AHRC/Design Star PhD researcher Suzanne Rowland and Professor Emirita Lou Taylor update us on the recent activity on the RIG-ACORSO micro-research project: ‘Fashionable Tailoring for Women 1850-1920 from European ateliers, Department Stores and factories and its gendered social and cultural impact.’ 

Appearances, Bodies, and Societies Research Interest Group (RIG-Acorso) is an international research group of around 30 universities and museums across Europe focusing on the history and anthropology of dress, fashion and appearances in Western societies, from the Renaissance to the present day. Hosted at the University of Rennes (France), one of ACORSO’s fundamental objectives is ‘to foster close collaboration between academic research centres and museums (both public and private).’ The University of Brighton has been a member for 5 years. Lou Taylor was involved in the setting up of this group and is on the steering committee. Marie Mcloughlin and Suzanne Rowland and others in our group have attended and spoken at AGM meetings in Paris at INHA, at the Musée de l’Armée, Sorbonne, 5, and also at University of Lille 3.

Building on joint study days with Institute Histoire de Temps Présent – CNRS, from 2009, research articles by Charlotte Nicklas, Cheryl Roberts, Jennifer Roberts, Marie McLoughlin, and Lou Taylor were published in the ACORSO journal ‘Apparences’ in 2017-19. A book, to be published in 2021 following the 2018 ACORSO Strasbourg conference ‘Fashion and Clothing in Small and Medium Sized Museums contains a chapter by Charlotte Nicklas, Lou Taylor and Suzanne Rowland. The research heart of ACORSO consists of small micro- research projects whose members are drawn from across Europe. Findings will be published on an ACORSO web site, in ‘Apparences’ and elsewhere.

The Tailoring project:
Our ACORSO micro-research project aims to make the first trans-European comparative study of the development and consumption of mass manufactured tailored garments for women, made or sold in department stores and by wholesale ready-to-wear companies in the 1860-1914 period. In particular, we are looking for clothes representing developments in sartorial modernity, for example, specially designed tailored suits and coats worn for travel. We are interested in innovative methods of manufacturing, from couture to the cheapest mass production. We also assess the wider social context of wearing tailored garments and the blouses worn beneath, as sartorially significant, newly fashionable garments, finally affordable to the mass of urban women in this period, and the related second-hand trade.

Our steering committee is comprised of CDH members Lou Taylor, Marie McLoughlin, Charlotte Nicklas, Hannah Rumball and Suzanne Rowland, plus two valued external members with international expertise: Sarah Johnson (USA), and Waleria Dogorova (Germany). We have a Teams group where each member contributes research to a collection of files, and where we hold monthly committee meetings.

In January 2020 we held our first symposium by kind invitation of Prof. Elke Gaugele at the Austrian Center for Fashion Research, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna with presentations from Michaela Lindiger, costume curator at the Wien Museum, Lou Taylor presented, Mass-produced tailored clothes for women in the UK by 1900, Marie McLoughlin, Henry Creed and couture tailoring. London and Paris, 1880-1920, Charlotte Nicklas, Women, tailored clothes and Travel, 1860-1910, Hannah Rumball, The tailored Ulster for women from 1860-1914, and Suzanne Rowland, The development of blouses worn beneath tailored clothes 1850-1918. At the end of the day we agreed on the parameters of our research and ideas were proposed on how to fruitfully disseminate our research findings.

Forthcoming Activities:
On November 26th 2020, we are hosting a small study event on Teams. Invited speakers will contribute 10-minute presentations on the theme: ‘Early tailored clothes for women, 1800-1875.’ Planning is currently underway for an international conference and study event called: ‘The Transnational Diffusion of Women’s Tailoring style across Europe and America’ (dates to be decided). Hopefully, if the pandemic allows, this will be held in Belfast, in Autumn 2021 and if not, it will be an online event.