing—whether they are a brush and a canvas, a needle and some fabric, or virtual tools—are not direct indications of originality and thus worthiness of protection. 100 Instead, what we must focus on is how the designer has expressed their creative vision with their chosen methods, whether digital or physical. The concerns regarding digital ‘craft’ being able to reach the standard of originality are significantly mitigated by how digital designers value their freedom of creativity, as described by this survey respondent:

I ended up doing 3D fashion looking for a sense of freedom. […] I put myself in the condition to be able to create anything I can think of.

When compared to physical garment design, digital fashion provides greater freedom: the laws of physics and requirements of functionality vanish, expanding the creative freedom of designers. 101 The only constraint is the pattern and the digital ‘sewing’ order, which must be equal to what they would be in the physical world: otherwise, the garment would fall off from the avatar. Nevertheless, the authors of digital fashion have more possibilities to make free and creative choices in design production. A digital garment is no longer a physical, functional object—the kind that copyright law has typically treated with caution. 102 It is presented in a 2D form, just like paintings, illustrations and many other works of ‘pure art’, which have never been treated with similar scepticism as products of applied art. Hence, there is no need to apply the same caution to digital fashion designs as physical fashion designs. It can even be found that (i) as digital-only fashion designs lack the element of functionality in the ‘real’ world and (ii) their design process can be guided solely by the artistic vision of their authors, these creations cannot be labelled as ‘applied art’. Instead, there seems to be no reason not to accept digital fashion among the sphere of ‘pure art’.

Although the absent need for functionality in digital fashion design somewhat diminishes some of the problems connected to protection of physical fashion designs and other works of applied art, one cannot conclude that digital designs would automatically pass the threshold of originality. Digitally depicting a fashion design that is purely utilitarian or mundane does not automatically make the design original and result in copyright protection. 103 When considering dimensional conversion, it is also worth noting that digitizing a functional 3D object does not ‘remove’ its functionality in a copyright-relevant manner: its appearance would still be determined by technical considerations, and protection could be denied on this basis. 104 If an unoriginal design is depicted digitally, it can be protected if original elements have been added during the digitization process. 105 One of the case studies provides an example in this context: Superficial is building a virtual fashion archive with digital 3D models of historical garments, featuring a new type of process that includes documenting and reconstructing the garments digitally and simulating the fabric dynamics. It might be, however, hard to view these digitized versions as protected works, if they merely duplicate a physical garment in a digital form. The digitally archived version of a physical, historical garment may be subject to copyright protection only if original elements are added during the digitization process. Digitizing a physical fashion design does not add originality to a design. The garment design might of course be protected if it is original; however, its digitalized version would not be its own independent work, but the same work in a different dimension. In that case, reproducing it in the digital realm generally requires a permission from its rightsholder. 106 Copying a design from the physical world to the digital world does not differ from a situation where someone makes a drawing of an existing painting. Changing the dimension from a physical object (3D) to a digital object (2D) does not change the situation 107 and can even be found as an infringement of copyright, as copyright’s scope of protection covers derivative use and dimensional conversion. 108 Thus, copying other designers’ work is equally risky for physical and digital fashion designers. Granting the same design equal protection in the physical and digital realms can be seen as ideal, since this promotes coherence and technological neutrality in copyright law: it would be problematic if the same work would be protected in the digital but not in the physical world. 109

The practice of digitizing historical garments also brings forth the issue of the public domain. A copyright-protected fashion design will fall into the public domain 70 years postmortem auctoris , 110 and digitizing it does not bring it back to the scope of protection. However, a digital design that builds ‘on top’ of a historical garment can be protected if some new, originality-establishing free and creative choices are made during the digitization process. The whole design would not be protected, although only the new parts of the design would receive protection, whereas the historical part would remain in the public domain. In this event, authorship of such design would be ‘layered’ and divided between the long-deceased designer and the designer adding new, original elements to the historical design. Authorship could hence be fragmented in a complex manner. However, it must be noted that such layering of authorship also occurs in the realm of physical fashion design that is inspired by earlier works. The legal reality for physical/digital fashion is thus not different, even though their customs of building ‘on top’ of earlier designs might vary.

Finally, the practices of digital fashion design appear to better coincide with some of the more traditional legal views of garments that can be considered original and worthy of protection. While the possibility to protect commercial, mass-produced fashion designs under the same requirements as other work categories has been frequently questioned (especially pre- Cofemel ), 111 the suggestion of unique, handmade or couture fashion designs to receive protection has never been met with such scepticism. 112 As digital designers highlight artistic craftsmanship and artisan skills in their work (instead of, eg, the commercial and functional aspects of their designs), their creations appear to better match this conservative school’s idea of the fashion that can be protected by copyright. In that sense, advocating for copyright protection for digital fashion designs is less rebellious than demanding the same for physical fashion designs.

5.2 ‘Free and creative choices’ in digital fashion

For some of the interviewed designers, designing for the virtual sphere is liberating as a creative activity. Freedom of creativity was also highlighted by digital fashion designers in response to the survey:

[I]t leaves enormous room to try out spontaneous ideas or even work with ‘digital mistakes’ that happen along the way.
For apparel, it is the fastest and cheapest way to put out ideas but more importantly to be able to create designs and let technology guide me into ideas and iterations I otherwise wouldn’t have even thought of. That creative process was mind blowing to me. I’m more exploratory by nature, so if I have an idea, there’s no way in hell that it’s going to look in the end exactly how I wanted it to in the beginning.

Software is an affordance for quick experimentation, and unlike with physical fashion, digital designers do not have to juggle between their creativity and the economic, social, functional and material constraints. The technical and software skills of the designer might limit the freedom of designer: the wider and deeper the skills, the better chances there are to play with design. This also leaves more room for the ‘free and creative choices’ required by the EU standard of originality. As one interviewee described:

[…] [A]t some point I’ll just start, and I kind of have an idea in my head what I want. And then I just throw it on the [virtual] doll and I just start working and sometimes it ends up being completely different from what I intended. But I like that as well because it’s so free. And they save like 10 different versions of the same thing. Just to be able to go back to the original, you know. And the thing is, in digital, when you cut, there’s nothing wrong because you can always click Control-Z. So, if you ever do something wrong, there’s always a way to go back into to see and try it out. It’s super playful. Well, you also have to say no sometimes just to stop because it’s also never finished.

Here, the freedom and playfulness of the process are highlighted. Another survey respondent noted that ‘[i]t is possible to explore more design ideas virtually than physically’. Furthermore, digital fashion designers also tend to design the surroundings and the whole concept of the video or image in which the outfit is presented, in the same way as fashion photographers, stylists, journalists and directors create magazine editorials and fashion films.

Many digital designs are made and used only in a digital setting, which allows designers to execute ideas that would never work physically. For example, the structure of a dress could be too fragile to exist as a physical garment or defy gravity in ways that are impossible to carry out in reality. As noted by the following survey respondent, almost anything is possible in digital fashion:

In digital, I can change colors, fabrics and patterns so easily. There is ctrl+z function and it helps me to think more creative […] We can really do almost everything in digital.

Another freedom-increasing factor is related to the basically unlimited quantities of digital ‘materials’. When designing physical products, the designer needs to consider, for example, material strength, cost, availability and sustainability thereof. 113 Digital fashion design allows ignorance of physical scarcity. 114 A digital fashion designer can, for example, use leopard fur without having to consider issues such as animal welfare, endangerment and the ethics of using such fur or consider replacing real fur with a polyester alternative, commonly also made of oil and therefore unsustainable. 115 However, it cannot be concluded that nothing would ever restrict the free and creative choices made by digital fashion designers. The creative freedom of the designer can be restricted to a certain extent by the subject matter they are depicting. 116 The restricting factors can also connect to presenting fabrics digitally. One digital fashion designer described challenges to their creative freedom in the following manner:

What affects the designs the most are the technical restrictions: Some materials and movements are impossible to render and simulate, for example […] I could not use sheer, flowy or fuzzy materials on characters. Certain types of capes, skirts or wide pants didn’t work with the tech.

The designer’s freedom could also face minor restrictions due to factors like size, contrast or the need to make the digital garment visually clear. 117 These kinds of limitations, however, are so minor that they do not pose a remarkable threat to free and creative choices. Perhaps, one of the most significant threats to designers’ free and creative choices is commercial ambition. Digital fashion that seeks wide popularity might be vulnerable to the same threats as physical fashion. The aim to be appealing to as many consumers as possible often compromises choices that are truly free and creative, leading to products that are more conventional and follow trends, ultimately often threatening originality. 118

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