Heather Akou

Program Director, Fashion Design; Associate Professor, Fashion Design

(812) 855-6163

Fashion history and theory, culture, politics, museum collections
IU Bloomington
Kirkwood Hall 300


  • Ph.D., Design, Housing & Apparel, University of Minnesota, 2005
  • M.A., Design, Housing & Apparel, University of Minnesota, 2001
  • B.A., Studio Art, Macalester College, 1998


Dr. Heather Akou is a historian of fashion, dress, and the body. Her research interests include African dress and fashion, contemporary Islamic fashion, working-class histories of dress in the United States, uniforms, lawmaking about dress and the body, secret society regalia, and the politics of museum collections. She teaches primarily courses in fashion studies including fashion history, fashion theory, cultural aspects of dress, and autobiographies of dress and the body. Dr. Akou is the co-founder and co- director of the Dress and Body Association and serves on the editorial board of Dress as well as the editorial advisory board for Bloomsbury Fashion Central.

At IU, Dr. Akou is also an adjunct associate professor in Art History, Anthropology, and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, an affiliate of the African Studies Program, Islamic Studies Program, and the Center for Studies of the Middle East, and a core member of the MA in Curatorship program.

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Recent Publications

Heather Akou (completed draft under contract), On the Job: A History of American Work Uniforms, London: Bloomsbury Academic.

JoAnn McGregor, Heather Akou, and Nicola Stylianou, eds. (2022), Creating African Fashion Histories: Politics, Museums, and Sartorial Practices, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Heather Akou (2022), “Islamic Fashion,” Routledge Handbook of Islamic Ritual and Practice, ed. Oliver Leaman, New York: Routledge, pp. 314-324.

Heather Akou (2022), “Beyond Listening: Systemic Transformation in Fashion Studies and Fashion Collections,” African Arts, 55(2): pp. 6-7.

Heather Akou (2021), ‘Playing Pocahontas: Secret Society Regalia for Women in the United States, 1900-1950,’ The Journal of Dress History, 5(5): pp. 8-42

Heather Akou (2021), 'Telling History through Costumes,’ The Art of the Character: Highlights from the Glenn Close Costume Collection, London: Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, pp. 55-63.

Heather Akou (2020), “Food-Service Uniforms and the Symbolism(s) of Wearing a Mask,” Clothing Cultures, 7(2): pp. 147-163.

Heather Akou (2020), ‘Prison Uniforms on the Outside: Intersections with US Popular Culture,’ Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, 7(4): pp. 473-499.

Heather Akou (2020), ‘Freedom of Speech: A Recent History of Political T-shirts in the United States, Clothing Cultures, special issue on ‘Dress During Times of Unrest,’ 6(2): pp. 179-198.