Constellation Reflection Post

During my first year at Cardiff Metropolitan University, I have participated in Constellation. From the start of Constellation, I was told I had to write essays in order to pass the first year. This was overwhelming as I hate writing essays and anything to do with reading. After choosing what Constellation class I preferred, I was glad to be in ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit: Subcultures and Street Style’ study group.

I love fashion and knew this class would be about that but I had never heard of subcultures. Throughout the classes, I learnt about the Goths, Punks and the Hip Hop Subcultures to name a few and analysed them in-depth. I learnt about where the subcultures emerged and who they were inspired by.  One thing that was interesting to learn was the use of Bricolage used in most subcultures. This means a creation from many different diverse things. For example, the Goths used bricolage by taking Victorian dress and adding their own touches of death to the outfit by adding things like spider jewellery to symbolise the insects that would crawl over the body underground, and red lipstick to symbolise vampires and sucking blood. Bricolage could definitely be something I might apply to my own practice and throughout the subject/ field modules. For example, bricolage in my own practice could be creating a painting using all of the art movements as inspiration.

Throughout the class, there was a lot of note making and it was fast paced, the amount of information given to use was hard to take in. The lecturer, Cath Davies, showed us a way to filter the information into columns made up of the titles, ‘Describe (the features)’, ‘Analyse (connotations)’ and ‘Theory (quotes)’. This made the notes much easier to read through and easier to piece together to write for the formative essay.

My formative essay was based on the Goth Subculture. I explored the meanings behind their style and where it came from and how the subculture has become well known in Japan with the Harajuku girls, for example. I think I left it very last minute as I did not have many references and didn’t give evidence to back up what I was stating in some cases. From the Formative essay, I have realised that I need references for everything I am going to talk about and that I need to look over the Harvard Referencing Guide. Also,  to start the essay weeks before to write to my best ability. These are all things that I have worked on whilst writing my Summative essay.

On Thursday afternoons, Keynote lectures were delivered. These were often interesting and there was a wide range of different lecturers talking about a different subject every week. These lectures have added to my knowledge in some areas but I often found it difficult to be attentive to a subject that is not something I enjoy.

The second constellation class I attended was The Body. In this class, I learnt about previous medical practices such as plastic surgery,  identity and power and control in the human race, for example. I was happy to be in this study group as anything that involves the body intrigues me. I found this study group a lot harder than Smells Like Teen Spirit as the readings were much more complex and I struggled to understand most of the words. To try to solve this problem, I would try to read the readings in advance a few times and research words I did not understand the meanings of.

During The Body study group, the lecturer, Ashley Morgan wanted us to always be in groups with people we did not know. This has definitely helped me in my field module as field is all about group work. It has made me much more confident speaking to people and being part of a group that I have never met before.

Whilst getting references for my Summative essay, I did not find it easy reading. I’ve never found interest in reading, especially academic reading. A solution I learnt in The Body study group to find reading easier was to go to the index and look for the word you are writing about. This made it easier than reading through the whole book when it wasn’t necessary.

For my Summative essay, I have expanded on my Formative essay and worked on the areas of feedback. This time, I have gathered much more references and started with enough time to write it to my best standard.

Overall, my experience doing Constellation has learnt me a lot about myself and my learning techniques. I have overcome panic when it comes to group work and reading academic text.  I have added to my knowledge through attending both study groups and keynote lectures. Constellation has been enjoyable and interesting.

As an art student, I don’t feel I am academic. I disliked writing the essays and reading but I have written two, which I’ve tried my best at and am proud of doing so. 



Identity- shared with others, relying on sameness.

Identity and social media.

What does Facebook do? Connects people through visual creativity, sharing information, representation of self through selfies, we see what people choose to post.

my selfie

During the lesson, we was asked to take a selfie and upload it to this post to show that it is a representation of ourselves.

Group work: Consider what Lawler says about identity.

What do you think she means by:

  1. Binaries: organising society into a box, e.g. men, women, black, white. Binaries suggests power, men are seen to be more dominant than women. Labelled, fits into society. However, there are pros and cons of labelling people and categorising them into a certain ‘box’ of society, people fall into a certain category when they are more than that.
  2. Homosexual/ heterosexual: Gay. Men who are attracted to women, women who are attracted to men.

Life Cycle Identity

Baby- hard to tell gender of baby. Very gender specific colours on baby clothing to identify.

Elderly person- pigment comes from hair, skin gets darker, tend to look at an older person in a way where we don’t categorize someones gender because we see them as just an elderly person or group of elderly people.

Identity changes throughout life.

Baby- looks the same

Adult- identity of self

Elderly person- begin to look the same as other elderly people again

Gender is the main sorce of identity. Begins when babies are born, names are ‘gendered’.

Society is ordered into gender, eg. Public toilets.


  • Identity is not fixed, however, babies and elderly have sense of fixed identity
  • Identity is embodied
  • Identity is a way in which we ‘read’ and judge and know people
  • Sexually is mostly fixed
  • Gender is not fixed and is a cultural consruct


Hegemony-the dominant social position of men, and the subordinate social position of women.

Binary- the classification of sex and gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. Gender binary is one general type of a gender system.

Heternormativity- a belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It assumes that hetrosexuality is the ‘norm’.




Regulating Bodies- Power and Control

Overt and covert forms of control.

Why is it important to consider control in the body?

In the past the body was controlled by:

  • religion
  • suppression of appetites, actual and sexual, i.e. sin
  • concept of heaven and hell
  • poor life would result in ‘just gifts’ in heaven

Consider what Foucault means by, ‘visibility is a trap’?

Panopticon- central point where guards stay and can see everyone. Prisoners can not see the guards and don’t know if they are being watched. This makes them change their behaviour as if they are being watched.

Same context in a selfie. A selfie is an object, a representation of yourself. It’s never a subject of communication. It is passive, might contain information but never an owner.

A subject is free, powerful and does not need to be owned and can communicate freely.

Idea of  power of individuals is dispersed through society rather than in  one location. E.g; school- controlled through bells, timetable systems, rules, it teaches you a social system.

Health- mandatory inoculations, health screening, hospitalisation and health records.

Group work

Consider ways in which bodies are controlled in contemporary society.

Social Media
  • newspapers- powerful source of media
  • changing appearance to post selfies to get more likes, competition
  • popularity, friends, likes on photos
  • controls the ‘norms’ of our society as young people, determines fashion trends
  • feel more confident and powerful on social media
  • cookies- online cookies always internet to see what you have been looking at, tailors sites to be what you want to see
  • knowledge less historical, just search something on google

Control through gender expectation

We expect men and women to dress differently.

Men dressed as a women is usually for a comedic affect. Cultural context: men wear kilts in Scotland.

Marc in skirts (Carreno, 2014) Marc Jacobs wears kilts.

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Marc Jacobs

Eddie Izzard- transgresses boundaries of masculinity. Still quite masculine, still a man but wears women clothing. Some gay men have also added a contribution to fashion.

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Eddie Izzard


  • The body in the past was controlled through relion
  • Now, more complex and pervasive


The Body in Art, Design and Society

This is my new constellation class for term 2. Throughout this constellation class, I will aim to gain knowledge of historical ideas, accounts and apply theories to my subject and practice.

Thinking About the Past

The Body is an object. We tend to take the body for granted as it is commonly represented, we ignore details as we see our body and other bodies everyday.

Plastic Surgery– First ever case recorded on 600 BC, Hindu nose reconstruction.

Prosthesis: Ancient mummification to enhance bodily apperance. Attempts to mak the body ‘whole’ in new life after death. Eg; Egyptians made a toe for mummy who did not have one. screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-12-22-46

War: Lots of discoveries and inventions, medical advancement of science, eg; penicilin. Masks made to fit over face for casualties. Allowed people to go out and find after war was over. People were also living longer- triumph of medicine?

Man wearing prosthetic mask after war

Today: Many more people are having plastic surgery and changing their bodies. More accesable today to have change body. Many celebrities having botox, lip fillers and breast enlargements. Katie Price is shown below, well known for many ‘boob jobs’ over the years.

Katie Price, “Jordan”

It is even more common for men to have surgery to change their appearance. For example, Jordan James has spent over £130,000  trying to look like Kim Kardashian.


Religion V Medicine

We also looked at religion versus medicine, 5th to the 15th century (West). Medicine was complex and generally unscientific, based on ‘reason’ and religion. Illnesses were ‘God given’ and bodies were not allowed to be cut open. To be diagnosed, the ‘doctor’ would look into a diognostic handbook based on the solar system. By 1500s, by law physicians had to look to their solar book to treat an ill person.

What is the relationship between your subject area and the body? 

Fine Art- Artwork based on the body, statements made. Paintings of people, paintigs of nude people, portraits showed class of person in the past.

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Hans Holbein’s painting of Henry the 8th

Punk: Gender and Ideology

This week was based on the Punk subculture again, looking at gender, especially women. We looked at ‘O’Brien, L, 1999, The Woman Punk Made Me’ to paraphrase important quotes from the passage.

  • After punk started, a fight started between gender equality
  • Sexism towards women
  • Men and women were not equal. Men were more dominant on the street, women did not try to fight back
  • Punk became a place for the conversations between sexual equality
  • Punk challenged the norms of society, it questioned gender equality

O’Brien identifies the problems women had during Punk scene. They were not always liberated.

Summary of a Punk Woman

  • Short spikes hair, mowhawk- very sharp looking, harsh. Breaks rules of hair, not feminine, looks aggressive
  • Dyed hair- very unnatural look, again breaking the rules of beauty
  • Make up- abstract and unnatural
  • Clothing often ripped, often with swear words, symbols, e.g. swastika. Implies anger
  • Jewellery- necklaces suggests feminism, however, chains and safety pins used in clothing and as jewellery. Changing meanings of objects
  • Studded leather jacket- spikes suggest aggression and threatens

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 22.28.54.png

Smells Like Teen Spirit: Punks- Style and Ideology

This week was based on Punk style and ideology. During this lesson I learnt the style characteristics of a Punk using pages 256- 266 by Dick Hebdige, in Barnard, M, Fashion Theory: A Reader London: Routledge (2007).

Style Characteristics of a Punk

  • Union Jacks- embroidered on the backs of parka coats, or cut up and converted into smartly tailored jackets.
  • T- shirts covered in swear words and terrorist/ guerrilla outfits
  • Inappropriate items- a pin, clothes peg, a TV component, a razor blade, a tampon worn as a earring
  • Lavatory chains dropped on chests, safety pins worn through cheek, trashy fabrics (PVC, plastic, latex)
  • Makeup for both men and women, faces painted abstract
  • Hair dyed (hay yellow, jet black, bright orange)
  • Ripped school uniform- statement of breaking rules
  • Rapist masks and rubber wear, leather bodices, fishnet stockings, pornography


What Can We Learn from the Punks That Can Inform Our Practices?

  • Punks broke the rules of fashion
  • Punks changed the functions of many objects they wore- just like previous subcultures looked at, e.g. Hip Hop, Goths
  • Punks borrowed from the past and present to create their look- like previous case studies
  • Punks wanted to shock people
  • All subcultures shocking at the time they emerged
  • Learnt new words- Bricolage and homology
  • So far, the subcultures we have looked at do not want to look mainstream
  • Meaning’s come from how you use objects and create new meanings (the meaning of bricolage)
  • Subcultures exaggerate in some way or another

How can this be applied to my practice?

  • Everything has a symbolic meaning
  • Traditions used and broke- what functions did it originally have?
  • Breaking rules and over- exaggerating will help my practice be bolder
  • Explain creative decisions of work- why do I do something in a certain way?

The Zoot Suit and The Ted’s

This week in Constellation I have been learning about the subculture of The Zoot Suit and The Ted’s. I have been looking at the case studies,

Alford, H (2009) The Zoot Suit: Its History and Influence

In McNeil, P; Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg Karaminas, V (2009) Introduction – Subculture: Style and Resistance in McNeil, P;

Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg

Tulloch, C (2006) “My Man, let me pull your coat to something” Malcolm X in Bruzzi, S; Church Gibson, P (eds) (2006) Fashion Cultures. Theories, Explorations and Analysis London: Routledge

Summarising the Style  Characteristics of The Zoot Suit

I am using the case studies to find the style characteristics of the Zoot Suit.

  • Mainly young African Americans and Hispanic Americans, worn to show racial identity
  • Everything was exaggerated. E.g.- V knot tie, zoot chain, tight collar, wide flat hat, Dutch type shoes, suit in various colours (lime green or canary yellow)
  • Straighten their jet black hair
  • Worn by boys aged 16 to 20
  • They took the traditional suit and changed it. 1940’s white America did not allow these types of men to wear suits but they wore them anyway
  • Very baggy trousers at type but narrowed towards bottomScreen Shot 2016-11-24 at 15.43.40.png

The Ted’s

Summarising the Ted’s with the case study from

Jefferson, T (1976), In McNeil, P; Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg Karaminas, V (2009) Introduction – Subculture: Style and Resistance in McNeil, P;

Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg

 Teddy Boy Style Characteristics

  • Edwardian suit introduced in 1950 by a group of Saville Row tailors, attempting  to make a new style
  • Adressed to the young aristocratic men about town
  • Consisted of a long narrow lapel waisted jacket, narrow trousers (but not like drain pipes), ordinary toe capped shoes, fancy waistcoats
  • Shirts were white with cutaway collars, ties were tied with a Windsor knot
  • They wore trilby hats. Hair longer than the conventional short back and sides. Their hairstyle was called ‘ducktails’ and did not fit into traditional look
  • Modified the suit using the upperclass suits that once belonged to upperclass people
  • Re-appropriated the suit and wore it out on the street
  • Looks  like the Edwardian suit, however, when they spoke they had a strong cockney accent, not an upperclass, well spoken accent.They also got into fights on the streets, this is not upperclass either
  • Revived sub cultural styles of the 1970’s Teddy Boy look- same ties, shirts, waistcoat and jacket but worn with jeans and crepe suede shoes

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What Can We Learn from the Zoot Suiter’s and Ted’s that Can Inform Our Practices?

  • The Zoot suiters and The Ted’s borrow from the past (the suit-Edwardian)
  • They both re-appropriated and modified the suit
  • The use of appropriating could be used in my practice
  • The use of exaggerating could be used in my practice
  • Creating meanings
  • Breaks Rules (the Zoot suiters broke the rules by using massive amounts of material during the Second World War, during the time of rationing)
  • Both subcultures wore the suit, not traditionally worn by them