Attire Lab Assignment by dnB551


									         Instructor’s Note: I began the semester with the following assignment because it casts
the students in the role of investigators who share their findings and analyses through writing.
The assignment also uses the written report as a springboard for class presentations: this piece
of writing is therefore multi-functional. Students have time to revise their reports after meeting
with their presentation groups. This group meeting functions as a proto-workshop in which ideas
take precedence over grammar, syntax, etc.
         I like the lab report because the genre makes a formal distiction between summary and
analysis: the former belongs in thhe Methods and Materials and Results sections, whereas the
latter must be isolated in the Discussion section. If, in later assignments, students over-
summarize, etc. we can discuss the problem in terms of this assignment.
         I had numerous science majors in both of my 201 classes. When I introduced the
assignment, I asked those students familiar with this genre to explain its conventions, etc. This
allows us to discuss discourse communities and the notion that by learning the conventions of a
community you can join or break into it.
                                  ATTIRE LAB


The word attire, when we use it, hear it or read it, generally signifies clothing of
some sort. The history of the word, however, indicates that the term quietly
carries with it an additional resonance or implication, one that we don’t regularly
perceive or intend. The Oxford English Dictionary traces attire’s etymology as

        a. OF. atire-r, earlier atirier to arrange, put into order,
        array, equip, dress, deck, cogn. w. Pr. atieirar, formed on
        the phrase a tieira, OF. à tire ‘into row or order,’ f. Pr.
        tieira (teira, tiera), It. tiera, OF. tire (tiere), row, rank,
        order, series, suite, train.

Originating from Italian and Old French terms, tiera and tire respectively, the
word attire has a relationship with the English word tier; thus, at its root, attire is
connected with notions of order, rank and succession. This link exists in part
because many European societies before the 17th- and 18th-centuries legally
regulated people’s wardrobes: what someone could wear was determined by
their class, occupation, and position in society. In this project, we will investigate
the possibility that this connection between clothes and order might still exist
today, both in ways related to the origin of attire and in ways that are entirely new
or different. The experiments listed below are meant to engage questions like the
following: How do we understand clothes? Apart from their practical function, do
clothes really matter? What meanings do they carry? Why do people, when
identifying clothes that they like or feel comfortable in, say, “This is really me”—in
essence equating themselves with a garment? What do we change when we
change our clothes?


Each class member will conduct one of the following experiments and discuss
results with a small group of peers who performed the same or a similar
experiment. These small groups will then present their findings to the class and
offer insights into how and why individual results matched or deviated from those
of the group.

Before you meet with your group members on 1/31, draft a complete lab report
that explains your procedures, your results, and your interpretations of those
results. We will discuss how to write a lab report in class. You can also consult
the UW Biocore guidelines for writing a research report (there’s another link to
this on the course website, in the Readings section). Because this is a social
rather than scientific experiment, you may have to tweak slightly the generic
conventions of a lab report, but, by and large, you should follow the format as it is
explained in class and in the Biocore writing manual.

Bring your draft to the small group meetings in class on 1/31 and use it to
communicate your results and interpretations. Discuss discrepancies and
similarities between the group’s experiments and plan an organized 10 minute
presentation of the group’s comprehensive findings. If you make discoveries or
come to a new understanding of your own experiment, you should revise your
report to reflect these alterations. Your group is welcome to communicate via
email or even meet outside of class; however, this certainly is not required.


1) “This isn’t me”: wear an item of clothing (borrowed from a friend, member of
the opposite sex, or provided by the teacher) that you would never wear
otherwise. While wearing the garment, spend at least half an hour in a public
place or with a group of people (friends, classmates, etc.). Do not explain that
you’re wearing this item for an assignment. Report on the results, how people
reacted, how you felt, why the garment “isn’t you,” etc.

2) Excavate your own closet, the closet of a friend, or, if you can manage it, the
closet of someone you don’t know. If you investigate someone else’s closet, you
might want to proceed in “Room Raiders” fashion by preparing a little spy
kit…and by trying to capture the closet in its natural state. Work really hard to
suspend what you know about the person and focus only on their wardrobe.
What do the contents of the closet (or chest of drawers, etc.) and its organization
(or lack thereof) suggest about this person? Compare your interpretations with
what you know or learn about the real person. If you explore your own closet, you
might ask a friend to help you out: this way, someone with some distance can
report on what they perceive. If you explore someone else’s closet (or try to do
so), you might report on this: was it hard to find someone who would let you dig
around in their closet?

3) Visit two locations or events. Take notes (preferably in writing) about what the
people there are wearing. Based on the attire you see, what kinds of people go to
each place? What does the attire of these people tell you about each place?
What are the differences and similarities between the attire worn at these
places? Consider comparing two locales that are formally/functionally similar but
where you expect people to dress differently, like two bars (i.e. Café Montmartre
and State St. Brats), two restaurants, or two clothing stores (i.e. Gap and a thrift
store). However, it might be illuminating to compare radically different scenes,
like a church service and a sports event.
4) Really overdress or underdress for some event, function or location where you
will be for at least 30 minutes. Report on the results, how people reacted, how
you felt, etc.

5) Spend enough time in a public spot to identify at least 5 current trends. What
do you assume about people participating in each of these trends? What does
their particular trendiness tell you about them? Then, remain in that spot and
consider how you can identify a trend: for instance, is wearing pants or a warm
coat a trend? Do you see any outdated trends? How can we discern the life and
death of a trend? You don’t need to answer all of these questions—only address
ideas that pertain to your observation period. I include these various queries to
nudge you towards the purpose of this experiment, which is not just about
identifying 5 trends, but focuses more on how trends can be identified, how they
operate and what they might mean.

6) Choose an item of clothing that is particularly important or meaningful to you.
Trace the history of that garment. Then, show the item to a friend or
acquaintance who probably doesn’t realize that the garment has particular
significance to you. Ask them to trace, conjecture, and/or imagine the history of
the item. You might repeat this second step, asking yet another person or a
group of people to consider the garment’s history. Compare the results. How do
the historical methodologies of your friends differ from yours? How do the
different histories relate or differ?

7) Propose your own experiment to the class. Keep in mind that you will present
the results of the experiments in groups. Therefore, if you want to try your own
thing, explain which of the above experiments relates to your proposal—which
group you might present with. OR, convince 2 or 3 classmates to conduct your
experiment and create your own group. Feel free to discuss this with me before
class on 1/24 as I will have to okay it.


*Before class on Monday 1/31, conduct your experiment and draft your report.

*1/31: Bring your report draft to class. You will discuss it with your group. We will
schedule the presentations.

*2/2 and 2/4: Attire Lab group presentations
Your individual lab report is due on the day your group delivers its presentation
(so either Wednesday 2/2 or Friday 2/4).

To top