A new digital seminar series exploring the history of dress, fashion & bodily adornment.

The Sartorial Society Series is a new digital seminar programme, which aims to showcase the most exciting and innovative research in the historical study of dress, fashion, and bodily adornment. 

Each season of the series will consist of 6 online seminars, conducted fortnightly over an online platform. Our inaugural season of papers, Creative Approaches to Dress History, launched Autumn 2020 and will be followed by our second season, Human Stories of Dress, starting in January 2021. Sessions run on Thursday evenings from 6pm. 

Sessions will contain papers from two or three speakers, as we strive to make connections and draw out the symbiotic threads across our work. 

Most importantly, the series will encourage collegiality and will be an open, inclusive and friendly space to meet others interested in dress history. We encourage BYO wine, tea or soft drink of choice and invite you to join the post-talk Q&A. 

The Sartorial Society Series is organised by a group of dress historians and curators with the aim of celebrating the diverse, innovative, and excellent research emerging in the field of dress history. We want to create a space that welcomes and supports dress historians from all backgrounds, and fosters positive connections within our field. 

The Sartorial Society Series is proud to be supported by the Pasold Research Fund.



‘The past has to be taken apart. Old themes are worn as new details.’ - Judith Clark


When introduced to histories of dress, we are often met with timelines of fashion that imply a neat, progressive evolution of fashionable styles through the years. Clothing is framed as an index to history. Yet dress does not conform to an orderly chronology. It is full of disruptive reverberations, re-interpretations and revivals. The fashions of the past are repeatedly dismantled and reimagined, sending sartorial echoes through time. 


The historic resonance of dress can also carry an emotional weight on a personal level. Clothes can serve as welcome memories of loved ones, or less-welcome spectres of the past. Memories of clothes can be deeply nostalgic, while the garments not-worn can serve as ‘sliding-door’ moments, causing us to dwell on the parallel lives we did not live or bodies unlike our own. This has been explored, for example, by Shahidha Bari, who describes ‘spectral visions of ourselves [that] haunt these garments like all things that are romanticised and never realised.’


Dress maintains its capacity to ‘haunt’ in the setting of the museum or archive. Elizabeth Wilson described museums of dress as ‘mausoleums of culture’: haunted and eerie. She stated that ‘there are dangers in seeing what should have been sealed up in the past. We experience a sense of the uncanny when we gaze at garments that had an intimate relationship with human beings long since gone to their graves.’ Carol Tulloch has written of the power of archives to access personal fashion histories that may otherwise have been lost, suggesting that: ‘archives enable a lived experience to be revived and reassessed time and time again.’


Through encounters with historic dress, we use objects and archival material to visit the past, but every version of the past is shaped by the present. We invite contributions that explore the historicism, hauntings and heritage bound up in our clothes. Subjects and approaches could include (but are not limited to) any of the following:


  • Historic revivals in fashionable dress

  • Historicism, interpretations and re-interpretations of the past

  • Non-chronological perspectives on dress history 

  • Dress as spectre, dress hauntings

  • Clothes as memories - nostalgia, longing, loss 

  • Sartorial inheritances - intergenerational connections, past trauma, shared stories

  • Objects as time travel, collections as portals 

  • The utilisation of dress heritage, museums as cultural mausoleums 

  • Physical evidence of the past lives of dress - conservation perspectives 

  • Archival fragments - reviving and reassessing lives through dress 


Alongside the standard 20 minute research seminar papers, we offer 10 minute slots for researchers to try out new and fresh projects, or for those who are newer to the world of dress research. If your paper is selected, we are happy to offer support to prepare your presentation, if required. We are also really keen to support underrepresented voices in dress history, and warmly welcome papers from those who identify as LGBTQ+ or Black, Asian, or other People of Colour. 

We invite speakers to submit a brief 250 word abstract of their paper, a title, and a 100 word biography via email to Please also indicate if you would like to present in a 20 minute or 10 minute slot. The organisers can also be reached on twitter @SartorialSeries.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 8th April. The season will run through May and June, and you will be given a time slot within this period. Please state any dates you could not speak in your submission. Sessions take place Thursday evenings starting 6pm UK time.





Dress can tell diverse stories of human life. Its materiality has preserved and privileged different lives to those recorded in print, pen and paint. Dress breaks through the barriers often imposed in written and visual sources, and can be used to understand and explore the lives of those who may have been excluded from the written record. 


The field of dress history has championed the representation of women’s stories, but that history is primarily white and wealthy. In this season we want to explore varied stories of human life, and to particularly highlight research where dress is used to access underrepresented stories. 


Dress encompasses both shared experience and deeply personal stories. It allows people to tell stories about themselves within their lifetime, while the afterlives of dress enable dress scholars to reassemble and share stories about the past. 


All sessions are held on Thursday evenings at 6pm UK time (BST/GMT) 

Week One: Life Fragments

21st January 2021


Alison Matthews David & Kate Strasdin (20-minute paper)

Missing Friends: Stitching Together Stories from Nineteenth-century Textile Swatches


Alden O’Brien (20-minute paper)

Dress and Dressmaking as Seen in a Connecticut Diary, 1801-21 ​


 Register for week 1 here 



Week Two: Subversions & Traditions

28th January 2021


Katie May Anderson (10-minute paper)

Evolving heritage: Queer interactions with Dutch folk dress


​Li-Xuan Teo (10-minute paper)

The Kebaya in 20th Century Malaysia and Singapore


Ilya Parkins (20-minute paper)

Feeling Cool, Feeling Powerful: Wedding Apparel Experiences of Queer and Trans People

 Register for week 2 here 


Week Three: Recontextualised Lives

11th February 2021


Isabella Rosner (20-minute paper)

Sampling Samplers: Sartorial Experiments in the 20th and 21st Centuries


Faith Cooper (20-minute paper)

A Fashionable Fetish: Examining the Qipao in the Eyes of the West


 Register for week 3 here 


Book Launch

25th February 2021

Serena Dyer

Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the 18th Century


 Register for Serena Dyer’s book launch here 

Week Four: Re-examining Class

11th March 2021


Lucie Bea Dutton (10-minute paper)

Queens of Silk


Kristina Francescutti (10-minute paper)

“Not the Wife of a Noble”: The Sartorial Biography of an Italian Common Woman


Valerie Wilson (20-minute paper)

Cut, make and trim: Women’s work in garment manufacturing in Ulster 1880 – 1960

 Register for week 4 here 


Week Five: Collection Stories

25th March 2021

Emily Gallagher (10-minute paper)

Uncovering Victorian and Edwardian (1850-1910) working-class dress in England’s museums


Lucie Whitmore & Bethan Bide (20-minute paper)

Lost & Found: Human stories in Jewish-made fashion objects 


Cassie Davies-Strodder (20-minute paper)

Lost Stories: Personal collections of clothing and the museum


 Register for week 5 here 


​ Week Six: Illustrating Bodies

15th April 2021


Holly Fletcher (20-minute paper)

Fatness and Fashion: The Dressed Experience of Bodyweight in Early Modern Germany


Dolla Merrillees (20-minute paper)

From Isfahan to London


 Register for week 6 here 



Week Seven: Self-Fashioned Youth

29th April 2021


Mariela Aguero (10-minute paper)

Post-Subcultural Groups in Costa Rica: Clothing Styles During the 1990s


Rosie Findlay (20-minute paper)

Fashion as Mood, Style as Atmosphere: Creative Fashion Writing in London Review of Looks


Jo Jenkinson (20-minute paper)

Portrait Youth: Documenting narratives of youth through styling and dress


 Register for week 7 here 



Dr Elisabeth Gernerd

Dr Lucie Whitmore


Dr Bethan Bide

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Dr Serena Dyer

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Dr Liz Tregenza

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