Join us for the next session of our IOTA II Research Seminar Series – Free and open to all. More information, and the full series schedule can be found here


4 – 6pm, Thursday 27 April
Grand Parade, M2, City Campus


Dr Suzanne Rowland, University of Brighton

Unpicking Global Networks in British Blouse Design and Manufacturing (1880s-1920s)

This presentation expands from my PhD thesis which investigated the rise of the wholesale production of fashionable ready-made blouses. What began as a dressmaker-led, craft-based industry in 1890 had developed by the early 1910s as a producer-led, factory-based industry generating increased profits through efficiency gains. Due to the relative simplicity of design from 1909 onwards, the blouse was the ideal garment to upscale for production in mass quantities. Mass-manufacturing lowered prices and so, importantly, this was the first time that working-class women bought multiples of a single item of fashionable clothing. My thesis used Actor-Network Theory to reawaken working-class female actors in the blouse network in order to question power as a top-down domineering factor in business analysis. As I develop this subject into a book proposal, I am refocusing my research through a decolonial lens. This presentation examines blouse manufacturing advertisements from trade journal The Drapers’ Record to highlight and challenge the publication’s Western-centric, colonial narratives which brushed over important globalblouse design influences and trade networks that contributed greatly to the success of the industry.

Dr Suzanne Rowland is a lecturer in fashion and dress history in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton. She is a material culture scholar and interdisciplinary theorist with broad research interests in fashion design, manufacturing, and cross-class consumption from the early nineteenth century to the present day. With a background as a costume maker in film and theatre, she is particularly interested in how dress is manufactured and its corporeal relationship to the body. Her AHRC/Design Star PhD research investigated the design and wholesale manufacturing of women’s fashionable blouses during the 1910s through material culture, Actor-Network Theory, and storytelling. Recent publications include: Rowland, Suzanne. “‘A Day in the Life of Daisy the Blouse Maker in 1916’: Storytelling as a Creative Research and Teaching Methodology in Fashion History,”Fashion Studies, Vol. 4, 2022

Suzanne is a member of the Centre for Design History and is actively involved in two research groups:

‘Tailored Clothes for Women, 1750-1930’ European Research group Apparences, Corps et Sociétés  and 19th Century Dress and Textiles Reframed