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Fashioning Identities: How Fashion Shows Can Stimulate Learning in Your Classroom

By Timothy Fuller Bazin, Jungmeen Lee, Calvin Kamphuis, Kasia Martin, and Vasile Lozneanu
Fashioning Identities: How Fashion Shows Can Stimulate Learning in Your Classroom

Two student models walking the catwalk during the fashion show. (Photo source: Seoul Foreign School)

 "To wear dreams on one's feet is to begin to give a reality to one's dreams." — Roger Vivier

Setting the Scene

In the Black Box Theater of Seoul Foreign School’s (SFS) Lyso Center for the Performing Arts, a unique (and very fun) student project unfolded. As the lights drew towards the catwalk and the speakers buzzed to life, the anticipation in the air was palpable. Three judges, all fashion industry executives, cocked their heads towards the entrance ready to receive the anxious models gathered behind the backdrop. As the first model, a young woman wearing a pink overcoat and beret hat adorned with a black birdcage, entered the threshold, the now famous Barbie' monologue about “Being a Woman” echoed through the room as the instrumentals of “Gravity Swallows Light” (from the Oppenheimer soundtrack) played out of silence and into its crescendo. Pink suede boots charged out in front of a black woven skirt. The culminating event of six class periods of preparation was off to a great start.

Throughout the process, our Grade 10 Individuals and Societies (I&S) classrooms were staging grounds for the students. They were tasked with investigating an issue or identifying a problem, brainstorming a concept, bringing the concept to life through design, choreographing a unique “walk, turn, pose,” composing an .mp3 backing track, and telling their style’s story in a medium of their choosing. Teachers played the role of facilitators during this time; their feedback was process-oriented as opposed to content-oriented. We recommend this project because it provides students (and teachers) with an opportunity for risk-taking and a forum for discussing themes of personal identity and the impact of fashion trends on the environment and society.

Teachers setting up in the Black Box Theater of Seoul Foreign School’s Lyso Center for Performing Arts. (Photo source: Seoul Foreign School) 

The Assessment Framework

IB I&S Integrated Humanities

Criterion A: Knowing and understanding
Criterion B: Investigating
Criterion C: Communicating
Criterion D: Thinking critically

Because SFS is an International Baccalaureate continuum school, our team aligned the project with the Middle Years Program (MYP) I&S Integrated Humanities Criteria A and D assessment criteria. We thought Criteria B might be a bit too much for something meant to be completed in no more than six class periods. And we intentionally left out Criteria C because we wanted to maximize student expression and representation throughout the project. In addition to the fashion show, students were required to craft a 1,000-word individual fashion style analysis, a task that honed their ability to think conceptually and synthesize knowledge and skills into an introspective reflection. However, students were allowed to use any medium, including film, to complete this analysis. Final submissions ranged from magazine-style PDFs to WIX interactive sites, standard docs, documentaries, and even a pop-up book. The lion’s share of markings were allocated according to the individual fashion style analysis.

The Creative Process

The students' approaches to fashion were as diverse as their backgrounds. From 32 unique styles, concepts like "Barbenheimer," “Bytedance Viral,” "International Space Station," and "the Refugee" emerged, each a unique fusion of personal narrative and global awareness. “International Space Station” forged a puffy, futuristic design that reminded us all about what can be achieved when human collaboration is truly global in scale. "Bytedance Viral" stood out as a nod to the era of fast fashion, which is stimulated by the contagious diffusion of fashion concepts through social media. The aforementioned “Barbenheimer” interrogated the sensibilities of the unconventional pairing of two films operating at opposing extremes. “The Refugee” incorporated the symbolism of life jackets and backpacks to project powerful messages about the consequences of breakneck economic development. Students perceived this project as personal, and so their interests, passions, and fantasies really drove the creative process.

Industry Expert Involvement

Adding to the project's authenticity, three professionals with esteemed positions in the fashion industry – including a General Manager for a renowned jewelry brand and a President of a major fashion house – served as judges. One of the judges was a parent of an SFS student and was instrumental in getting the group together. Their professional insights and constructive feedback provided students with a real-world perspective on fashion, marketing, and brand identity. Feedback from students supports the idea that presence of judges gave the Fashion Show a “realistic” and “high stakes” feeling. The judges observed and interacted, turning the event into a dynamic learning experience.

(From left to right: model, designer, producer) Student group answering the judges’ questions. (Photo source: Seoul Foreign School)


All students embraced diverse responsibilities and showcased their talents during this project. Students assumed roles as models, designers, and producers, each role demanding different skill sets – from artistic expression to logistical planning. The judges felt strongly that the producers, in particular, pulled off a very impressive feat in synthesizing a cohesive presentation. In our planning sessions, the teaching team agreed that we needed to provide detailed and timely feedback to students targeting specifically their collaborative processes. Teamwork is fundamental for pulling off the fashion show.

One of the reasons we made the Fashion Style Analysis the focal point of marking was that we foresaw the fashion show as something that would require effective collaboration. Some student groupings would require a lot of scaffolds to pull off effective collaborative work. Moreover, this project took place in the winter when disruptions (i.e., student absences due to extracurriculars or sickness) might derail groups that otherwise work well together. So, the Fashion Style Analysis served as an authentic, unique, and objective demonstration of a student engagement with Criteria A and Criteria D.

Pages from student submitted Fashion Style Analyses. (Photo source: Seoul Foreign School)

Final Thoughts and Answers to Likely Questions

As educators, witnessing our students articulate their understanding through such a vibrant and interactive medium is profoundly rewarding. This project will help you see each student in a different light (literally and figuratively). The success of this project lies in the critical thinking, collaborative skills, and cultural awareness it fostered. In the end, the students didn't just fashion garments; they fashioned informed, global identities. This project exemplifies the effective integration of theory and practice; by applying concepts of globalization and social identity to a tangible project, students developed a deeper understanding of these abstract ideas.

We’ll never look at fashion shows the same. They serve an important commercial function, but they are also mirrors reflecting how external influences shape perceptions of self and society. When pageantry and pedagogy have a common purpose, you get a project that can be fun for everyone.

  • How large should student groupings be?

We experimented with this. The best results were with student groups of three or four. You want as many unique ideas as possible while standardizing for roles across groupings. 

  • Could a project like this work in another discipline?

It’s easy to see how this project could be modified for English language/literature or foreign languages, albeit in a scaled-down form. Design classrooms can also execute the fashion show during a unit on textile design and integrate a strong MYP Service as Action or Diploma Program Creativity, activity, service (CAS) connection related to circular/sustainable fashion.

  • Could a project like this work in lower grade levels?

Students need to be able to demonstrate a range of executive functioning skills to pull this off. I’ve done it with Grade 8 (MYP 3) students and that was a lot of fun. I don’t think it can be done in Grade 6 without significant parent support.

  • What was your budget?

We didn’t have a budget. Most styles were pooled together from articles of clothing already in students’ fashion collections. If they didn’t own something, then they fabricated it in the design lab or borrowed it.

  • What are some modifications that might work in a different context?

We are fortunate to have a black box theater adjacent to our main Edie J. Moon theater. The fashion show can absolutely be run in a classroom setting or outside (if weather permits). In an English literature classroom, maybe it makes more sense to base the designs off of characters or archetypes (i.e., the anti-hero) in literature. We also considered a scaled down version using just footwear, and that may work in some contexts. If your students aren’t interested in fashion, then how about a culinary competition?

  • Where can I find task-specific clarifications and other resources?

You can contact me at [email protected] and I can provide templates and answer any additional questions.


Timothy Fuller Bazin (he/him) is a project-based learning specialist and teaches MYP 5 Individuals and Societies at Seoul Foreign School in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Jungmeen Lee (she/her) is a member of Seoul Foreign School's MYP 5 I&S team. 

Calvin Kamphuis (he/him) is a member of Seoul Foreign School's MYP 5 I&S team. 

Kasia Martin (she/her) is the Special Educational Needs Lead and a member of Seoul Foreign School's MYP 5 I&S team. 

Vasile Lozneanu (he/him) is a member of Seoul Foreign School's MYP 5 I&S team. 

Instagram (Seoul Foreign School): seoul_foreign_school
LinkedIn: Seoul Foreign School

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01/31/2024 - Monsieur
Simple YET great way to bridge the gap between learning and knowledge. This brings to mind the yearly fashion show our school, Appomattox Regional Governor's School, gets going to celebrate kids' hard-work. Until now, somehow I never thought that adding a linguistics layer can be another way for it to be even more successful. Thanks for sharing this article as it is inspiring to say the least.



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