The essay brief asks you to “use (an) example(s) to discuss the relationship between fashion
The essay should demonstrate that you have thought about some of the key ideas discussed
over the course of the unit, that you have read some of the academic texts listed in the Unit
Handbook (and perhaps some others too), and that you are able to apply these ideas to
your own examples.
Here is one way of structuring your essay.
Introduction (roughly 400 words)
This is where you explain your topic. For example … “This essay will focus on ethnic and
national identity in Singapore and will assess to what extent Singaporean citizens express their
ethnic identities through dress.”
In your introduction you will also reflect on the ways in which fashion relates to identity more
generally by referring to a relevant academic literature (what have other scholars claimed
about the relationship between fashion and identity?)
You will explain what example(s) you have selected to help you respond to the essay brief.
For instance … “To help me understand how Singaporean’s communicate their identities in
their clothing, I spoke to three of my friends who are based in Singapore, and I asked them
to send me photographs of them at a special event like a wedding.”
You will also explain what key concepts or key ideas you will discuss in the essay and which
authors’ work you have read.
Part 1 – Key Concepts (roughly 600 words)
In this section you discuss the important ideas that will help you to understand your topic.
Many of these “key ideas” are listed in the Unit Handbook in the timetable section. For
instance, a student writing about ethnic identity in Singapore might choose “Globalisation,
Localisation, Diaspora, and Ethnicity” as their key concepts (these are the key words listed for
Week 21 in the Unit Handbook).
In this section of the essay you will explain these ideas by summarising what other authors
have argued about them. You will find relevant chapters focused on these
ideas/concepts/themes in the Unit Handbook. You may also find relevant academic articles
by going to the library website and searching for scholarly journals such as Fashion Theory,
Fashion Practice, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, and the
International Journal of Cultural Studies. Your tutor or a librarian can show you how to access
these sources online.
Try to explain how the concepts and ideas you have selected are relevant to your
Avoid relying too heavily on search engines and Google Scholar (sometimes these will
suggest quite weird articles that aren’t very relevant to FCH and could be confusing).
Part 2 – Examples (roughly 600 words)
This is the part of the essay where you discuss your own first-hand research and you provide a
personal interpretation of it. This is where you describe your examples and explain their
relevance to the topic. You will consider what these examples tell you about the relationship
between fashion and identity.
Most often, students will discuss images or objects that relate to their topic, but you can also
conduct other kinds of research. For example, you could visit a place of interest like a
department store and describe what you observed (how was the shop organised? how were
people behaving in it?) You could even interview some friends or classmates and analyse
It is a good idea to have relatively few examples that are very closely related and that you
explain and interpret in a lot of depth. It is probably not a good idea to have examples that
come from very different times or very different places (unless you can find a very strong
connection between them).
If you have selected a visual example, you should start off with a detailed description, before
explaining the relevance of each of the characteristics you have observed.
Your discussion of your examples should be detailed. Think about visual aesthetics and what
they tell you about your example. Think about the time and place that your example came
from: how is this reflected in the example? Consider what your example tells you about
culture and society more generally.
Try to bring in some key concepts from the previous section of the essay.
Conclusion (roughly 400 words)
Your conclusion is almost the mirror image of your Introduction. In this section you tell us what
you have found out from doing your reading and from interpreting your examples.
In this part of the essay you will return to the core focus of the essay which is to describe the
relationship between fashion and identity. By now – having looked at a number of readings
and thought in depth about a specific example – you will be able to characterise this
relationship.You will summarise your argument by briefly recapping your main points.