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Reading Media: Topics to Explore Category

Lessons and activities encourage critical viewing of fashion and evaluation of the sexual messages being conveyed. Themes include: rising and falling hemlines, mass marketing lingerie, sexy accessories.


Diamonds Are Forever
After briefly discussing the science of diamonds and their history as cultural symbol, participants examine existing ad campaigns for diamonds and the messages they send about relationships, gender, and power in contemporary culture.

Identity: It’s in Your Jeans
Beginning with a brief history, youth explore the cultural significance of the most enduring fashion staple of the last century: jeans. Participants discuss how jeans can be individual, as they come in an infinite variety of styles that suit distinct personalities, and also universal, in that they can transcend boundaries like gender and ethnicity. Youth design their “ideal” pair of jeans as a form of personal expression. How jeans are advertised is also discussed.

Victoria’s Secret is Out: The Mass Marketing of Underwear
Participants examine and discuss how ads, TV commercials, and special events have made underwear manufacturers household names. Youth discuss target audiences, body image, and sexual messages of ads for Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein, and then take a closer look at marketing underwear to teens.

Introducing the Topic of Fashion
After discussing current fashion trends, designers, and icons, participants examine how information about what is fashionable is disseminated in a consumer society. The influence of media and celebrity is also discussed, and compared to youth’s desire to express their individualism through fashion.


Manolo Blahnik and “Toe Cleavage”
After briefly researching the artist himself, participants consider shoes designed by Manolo Blahnik as works of art, status symbols, and sexy accessories. What makes high heels sexy, and the extreme lengths some will go to for perfect “toe cleavage,” are also discussed.

Controversial Tees
Youth read articles about recent controversies surrounding text and logos on t-shirts, then design their own t-shirt logo that counters one of the controversial examples.

Fashion Magazines
By examining various examples for advertising and editorial content, youth determine the target audience of fashion magazines and discuss how they sell the fantasy of the fashion industry.

The Clothes Make the Man
After examining the personal style of several male celebrities, youth discuss how fashion impacts media perception of personal identity and masculinity. Youth also discuss how men’s fashion impacts their own style and perceptions of gender.

Why Force Conformity: Ode to the Bra
After a briefly exploring the history of corsets and bras, participants examine how cultural values and aesthetics have shaped women’s bodies throughout history, and then write a poem expressing their emotional response.

Online Catwalk: Fashion on the Web
Participants explore and examine websites showcasing the work of couture fashion designers, and discuss how presenting fashion on the web is materially different from a runway show. The use of websites to attract young audiences is also discussed.

Research Project: Fashion and Cultural Values
Youth research a style, dress or costume of another culture, and examine how it reflects the cultural, religious, or moral values of those who wear it.

Other Instructional Materials

Fashion: Independent Study Projects
A list of projects for youth taking a more in-depth approach to the subject of fashion.

For More On Fashion, See:

The Calvin Klein Controversy
After researching public response to CK ad campaigns, participants write and debate their own interpretations of the ads.

Protesting The Abercrombie and Fitch ‘Magalog’
After reading news articles that report on the controversy of the A&F magalog, from when it hit the stores until it was pulled from the shelves, participants examine how protest plays a part, if any, in retailers’ decisions regarding racy material.

Research Project: Body Art
Tattoo, piercing, scarification, branding and painting are all possible research topics for youth, as they explore how body art reflects cultural and aesthetic value.


Media Literacy 101 Using Sex to Sell Talking About Abstinence Reducing Risks Reading Media Be the Judge Producing Media
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