16 January 2019 1:00pm-2:00pm
Pavilion Parade G7
University of Brighton


Veronica Isaac
Ellen Terry (1847-1928): Fashioning A New Biography

Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928) was one of the most popular and celebrated actresses of her generation. She achieved this status in spite of a professional career and personal life, which directly challenged conventional Victorian morality and social codes: encompassing three marriages, two illegitimate children, and at least two long term love affairs.

Whilst her career and life are by no means absent from theatrical record, the wider significance of the sartorial identities Terry adopted through both her personal dress and theatre costume have been largely overlooked within recent scholarship.

Through a close analysis of key pieces from Terry’s personal and theatrical wardrobe this paper will draw attention to the important part her dress played in a wider process of self-fashioning: in which Terry used her dress, both on and off the stage, to establish her status as an ‘Icon of Aestheticism’ and secure her enduring legacy as an actress who understood the ‘art’ of theatre.

This paper will feed into a discussion, with both the fellow presenter, Dr. Cheryl Roberts, and those attending, about how this research could feed into a new biography of Terry, in which dress would provide the starting point for a reassessment of her life and career.


Cheryl Roberts
Crossing Boundaries: Untangling Fashion, Business and Consumption History

In this informal session Cheryl will introduce her post PhD thesis plans for her research into the impact of the purchasing power of young working-class women in the 1930s on the production of mass manufactured fashionable lightweight day dresses. Her research crosses the boundaries of fashion, business and consumption history to unravel how young working-class women were ‘agents of change’ in the development of technology. She will consider, along with fellow presenter Dr. Veronica Isaac, the possibilities for a self-directed interdisciplinary research project and if it could become a selective and publishable book.



Image credit: Photograph of the sewing room of J. Pollack Blouse & Robe Manufacturers, 117-123 Golden Lane, London EC1, ca.1938. The Jewish Museum Photography Archive, London.
Accession number: 1306.5