Queer Fashion Course Offered at CMU

Jason A. Michael

In an effort to explore another side of the fashion industry, Central Michigan University is offering a new course for the current term. Its name is Queer Fashion and it was conceptualized by fashion designer and CMU Associate Professor Michael Mamp.
"I'm a fashion historian," said Mamp. "In the past several years it has become evident to me that most of fashion history is told from a white, heterosexual, cisgender perspective. This is not a new idea. Most of history, even that not related to fashion, has largely ignored the stories of women, persons of color and members of the LGBT community. My own research has examined the history of women and their contributions to the fashion industry of the 20th century including people such as Mildred Custin, Hortense Odlum and Fira Benenson. I have also been working on a long-term research project related to Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns."
As Mamp was researching, something became evident to him: there wasn't much well-documented information about LGBT fashion at all.
"As I dug deeper into these and other topics it became clear to me that although the LGBT community has had a significant impact upon and relationship to fashion and the presentation of identity through dress for centuries, very little research or scholarship was executed in the area. Then in 2013 the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology under the direction of Dr. Valerie Steele mounted the groundbreaking exhibit entitled: A Queer History of Fashion; From the Closet to the Catwalk. "
Suddenly a lightbulb went off in Mamp's head.
"This exhibition was the turning point for me when I realized that I could take the information from the exhibit's catalog, other pieces of scholarship completed by my peers across the country and my own work and use it as a framework to develop a class that I immediately knew would be titled Queer Fashion," Mamp said.
But there's a whole road of challenges between conceptualizing a class and being ready to offer one.
"It is not easy," said Mamp of the road it took to bring his course to life. "I started in 2013 and here we are in the middle of the 2018 spring semester at CMU and I am teaching the course for the first time."
Thankfully, Mamp had the support of his colleagues in the Fashion Merchandising & Design program and his affiliate program Women & Gender Studies as well. They encouraged him to bring his vision to life.
"They were willing to allow it to become a permanent part of the curriculum," Mamp said. "However from there it took me almost two years to work on the course content and then a third year for the course to go through all the necessary stages of approval at the university. The course is offered as part of the curriculum in both fashion and women and gender studies as I mentioned. But is also part of the general education program at CMU entitled the University Program."
Response to the class, Mamp said, has been highly favorable.
"I assumed that the students would be interested in the course," said Mamp. "However, by far this has been the most engaged group of students I have had the privilege to teach in quite some time. My classroom of 43 people is also incredibly diverse. About 34 percent of the students in the class are persons of color. This tells me that minorities such as African Americans, even if they don't identify as LGBT, they are interested in topics that are diverse in nature. I am so encouraged by the focus on diversity and inclusion from today's students."