Fashionable Tailoring for Women, 1750-1920


Call for Papers

Two-day international online conference, 18th and 25th September 2021

Women’s Tailored Clothes across Britain, Ireland, Europe and America, 1750-1920

Organised by the European-wide ACORSO Research Interest Group ‘Tailoring for Women 1750–1920,’ this two-day conference aims to explore the following aspects of tailored clothes for women: their material culture and their trans-European and trans-Atlantic diffusions and intersections of design, manufacture, trade and commerce.

We define women’s tailoring as bespoke, made to measure, ready-to-wear and mass manufactured tailored feminine garments made, usually but not always in wool cloth, by tailors using specific, professional tailors’ pattern cutting and making up skills and processes and sold in couture salons, department stores, individual tailoring establishments and wholesale ready-to-wear companies and through the second- hand clothes trade in the 1750 -1920 period. We are including tailors/tailoring from Britain, Europe and North America in our research. Dressmakers also, though far less frequently, also designed and made up such garments and we include them too.

DAY ONE:  18th September: ‘Tailored clothes for women in Ireland-1750-1920 in the context of Irish social history.’

Themes might include:

  • The design and manufacture of women’s shirts and blouses.
  • Emigration of Irish tailors to USA.
  • Tailored clothing at all social levels: from the poor through to tweedy sporty/shooting, hunting couture garments throughout Ireland.
  • The trade in second-hand tailored clothes.
  • The role of Irish department stores in manufacturing and disseminating tailored clothing.
  • Distinctions between tailored rural dress and urban dress.
  • The Irish role in the development of tweed and waterproofing.
  • Analysis of wardrobe collections and photographs of individual women who wore tailored clothes.
  • The collecting and display of women’s tailored clothing in museums with an emphasis on what survives and what does not.

DAY TWO: 25th September: ‘The Transnational Diffusion of Women’s Tailoring style across Britain, Europe and America: 1750-1920.’

Themes might include:

  • Emigration of tailors to USA- from Britain and Europe, 1750-1900.
  • The spread of tailored fashionable styles for women to and from Britain, Europe and USA within the period 1750-1920.
  • Blouses, hats or accessories worn with tailored clothes for women in one specific timeframe within the period 1750-1920.
  • Assessment of tailored garments for women made and marketed at branches of leading trans-European and trans-Atlantic couture salons -1870-1920. Did one country lead this design development?
  • Middle class women as consumers of fashionable tailored clothes in the mid 19th century with an analysis of the function and sources of such garments.
  • The development of cheapest levels of mass manufactured tailored clothes for women in UK, Germany, Austria, France, USA and elsewhere – 1850-1910 and its diffusion.
  • Pattern cutting systems for women’s tailored garments and their trans-European and trans-Atlantic diffusion.
  • Hostility to tailored styles for women between 1750-1920 through cartoons/text or images.
  • Analysis of etiquette rules attached to the fabric of, and the wearing of, fashionable tailored garments for women, 1750-1920.
  • Assessment of the quality and price differences at all market levels of tailored clothes for women manufactured in one country and within one specific timeframe: e.g., 1870-75 ,1895, 1910, or 1920.
  • The design and development of tailor-made travelling or sporting clothes for women.
  • Analysis of wardrobe collections and photographs of individual women who wore tailored clothes.
  • The collecting and display of women’s tailored clothing in museums with an emphasis on what survives, what does not and why.

We invite proposals for papers of 20 minutes. Please send abstracts of up to 300 words with a biography of 50 words to Dr Suzanne Rowland and Prof. Emerita Lou Taylor  by 21st June 2021.

For conference support we would like to express our sincere gratitude to ACORSO and to the Centre for Design History, University of Brighton.

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