I'm an associate professor of fashion design and dress studies at Indiana University in the department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design. In addition, I'm a member of the African Studies Program (since 2004), Islamic Studies Program, the Middle Eastern Studies Program, and an adjunct faculty member in Anthropology. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my work.
My discipline is currently undergoing a transformation. While my PhD from the University of Minnesota was in “Design, Housing, and Apparel,” the term I most closely identify with today is “dress studies,” an emerging, inter-disciplinary field built on the foundations of costume history and fashion design as well as anthropology, folklore, and art history. As a qualitative researcher, my methods of study have included historiography, aesthetic evaluation, material culture analysis, ethnography, autoethnography, virtual ethnography, and textual analysis.
The undergraduate courses I teach include Textiles, Aesthetics, Dress Studies: Cultural Analysis, and Dress Studies: Dress and Religion. I am currently serving as the director of undergraduate studies for the African Studies Program. At the graduate level my position as adjunct in Anthropology allows me to co-chair and serve on MA/PhD committees. I am also serving as the director of graduate studies in AMID.
I study ordinary objects that are used in extraordinary circumstances, items of material culture surrounding the body that are used to reflect and shape transformations such as acculturation and religious conversion. This requires some innovative research methods (since people and cultures undergoing rapid change tend not to keep vast collections of objects and records) plus keeping an open mind about the role of dress as a means of personal and cultural expression. I am guided by the idea that
"Man is born naked, but dies and is buried with clothes on."
As soon as we enter this world, our bodies and our minds begin to accumulate social meanings encoded through dress, an intensely personal and multi-sensory medium. Dress is something that we see as well as feel, hear, smell, and taste. It refers not just to clothing, but to other body supplements and modifications such as jewelry, hairstyles, perfume, and tattoos. The social meanings enacted through dress can either be familiar and reassuring or cause tension for individuals who are caught between cultures with opposing values. Since my research has focused on African (Somali) and Islamic dress I am acutely aware that dress can also be a highly-charged political symbol whether the wearer intends it to be or not. In some cases we create a philosophy or identity and then choose a style of dress to symbolize it (a good example would be military uniforms), but more often people engage dress to help create something that only partially exists. We “dress the part” and hope that our plans for the future become reality.
 Hilaire Hiler, Meyer Hiler, Helen Grant Cushing, and Adah V. Morris (1939), Bibliography of Costume: A Dictionary Catalog of About Eight Thousand Books and Periodicals, New York: H.W. Wilson, pp xi.
 Joanne B. Eicher (2000), “Dress,” in Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women’s Issues and Knowledge, editors Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender, Routledge: New York, pp 422-423.
Thank you for visiting my website! Please click on the links to the left for more information about my academic background and publications.