Clothes, Working Lives and Social Change

Call for Papers : Clothes, Working Lives and Social Change, 1880–1939
Two-Day International Conference
(Bishopsgate Institute, London 12–13 September 2014)

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
Professor Eugenia Paulicelli (Queen’s College and The Graduate
Center, City University of New York)
Professor Lou Taylor (University of Brighton)

This cross-disciplinary conference explores the relationship between
work, clothes and social change at the turn of the twentieth century.

During the long nineteenth century mechanized manufacturing,
accelerated modes of production and innovative trades and industries
created employment possibilities for an increasingly professionalized
workforce. While factory and clerical workers, shop girls and other
members of a newly established workforce faced changing working hours
and environments, a transformation of clothes paralleled this
revolution in trades and industries. New vocations required new
vestments at a time when the affordability of mass-produced clothing
launched the ready-to-wear industry. Social mobility expressed itself
in new sartorial patterns and specific uniforms or dresses became the
markers of professional identity and social mobility. At the turn of
the twentieth century the histories of dress and labour shared many
common threads.

Hosted by the Bishopsgate Institute in London’s East End, this
interdisciplinary conference brings together scholars from the
Humanities, the Social Sciences and the Creative Arts who have
research interests in the intersecting histories of clothes and
labour at the turn of the twentieth century.

Topics include but are by no means restricted to:

•    Sweated Labour and the Clothing Industry
•    Clothes and the New Workforce (especially working women)
•    Work in the Fashion Industry (seamstresses, models, designers)
•    Haute Couture versus Ready-to-Wear Garments
•    Film Stars, Celebrity Culture and Clothes
•    Textiles and Communities of Immigrant Workers (particularly
London’s East End)
•    Uniforms
•    The Politics of Fashion and the Coding of Clothes
•    Clothing, Work and Consumption (especially in times of war)
•    Work and Rural Dress

The conference organizers invite paper proposals of 300 words by 30
April 2014. Please email abstracts to We
invite abstracts from scholars at all career stages and are
particularly interested in receiving proposals from textile curators
who work on projects related to turn-of-the-century fashion and design.
This conference is part of a series of research events on the
interconnected histories of clothes and labour funded by the AHRC
Connected Communities programme.

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