Using fashion to educate about women’s history

Tue 31 Oct 2017 11:00:00 AM EET

EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2017. The SAOL project played a part in helping socially marginalised women gain a renewed sense of their own personal story, setting it in the wider context of historical study.

The article series shares good practices on engaging new learners by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2017.

SAOL Project was started in 1995 as a result of findings from a Master’s thesis on ‘Women and Addiction’. Carmel Dunne, a local Health Service manager, noted that women on methadone needed specific services that could attend to their needs. Since then SAOL has been providing education and support for different women in addiction.

The targeted women of the project are amongst the most socially marginalised people in Ireland, facing poverty, social isolation, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities. Thus, the SAOL project played a part in helping the women gain a renewed sense of their own personal story, setting it in the wider context of historical study.

To do so, SAOL started a project that focused on fashion to understand women’s social and political lives throughout the last century. The project also led to the creation of a fashion show, where students used recycled clothes to represent each decade from the last century. From working out how to up-cycle clothes bought in local charity shops, to developing choreography, a dance routine, time-appropriate music, a photo-shoot or magazine covers, students had the possibility to engage with various learning styles.

From historical narratives to personal stories

Along the way, issues such as discrimination, education and health became part of the discussion. Many of the students could empathise with women who had struggled in the past, relating these to their own current struggles. It helped them build self-confidence, developed their leadership and research skills and lifted the label of ‘junkie’ that had been put on them by some members of the society.

Throughout the project, women have discussed their own development of personal skills – confidence, self-esteem, creativity, re-assessment of body image as well as team working.

Thanks to this project, by providing creative and socially appropriate education programmes for women, SAOL is working towards transforming the way in which Ireland responds to addiction and poverty.

The project: SAOL’s Fashion Show ‘The use of Fashion to Show women’s history through the last century’
  • Award category: National projects (Ireland)
  • Learner target group: Socially marginalised women
  • Innovative practice: Combining historical narratives and personal strories

Project coordinator

Resources

Text: Lou-Andréa Pinson
Photo: Ray Hegarty, SAOL project