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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Hegland Teaches Social/Cultural Aspects of Clothing

LAS CRUCES -- It's said that the clothes make the person. Jane Hegland, assistant professor of home economics at New Mexico State University, believes there is more to it than that because people choose and reject certain types of dress for complex reasons.


Hegland, a Minnesota native, teaches clothing, textiles and fashion merchandising courses regarding the social and cultural aspects of clothing selection and human behavior. She teaches students to manipulate forms of dress to make the consumer look and feel good.

In her classes, she also discusses historic clothing and why certain classes of people dressed certain ways. "Where we've been helps us to understand where we're going," Hegland explains to her students.

She is currently working on a study through NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station on the use of student uniforms in the Las Cruces schools as a way of managing ethnic and socio-economic differences between students, and for controlling violence and drugs. Hegland is concerned that changing what the students wear may not necessarily change the way they act in a social setting.

In another research project, Hegland is attempting to dispel the myth that a woman's clothing can somehow relate to her probability of being raped. Often in the courts, a woman is asked what she was wearing at the time of the rape. "Since rape is not about sex but about power, what a woman is wearing really has nothing to do with whether she'll be raped," Hegland said.

Hegland is a member of the International Textile and Apparel Association, the Textile Council, and the Costume Society of America. She recently received a grant from the Center for International Programs to study the textile and apparel industry in Korea this summer. "Korea is a heavy textile production area, and I'm hoping to be able to use this opportunity to teach my students more about the international apparel industry," she said.

Hegland received her bachelor's degree in psychology and design from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. She received both her master's degree and doctorate from the University of Minnesota in textiles and clothing. Hegland joined NMSU as an assistant professor in August 1995.

For her master's thesis and doctoral dissertation, she researched gender issues and dress, or what type of clothing defines "male" and "female" in our culture. Her thesis focused on various social aspects of cross-dressing and her dissertation explored the ritual of high school prom, with its related forms of dress.

Hegland chooses fabrics and patterns carefully for one of her hobbies, quilting. A quilt she created for her parents' 40th wedding anniversary was chosen for exhibit at the International Textile and Apparel Association. The quilt, entitled "Furrowed Fields: Life from the Soil," pays tribute to her parents' rich agricultural heritage.