Part of: Class Of 2020

Fashion History and Theory: Central Saint Martins

published on 11 June 2020

Explore the BA Fashion Communication: Fashion History and Theory pathway's final year projects and theses.

Explore the BA Fashion Communication: Fashion History and Theory pathway's final year projects and theses.

1. Cross-Dressing Performers in World War I Prisoner-of-War Camps: Expressions of Sexuality or Escapism Through Dress and Performance? By Alisha Shepherd.

My dissertation explores whether cross-dressing within WWI prisoner-of-war camp theatre was an expression of sexuality or a form of escapism through dress and performance. It discusses the varied world of prisoner-of-war camps and investigates the scale and intricacies of all elements of the theatre. Through these investigations it aims to show how important entertainment and the need for escapism was and how sexuality and gender could be explored under the guise of performance. It also investigates how costume and fashionable dress played a crucial role in constructing gender ideals and representing a normalised version of pre-war society.  

2. Ways of Seeing: Accuracy versus Authenticity in costume in the films 'The Duchess' (2008) and 'The Favourite' (2018). By Amelia Spinks.

My thesis is an analysis of costume in two period films set in the 18th century, The Duchess (2008) and The Favourite (2018), each representing different approaches towards accuracy and authenticity. Costume is an important element of period film and a crucial aspect of the mise-en-scène, immediately connecting audiences to the past. Period films are given little positive critical attention but still remain a popular genre with the public. My research gave me the opportunity to question theories surrounding accuracy, authenticity, film audiences, costume design and gender. I have considered how costume designers draw from historical dress, the changing attitudes to period costume design and how costume is influencing contemporary fashion. 

3. A Brief Inquiry into the Indie Ideologies of The 1975. By Beth Atkinson.

My thesis explores the ever-growing mainstream representation of the British indie music scene and how style effects the indie status of indie bands. Subcultural and post-subcultural theory is used to support notions of the mainstream and the alternative and position the indie music scene in contemporary culture. Specifically focusing on the British indie band The 1975, I explore how their style within the mainstream media influences the band's status as an indie band by using visual analysis to explore and identify indie ideologies in comparing a sample of magazine covers of indie bands from the 1980s to present day.  

4. Jewish femininity through the lens of Ella Zirner-Zweiback and Madame d’Ora. By Elisabeth Heinisch.

Vienna’s position as an important European fashion city at the beginning of the 20th century was primarily established by Jewish enterprise, and much of its history is now lost because of the Shoa. Yet, the lives of Vienna's creators afford an insight into this history. My thesis examines representations of Jewish femininity, attitudes towards modernity and difference expressed by clothing and photography through the lives of two Jewish career women in interwar Vienna: department store proprietor Ella Zirner-Zwieback and studio photographer Madame d’Ora. Pioneers of their time, they each made a significant contribution to the Viennese fashion industry through their work. 

5. Norwegian National Dress: An Invented Tradition? By Hannah Aastad.

In my thesis I explore Norwegian national dress, or bunad as it is known today. The bunad is part of the Norwegian cultural heritage, passed on from generation to generation through use, stories, crafts and the local communities the bunad represents. Norwegians consider their bunad as part of their identity and many people therefore have strong feelings in regard to the bunad and how it should be treated and conserved. Although the bunad has strong historical ties, it is not as historical as we assume and through my thesis I explore it as an invented tradition.  

6. After two centuries of sartorial heritage, how did Nutters affect revolutionary change on Savile Row? By Jasper Greig.

I explore how Nutters, the maverick tailoring partnership of Edward Sexton and Tommy Nutter, dramatically collided with the entrenched heritage of Savile Row. The landed classes found their assured place at the top threatened and their power, taste and assumptions increasingly irrelevant. This was a significant part of the social revolution of the sixties: the tectonic plates of fashion and lifestyle were altered as the winds of change roared through Savile Row. Nutters democratised the street and opened it up to a whole new market of younger consumers wanting clothes that were expressive, and with a sense of the new.

7. Between war, women and fashion: The photographic work of Lee Miller. By Kayla Connors.

This thesis studies the life and work of Elizabeth 'Lee' Miller: a female photographer born in 1907 who successfully inserted herself into a male-dominated sphere by working for both American and British Vogue for the entirety of her career, documenting not only fashion but the front lines of a total war. Although a very successful and acclaimed photographer, Miller did not achieve this success with ease. She, like many before her, had to overcome many social obstacles to reach her success, only having two shows in her lifetime before her recent resurgence. There is noticeably an imbalance between the number of acclaimed male and female photographers, with the males dominating photographic history. This is not to say that there aren’t successful female photographers; there have been many women who set the stage for other women. It is important to further study these women and the full extent of their work. Lee Miller has had a huge influence on both photographic and fashion history and deserves to be studied to the same extent, along with other female artists.

8. The Performance of Orientalism and Fashion in K-Pop Music Videos. By Kika de Lima Barbosa Bordola.

My thesis looks into how the academic world perceives K-Pop and the impact which music video, along with the evolution of digital technologies and social media, contributed to the rise of K-Pop and its spread onto foreign markets. Through looking at YG Entertainment’s girl group Blackpink, the thesis examines the relationship between Western fashion houses and K-Pop idols and how both benefit from it, and how the music video is an important tool in the marketing of both these parties. The thesis also explores the themes of globalisation and orientalism and how these have possibly contributed or allowed the success of K-Pop. BTS’s Idol music video illustrates the concept of hybridity which many scholars refer to as key in K-Pop’s rise as well as its success in the West. 

9. From the Shōju to Hello Kitty: An exploration into the rise and shifting perceptions of Kawaii in Japan. By Mary McCartan.

My dissertation explores the rise and shifting perception of kawaii in Japan. By chronologically tracing one of its origins in the early 20th century, it investigates the role of shōjo artists leading up to Japan’s involvement in World War II. From here, it explores the existence of kawaii in terms of culture and aesthetics as well as the arrival of a ‘cute’ consumer culture and fashion subcultures – notably the Lolitas. My investigation is brought into the 21st century through the findings of two focus groups with Japanese students that centred around perception and experience and provided key primary research for my investigation.  

10. Myths, Materials and Memories of Women and Leisure in 1950s Britain: A Study of Southend-on-Sea, Swimsuits, and the Lived Experience. By Polly Francis.

The thesis seeks to explore key themes of leisure and fashion in the post-war period, focusing on the local context of Southend-on-Sea. Chapter one explores representations of the 1950s, including archival film and newspaper articles. The following chapter looks at surviving dress from the Southend Museums Service archive. The case study of a cream sateen swimsuit is analysed in detail and related to the wider themes of fashion and leisure in this post-war context. In the final chapter, an oral testimony provides a narrative of lifestyle in the 1950s, including fashion, leisure and the seaside experience at Southend.  

1. 'Cross-Dressing Performers in World War One Prisoner of War Camps: Expressions of Sexuality or Escapism through Dress and Performance?'


Three photographs displayed at the 2018 exhibition Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers held at the Photographers Gallery, sparked my interest in the subject. The accompanying object labels explained the lively theatre scene taking place within some camps, they sold tickets, programmes, alcohol and in some cases even invited civilians to be in the audience. As I started to research, I came across the exhibition, Mein Kamerad - Die Diva, translating to, My Comrade - The Diva, held at the Schwules Museum, Berlin, in 2014. While listening to an interview with one of the curators Anke Vetter, what struck me most was: how did these prisoners have access to costume, make up and wigs? What I learnt from this exhibition was the varied nature that performances took, and how the class and status of prisoners had huge implications. For example, if you were an officer you were paid an allowance and didn’t have to work, whereas if you were a soldier you would have had to undertake agricultural work for little or no pay, therefore having little or no time for the theatre.

Performers pose at a makeshift bar, the placard between them reads ‘German stage scene, Early in the morning when the rooster crows.’ Unfortunately, the location and date are unknown. Image courtesy of the Schwules Museum archive in Berlin.

I wanted my work to explore whether cross-dressing within these camps was an expression of sexuality or a form of escapism. Through these investigations, I also wanted to demonstrate how important entertainment and the need for escapism was to prisoners, and how sexuality and gender could be explored under the guise of performance. What I found was that cross-dressing within prisoner-of-war camps could not be pinned to one answer and, in fact, took place for so many divergent reasons. Without the constructs of everyday life, many prisoners felt a sense of liberation while on stage or watching from the audience. The theatre provided a distraction from the horrors of their everyday life. Crucial to any performance is the costume, and within prisoner-of-war camps, even with limited access to materials, they still recreated fashionable clothing. This recreation of the fashionable silhouette helped to offer both a vision of home but also mask the sexual connotations, allowing the audience to view male performers in the form of feminine attraction. Clothing enabled a dissociation with reality and allowed an air of ‘anything’s possible,' even within the confines of the prisoner-of-war camp.

Confidential Correspondence on Cross-Dressing, a collection of letters taken from the English newspaper Bits of Fun, allowed contributors to write in and discuss all elements of their fascination and love for dressing in feminine clothing. Those writing in were from varied backgrounds but what they all shared was a fascination with detail, one sergeant describing his corseted waist size of 23in and a heel height of 3 1/2 - 4in. These letters demonstrated the transformative nature of clothing and the importance placed on fashion, even in wartime or whilst in captivity. The transformative nature was shown widely through so many prisoner-of-war performances, but one in particular stood out. Emmerich Laschitz, an Austrian prisoner of war interned at Achinsk camp in Serbia, became one of the most famous female impersonators. Playing Sensual Salome in 1916 at the camp's theatre cemented Emmerich’s celebrity; Emmerich’s own personal memoirs talk of having ‘grey-bearded officers’ as chamber maids, and a personal suite right by the camp guards. Emmerich’s performance of Salome was particularly transgressive, as the play, written by Oscar Wilde in 1894, was not performed in England until 1931, as it was deemed too shocking for audiences, but in a 1916 Serbian prisoner-of-war camp, nothing was too shocking.

Cross-dressing within these camps cannot be pinned down to one meaning, and ultimately was used as a means of escapism either from the horrors of war, or the looming civilian ideals of the heterosexual military male. It gave way for new relationships amongst men and allowed an escape from their situation through explorations into their softer side. The ad-hoc nature of the costumes and theatre is an area in which I feel there is need for more investigation. Cross-dressing within WWI and prisoner-of-war camps is an important area of research as it links together material culture, fashion, gender and sexuality and explores new ideas of the military male aesthetic.

2. 'Ways of Seeing: Accuracy versus Authenticity in costume in the films The Duchess (2008) and The Favourite (2018)'


Watching how historical dress is adapted into film costume has always piqued my interest, and the topic lent itself perfectly to a thesis. It quickly became obvious that accuracy and authenticity are key terms when it comes to the discussion of period films, and in particular, costume. My research and reading displayed how important accuracy is considered to be; I wanted to find out whether it is in fact crucial to have accurate costume, and how important accuracy is for audiences watching. Could inaccurate costumes work just as well as those that are accurate? I was also intrigued as to what points of reference costume designers use, and how these influence the final costume designs. During my research, it quickly became clear how little academic writing exists on period films, yet there continues to be frequent period film releases at the cinema or costume dramas on television. Period films have long been favoured by the public, but have not received the same recognition by critics, and have often been disregarded as a ‘feminine’ genre of film. The same can be said for costume - there is limited analysis and it continues to be viewed as a ‘feminine’ part of film. Costume is a crucial feature of the mise-en-scène; communicating with audiences to support the characterisation and plot of the film. Since period costume is so different to our contemporary wardrobe, my thesis also explores how costume designers are able to communicate with viewers through the medium of costume.

Still from The Favourite (2018). Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. [Film]. USA: Fox Searchlight Pictures

I focused my analysis on two case studies, The Duchess (2008) and The Favourite (2018), both of which are set in the 18th century. These films are two diverse examples of the genre and feature their own unique interpretations of 18th century dress. Determining the accuracy and authenticity of costumes meant taking a looking at portraits and surviving dress from the era. This was easy for The Duchess as the film is set in the instantly recognisable, floral-filled Rococo period. The process was more of a challenge for The Favourite; there is much less surviving dress from this period and Queen Anne’s rather short-lived reign at the very beginning of the 18th century appears to have been forgotten among the plethora of eccentric kings and queens in British history. Both of my case studies were biographical period films; this meant I could have a quick scroll through the online archives at the National Portrait Gallery and Chatsworth House to find portraits of the characters I was looking for. The online archives at Metropolitan Museum of Art became an imperative source for searching for relevant surviving dress from the 18th century. I trawled through many incredible pieces of 18th century couture to find ones that met my two criteria: one, it was from Britain, and two, it was either made between 1700 and 1710, or 1770 onwards. I was then able to compare these surviving pieces to the modern costumes to clearly show the changes and adaptations (or lack of) that costume designers Sandy Powell and Michael O’Connor had made. Sandy Powell’s BAFTA-winning costumes for The Favourite had also been the subject of many interviews with the designer, meaning I could understand the inspiration and intentions for the monochromatic costumes and unconventional material choices. The Duchess was made in 2008, and as a result, there appeared to be almost no information available online regarding Michael O’Connor’s Academy Award-winning costumes. Instead, I sat on a balcony in Florence and chatted to O’Connor over the phone to discuss his research process and understand how he designs costumes that support the narrative arc of the film, as well as incorporating any input from directors and actors.

During the hours I spent reading, I realised that the majority of texts I had looked at were written by women and, given that costume is often considered a ‘feminine’ area of film, as is period film, I wanted to explore gender discourse. I delved further into how gender has an effect on costume, period film and the theories surrounding accuracy and authenticity. Looking at The Duchess and The Favourite also made me think about how costume design is changing, and how current audiences will have different expectations of period films than audiences in 2008. After reading articles published by Vogue discussing recent period films, I noticed how costumes were able to appear in some sense fashionable and appealing for contemporary audiences, while still remaining authentic. Period costume, with its relaxing rules of accuracy, is influencing the wardrobes of current viewers.

3. 'A Brief Inquiry into the Indie Ideologies of The 1975'


'All the beautiful strange mutations of the indie underground are the only places I’ve ever felt solace.' (Raha, 2005; ix)

The British indie music scene is a culture that I have been a part of since I could form my own opinion on music. My relationship within the indie music scene didn’t stop with simply liking the music it produced. I went to gigs, festivals, record signings of my favourite bands. I was consumed with having the latest band merchandise and every new album on vinyl. When I was older, I formed a band of my own and this experience formed the backbone of my thesis. I started to become more conscious about how style trends are formed within the indie music scene and how these trends influence what it means to be indie.

The term ‘indie’ first came about in the late 1970s to early 1980s, in the wake of the underground music scene. It was understood to be punk’s successor and, according to Hesmondhalgh, its heir. In the early stages of indie music, the scene grew as a space for musical production and distribution that functioned outside the control of the mainstream labels and its financial guidance (Fonarow, 2006; Hesmondhalgh, 1999; Lifter, 2012). In the 1990s, the indie genre grew out of ‘its original audience among students and (lower) middle-class youth’ (Hesmondhalgh, 1999:35) and became part of the mainstream of British pop. Indie is no longer ‘produced solely on independent music labels to be distributed locally, it is an international music phenomenon’ (Lifter, 2012:13). With this in mind, my thesis looks at the representation of contemporary indie style and aesthetics through mainstream media, focusing solely on the last ten years and specifically on the indie band The 1975.

The 1975 are a prime example of a British indie band with mainstream success. According to Sylvia Patterson (2018) in her article for Q Magazine, ‘no labels would touch this band's musical idiosyncrasy. In defiance they launched themselves, through their own label Dirty Hit in 2009 (initially set up by close friend and manager Jamie Oborne), their first two albums reaching number 1 - [their self-titled debut] The 1975 (2013) and the ludicrously-titled I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It (2016, also number 1 in America)’(58). Their ‘defiance’, as Patterson puts it, alongside their mainstream success, is one of the reasons this band are so useful in this study. They provide an alternative to mainstream pop whilst having mainstream success themselves.

The quote of Raha’s (2005) interpretation of indie at the beginning of this text is one of the descriptions of indie that I came across during my research that best describes the way that I personally interpret the scene. The words ‘beautiful strange mutations’ draw upon just how broad the indie music scene is and how it is not just accepting of one particular type of person. It has no limits. I explore this notion in my own interpretations of indie through the representations of The 1975, and the opinions and thoughts of The 1975’s fans.

Using Lifter’s (2019) description of the male indie figure as a reference, visual analysis is used to explore and identify indie ideologies and how they are represented within mainstream media. Lifter’s descriptions of the male indie figure transformations of the 1980s ‘almost- comically childish’ figure, the 1990s ‘rock ‘n’ roll sex god’ figure and the ‘fashionable’ indie figure of the 2000s proved a valuable reference in analysing indie style. However, where Lifter associates these indie figures with specific eras of the indie music scene, it is clear that stylistic notions of all three male indie figures are continuously drawn upon in contemporary indie culture. This is evident in the magazine covers and music videos of The 1975 where style choices can be related to the ‘childish’ figure, the ‘rock ‘n’ roll sex god’ figure and the ‘fashionable’ figure.

In my thesis I explore the alternative as a stylistic notion. With the British indie music scene evolving into a world-wide phenomenon, the stylistic notions of the culture have also developed. The indie ideologies in terms of style have been recycled by indie music scene followers in the last 40 years to create a diverse alternative culture. With many bands gaining mainstream success it is evident, through the analysis of The 1975, that as the indie music scene grows into the mainstream media, it becomes more difficult to define.

  • Hesmondhalgh, D. (1999) 'Indie: The Institutional Politics and Aesthetics of a Popular Music Genre', Cultural Studies, 13:1, 34-61.
  • Lifter, L. (2019) Fashioning Indie: Popular Fashion, Music and Gender, London: Bloomsbury.
  • Patterson, S. (2018) ‘Matthew Healy Comes Up For Air’, Q Magazine, October, p.58.
  • Raha, M. (2005) Cinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground, Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
4. 'Jewish femininity through the lens of Ella Zirner-Zweiback and Madame d’Ora'


Vienna’s position as an important European fashion city at the beginning of the twentieth century was primarily established by Jewish enterprise, and much of its history is now lost because of the Shoa. Yet, the lives of Vienna's creators afford an insight into this history. My work of research examines representations of Jewish femininity, attitudes towards modernity and difference expressed by clothing and photography through the lives of two Jewish career women in interwar Vienna: department store proprietor Ella Zirner-Zwieback and studio photographer Madame d’Ora. Pioneers of their time, they each made a significant contribution to the Viennese fashion industry through their work.

I commenced my study with an outline of the history of the Viennese Jewish fashion industry from 1900 until the outbreak of World War Two and an explanation of key terms such as Jewish difference, the Other, and the New Woman. On that basis, I centred on Ella Zirner-Zwieback’s affiliation with Maison Zwieback considering her positioning as a woman running a business. Here, the Jewishness of department stores is discussed, as most department stores in central Europe at the time in question were Jewish-owned. My case study of dress from Maison Zwieback aids the apprehension of Vienna’s clothing industry and its French influences, which reflect on Jewish visibility. My final chapter explores the discourse on representations of modern femininity through an analysis of fashion photographs taken by Madame d’Ora. Her studio became a site of the symbolic construction of Jewish difference and experimentation with notions of gender and class. The case study comprises d’Ora’s images of avant-garde women related to the Wiener Werkstätte, as well as photographs for Maison Zwieback and portraits of Ella Zirner-Zwieback.

Model in Maison Zwieback taken by Mme d’Ora. She wears a tight-fitting ankle-length dress with a high empire waistline, wide sleeves with fringing down the side, and a fringed train. The background is accessorised with a large Spanish shawl. The Parisian magazine Femina underlined the influence orientale of fringing in their 1926 April issue. 1926. Bildarchiv Austria

Through material analysis of surviving dress from the Zwieback department store and visual analysis of Madame d’Ora’s photographs, I explore new types of femininity and self-presentation such as the New Woman, the femme fatale, and la belle juive that were deployed by Jewish women to express difference and modernity. By promoting women, who embodied the trope of the New Woman, either by sporting a Bubikopf, wearing trousers, or reform dress, more liberal constructs of femininity were patronised. These were enforced by the photographs taken by d’Ora, who like Zirner-Zwieback, asserted her taste through the adaptation of Parisian style. By looking at dress from Maison Zwieback at the archive of the Museum of Vienna, I understood how the Parisian style of the clothes illustrates a dichotomy towards Jewishness. On the one hand, Zirner-Zwieback and d’Ora’s preference for French taste separated them from Judaism, while on the other hand, it showcased a reference to Jewish symbols, as France was closely linked to Jewish department stores [1]. This allows the assumption that assimilated Jews in Vienna did not seek to obliterate all things Jewish in their lives, but benefited from its elusive qualities by using it to create new categories of self-identification. Zirner-Zwieback’s store and d’Ora’s atelier became a means through which they compellingly refashioned their position as Other.

While the forward-thinking Wiener Werkstätte abandoned its dress reform trajectory in the 1920s, Zirner-Zwieback and d’Ora continued to foster women’s rights through dress beyond the fin-de-siècle. They exercised an increased social autonomy which was conjunct to the women outside this particular artistic milieu. It was possibly the difference they were born with that encouraged them to go against the grain and actively support emancipation via clothing and photography. The case studies illustrate that dress and photography are powerful visual means, which ultimately create a discourse on modern femininity within popular culture. Zirner-Zwieback and d’Ora, like most people, were aware of the Jewish myths rooted in Austrian society and were mindful of the way being born Jewish both favoured and hindered their careers [2]. In this context, the use of the cultural construction of the seductive Jewish femme fatale, as seen in Zirner-Zwieback’s portraits, can be viewed as a means to express self-identification through the definitions of femininity and Jewish difference [3]. Both women were in the explicit knowledge of the power clothing and photography hold over the creation of one’s sense of self.

My research seeks to explore the fruitful collaboration of two businesswomen of high artistic standard in Vienna of the early twentieth century. They shaped Austria’s cultural fabric by the formation of the Viennese woman, for which they called upon their difference and duality.

  • Lerner, P.F. (2015) The Consuming Temple: Jews, Department Stores, and the Consumer Revolution in Germany, 1880-1940, Ithaca: Cornell University Press
  • Silverman, L. (2012) Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Rose, A. (2008) Jewish Women in Fin de Siècle Vienna, Austin: University of Texas Press
5. 'Norwegian National Dress: An Invented Tradition?'


In my thesis I explored the history of Norwegian national dress and if it can be considered an invented tradition. National dress is a big part of the culture in Norway and represents the identity and heritage of the population, however the interest in national dress is a fairly new phenomenon and something that seems old and traditional might not be. My thesis explores the development of folk dress and peasant dress into national dress, and how it is not a fixed item and is constantly evolving because it is subject to fashion. While it is considered traditional and historical, no dress is the same and new ones are still developed based on surviving dress and historical findings. Today the dress is known as bunad, and there are approximately 500 different styles, each with a unique geographical provenance; there are more than 2.5 million bunads in Norwegian homes. However, the word 'bunad' was invented by Hulda Garborg in the early 1900, whose goal was to revolutionise peasant dress, make it more accessible, and bring it into the 20th century, as part of her efforts to keep peasant culture alive. Through my research on this topic, I gained a new view on Norwegian national dress, how it is made, what it represents, the history behind it and the cultural heritage associated with it.

We can trace the bunad's roots back in history, as peasant dress that, through women in the 1900s, became national dress. With examples like the Rutaliv and Rondastakk, we can see a bunad with a rich history and components that can be traced back to Gudbrandsalen, while using the Akerdrakt as another example, we can also prove it is an invented tradition. When Hulda Garborg brought folk dress into the 20th century and revolutionised it, her goal was not to create something new, but to make folk dress more accessible and something more people would want to wear. As she was an avid supporter of the 'old Norwegian', she wanted peasant culture to continue to thrive, therefore, by creating bunads with strong historical accuracies, she preserved parts of peasant culture and tradition to this day. In my thesis, I show we can divide the bunads into five different groups, each representing different stages of historical accuracies and inventions. While the Akerdrakt is proof that there are complete inventions, being based on only a few fabric samples and the fashion in the early 1800s, there are bunads that shows stronger accuracy and a stronger connection to the past. Taking into account that there are such a large variety of bunads, I have come to the conclusion that it is partly an invented tradition with basis in history, heritage and facts. Many of the bunads that are being constructed today will have an even clearer nod to surviving dress, and therefore follow a stricter template to be as historically accurate as possible, but this is a fashionable trend right now - people seem to want to be as accurate as possible, essentially making it more true to tradition. All in all, the bunad is ever evolving, the more research being done will continue to alter it and the Norwegian population’s interest in their heritage will allow the bunad to continue to develop and live on. No bunad is the same - everyone has their own significant one representing their identity. Through the help of sources that explore political science, dress history and social science, and using Prown’s method to analyse a contemporary example of national dress, I have discovered that something I thought was old traditions tracing back centuries, in fact, is partly an invented tradition.

6. 'After two centuries of sartorial heritage, how did Nutters affect revolutionary change on Savile Row?'


‘Savile Row is a fine line between fashion and tradition.’ (Richardson, 140, 2018)

Savile Row has clothed generals, kings, emirs, tsars, dictators, gangsters, and a cavalcade of Hollywood stars. The end of World War II spelled the arrival of the first majority Labour government under Clement Attlee, and an identity crisis for Savile Row and its upper class clientele. Should it remain a status symbol of reassurance for the Establishment, at a time of seismic change and uncertainty? Or should it re-invent itself, and ingest the modern ‘new Englishman’ ‘who likes cars and girls and clothes’, as suggested by Men in Vogue. (Men In Vogue, Nov 1965)

The tailoring partnership that propelled the Swinging Sixties into the lethargy of Savile Row was Tommy Nutter, and his business/creative partner Edward Sexton. Everything about these two men’s modest origins was the polar opposite of what they became: revolutionary, artist-tailors ensconced in the bosom of high society. Nutters was the first new bespoke tailor on Savile Row for many years (Richardson, 2018). It was unafraid to diverge from Savile Row’s strict rejection of self-promotion, and challenge the status quo. Tailoring was about to become a symbol of change - echoing what Mary Quant did for the mini-skirt, Nutters was about to do for the suit.

No one doubts that Nutters was an agent for change on Savile Row, but how their New Look and more laissez-faire attitude to business triggered this change remained unexplored and was the focus of my thesis: ‘After two centuries of sartorial heritage, how did Nutters affect revolutionary change on Savile Row?’ I conducted interviews with three key figures from the era, who led the charge in diluting Savile Row’s old-fashioned output: Edward Sexton, now aged 77, a celebrity tailor in his own right, and one half of the Nutters creative partnership; Anthony Bamford, the JCB industrialist and prominent Nutters client, and Bianca Jagger, a rule-breaker who dressed in Nutters suits ‘cut for men’, refusing to be ‘moulded easily’. The opportunity to gauge insights from contemporary consumers and those directly involved in the business afforded me perspectives that uncovered new information about the individual elements of Nutters that brought change.

The first suit Nutters suit I analysed was a three-piece faded brown silk-velvet suit, with rusty pink braiding, including the pocket flaps. This was a suit to make a statement. It has a formal structure, but like Rococo architecture, Nutter and Sexton play with the vernacular, transforming the familiar into something fresh and original. The combination of the glossy fabric and the extended peak lapels, reminiscent of 1930s and 1940s American Hollywood glamour, become gestures of ostentation and perky humour. A Nutters suit is the aesthetic combination of the Neo-Edwardian dandyism from the Rockingham Club that inspired ‘Teddy Boy street fashion’, ‘the 30s look’, with the angular ‘emphasis on the shoulder and the hip’; the ‘Oxford bag trouser’; the ‘youthful fantasy’ of pop music and movie stars, and the flamboyance of the stage. Mick Jagger, Elton John and The Beatles were clients, symbols of the Sixties revolution – sartorially and socially.

Sexton and Nutter had borrowed from John Stephen’s Carnaby Street ‘Mods’ and Cecil Gee’s Charing Cross Road Americana, with a pinch of campness from the Rockingham, and combined it with a ‘keen fidelity to old-school Savile Row craftsmanship.’ (Richardson, 104, 2018) Together, they put a virility, and sensuality back into Savile Row, and ‘showed masculinity in a different way.’

They removed the denial of attraction within a 1950s multiple suit, an archetypal feature of suits and a notion that was rejected by Nutters’ clientele. In my interview with Sexton, he emphasised we ‘would take all the drape out’. A Nutters suit created ‘a whole balance’ throughout the body with its ‘long flared silhouette’. This was their house style: narrow shoulders; long, nipped waist; wide lapels that almost touch the shoulder and ‘Oxford Bag’ inspired trousers so ‘tight’ that there weren’t any pockets (Appendix A). With this ‘New Look’, Nutters captured a new generation of sons who had ditched their fathers’ ‘fuddy duddy’ tailor in favour of the boutiques in and around W1. (Richardson, 2018)

The change was slow burning, but Nutters’s ideas did percolate through Savile Row. It forged subtle and immediate change, and signalled to traditional Savile Row that a dramatic evolution was necessary in their styling, pace of production and attitude to survive in a crowded market. Nutters brought a new silhouette, combined with an innovative use of materials, sensuality and a modern beat to evolve the 200-year-old traditions of the suit for the modern male. While maintaining a respect for Savile Row craftsmanship and tradition, this unlikely duo, in challenging the status quo, had unwittingly made Savile Row realise that, for tradition to survive, it must always evolve.

  • Interview with Edward Sexton
  • Interview with Bianca Jagger
  • Interview with Anthony Bamford
  • Men In Vogue (1965) Available at: html (Accessed: 25th January 2020).
  • Richardson, L. (2018) House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row, Penguin Random House.
7. Between war, women and fashion: The photographic work of Lee Miller


As an aspiring female photographer, I have a natural interest in learning more about the genesis of females both in front of and behind the camera. My investigation began at the start of the 20th century, with the beginnings of popular photography. As I began researching, there was noticeably an imbalance between the number of acclaimed male and female photographers, with the males dominating photographic history. This is not to say that they aren’t successful female photographers - there have been many women who set the stage for others to follow and create what Linda Nochlin terms as, ‘Great Art’ (1989: 145). Female photographers such as Lee Miller had to navigate many social and cultural tensions to succeed in multiple genres of photography.

Born Elizabeth Miller in the small town of Poughkeepsie, New York on 23 April 1907, her urge to know, explore, learn and change drove Lee from her small home town to Man Ray’s studio, to the front lines of World War II, through the liberation of the concentration camps, and finally to Paris. Lee Miller was undoubtedly a very successful and acclaimed photographer. Miller did not become this successful with ease. She did not gain her personal or publishing freedom easily. She struggled throughout her career, and after, with this issue of fair opportunity. Yet she fought and struggled to overcome many obstacles, landing a job at Vogue as a photographer and later applying to be a US war correspondent, despite the prejudice against women. Miller’s work is characterised by a great diversity, ranging from landscape to surreal, portraiture to studio work. It is her photographic work for British Vogue that is most interesting. When analysing her images, the tensions of world war, the growing influence of women, and the changing focus of fashion, it is evidenced that Miller drove change in fashion photography, especially for women, in her life and now posthumously.

After the war, her work was largely left unseen for many years, due to both her isolation and the existing social framework which limited the success of female artists. Throughout her journey, Miller used her position as an image maker to reclaim representation, discuss important political and social topics, and stir up debate. She did this in the pages of British Vogue, a magazine that had never previously published such deep and honest reporting.

Although very notable Miller’s work was often not credited and she often had to push to get her work even published in the first place. As she photographed the war she had to be fearless, often risking her well-being. Despite demonstrating this bravery and skill, the full extent of Miller’s work and influence on both photographic and fashion history received less acclaim than her male counterparts such as Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst. Women were simply not given a fair chance for employment, let alone to gain notoriety, as opposed to men in her time. This can be demonstrated by Miller’s two solo shows during her lifetime, as opposed to over 20 today. Luckily today, perspectives are wider and we are discussing these issues with more importance. Much of Miller’s work has experienced a small renaissance and has been included in modern exhibitions since the turn of the century, but even as more workshops and galleries begin to have solo exhibitions on artists like Miller, it is still painfully clear that more needs to be done.

Highlighting and studying the work of female artists like Lee Miller, conferences like Fast Forward, held at the Tate in January 2020, are indicators of change and are important to continue to drive change and respect for the work of females. What Lee Miller can teach us is that the female photographer can reclaim representation through her work by way of example. Her work and life not only show the uniqueness of each phase of her career but also highlight that works from the past, like Miller’s, need to be studied and shared with new audiences. Works of young females must be highlighted and supported while continuing to learn from the lives and works of women who overcame many obstacles to create great art; their work should be studied to the same degree as their male counterparts.

  • Nochlin, L., 1989. Women Artists, London: Thames and Hudson.
8. The Performance of Orientalism and Fashion in K-Pop Music Videos.


Korean pop music, or K-Pop as it is more commonly known, is on the rise and is making itself heard. With sold-out stadium tours, front cover spreads in global magazines, performances at the Grammys, and speeches at the United Nations’ General Assembly, the K-Pop phenomenon is harvesting a global fanbase of millions and the influence of the stars, or idols, at the foreground of this spectacle is growing rapidly. K-Pop idols are now on the same level as Hollywood celebrities in terms of their influence, and the fashion industry has taken note and is getting significantly more involved with the stars every year, from brand ambassadors, to designing their stage performance outfits, and having their designs shown in music videos that amalgamate millions of views on YouTube.

With themes of hybridity, orientalism, and gender brought into the mix, the rise of K-Pop is worth investigating as its influence is growing every year. The research has allowed for an exploration of key themes such as globalization, masculinity and cultural hybridity, among others, and contributed to a greater understanding of why K-Pop has got to where it is today and how its origins, as well as its contact with the West, has influenced its development. My thesis had as its aim to explore the rising phenomenon that is K-Pop and how different themes such as fashion and the concepts of orientalism, globalisation and hybridity are approached in K-Pop music videos. In order to achieve that, I began by exploring the more recent history of South Korea in order to be able to contextualise K-Pop, its origins, and its evolution to its position today within Korean society and government policies. Through carrying out research, I was able to discover how the rise of Hallyu, or Korean wave, and K-Pop in particular was not a coincidence, and instead, government action was taken in order to make Korean culture into an export. The 1997 economic crisis which hit the Asian region was one of the reasons which led to Korea’s investment in the cultural sector as a way of dynamising the economy.

Most academic scholars agree that K-Pop only came after, and became possible because of, Seo Taiji and Boys, who made their debut 1992, as Korea was taking its first steps into a civil government after several dictatorships that censored Western influence. This went hand in hand with Korea’s youth who were gaining more influence in society and had considerable consumer power. After Seo Taiji and Boys, entertainment agencies such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment were established, and the process of manufacturing K-Pop idols with training from a young age began. The development of digital technologies and social platforms such as the mobile phone and YouTube were highly impactful on K-Pop. Music videos made the genre even more focused on visual elements and helped spread K-Pop outwards onto the Asian continent, and later on to Western countries as well.

I also looked into the concept of globalisation in order to see in what ways this impacts K-Pop, and how globalisation contributed to K-Pop's infiltration in the West. Most scholars agree that K-Pop is an example of cultural hybridity, and that such hybridity is what allows the genre to flow so easily between different nations and what makes it so consumable to people all over the world. Although there is also the argument that K-Pop is produced for the global market, as opposed to being produced for the Korean population, the rise of K-Pop in the world, generally, has also led scholars to debate whether the world, in recent years, has seen a de-centralisation of globalisation. South Korea is one of the few countries which is producing content that is being consumed by masses all over the world, besides the typical producers of cultural goods - the West, in particular North America and Europe. My thesis analysed the relationship between K-Pop and the fashion industry, as well as how orientalism and K-Pop, which is arguably produced for the global market and with rising numbers of Western consumers, interact with one another. 

9. From the Shōju to Hello Kitty: An exploration into the rise and shifting perceptions of kawaii in Japan


As inspired by previous research into the Lolita subculture as well as personal interest in both cute memorabilia and style, when deciding upon a direction to take my final year thesis, my initial ideas were quickly cemented. Therefore, it seemed only appropriate that my thesis take the shape of understanding the origins and rise of one of Japan’s most instantly recognisable aesthetics.

My thesis explores the rise and shifting perceptions of Japanese kawaii culture and aesthetics. By chronologically tracing one of its origins in the early 20th century, to post-World War II Japan, it concludes with the findings of two focus groups of Japanese students in London.  

To introduce my thesis, I focused on ways that I could introduce kawaii to someone who would have had no prior knowledge of what it is, both as a Japanese word and as a part of Japan’s cultural identity. In doing so, I set the tone for the thesis, allowing the reader to know what aspects of Japanese history I would be focusing on and justifying why I would be focusing primarily on the twentieth and twenty-first century.

In my first chapter, ‘Enter the Shōjo’, I wanted to focus on kawaii in the early to mid-twentieth century. I began with an etymology of the word kawaii, as guided by the work by Raymond Williams in Keywords (1976) to see what original understandings kawaii would have had and if the word has changed over the course of the last two centuries. By beginning with this understanding, I then went on to explore the role of shōjo artists; artists that made illustrations of young girls or maidens, which is what shōjo translates to. Yumeji Takehisa, the artist of the painting shown, was one of the most notable artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who began to use the term kawaii to describe his work. Takehisa was also vastly important as he opened the first shop to sell kawaii products, or ‘fancy goods’ as they were initially understood to be. The first chapter also explores the beginnings of a consumer culture attached to the kawaii aesthetic, as made evident by the opening of a shop in Tokyo by Yumeji Takehisa.

Chapter II, ‘A Little Boy and a Fat Man’, acknowledges the so-called cute nicknames of the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, names that were given by the Japanese people at the time. I felt it would be inappropriate to not include the impact of Japan’s involvement in WWII, seeing as it was in post-war Japan that some of the most notable areas of kawaii culture emerged. For example, in the 1970s, Japanese company Sanrio Ltd first introduced Hello Kitty, one of the world’s most loved cartoon figures, who has since become synonymous with kawaii aesthetics. It was also in this time that subcultures were beginning to surface, mostly in the districts of Tokyo - most notably the Lolita subculture. It is in this chapter that I remark on subcultural theory surrounding the Lolitas, and apply subcultural theory to an Asian context as well as explore kawaii’s relationship with dress and aesthetics.

In the third chapter, I report the findings of my other methodology, which was two focus groups I did with Japanese students at Central Saint Martins. These were long focus groups that covered a variety of themes that surround the kawaii culture, and my findings were often very surprising and helped to guide and steer my thesis in a way that I was previously not expecting. The people I spoke to allowed me to acknowledge my understanding of kawaii as something seen from a Western perspective, and whilst some of their thoughts and own experiences with kawaii were what I was expecting, some of their lines of discussion were not. Mary Anne Casey and Richard A Krueger’s Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research posed an important line of work that helped to steer the settings and content of my focus groups in the right direction.

By conducting and presenting research chronologically, my thesis shows a timeline of the changing perceptions of kawaii and the use of focus groups is an invaluable and incredibly important method of further understanding. The findings of the focus groups also opened new lines of research that have since sparked inspiration for future projects.

  • Williams, R. (1976) Keywords, New York, USA: Fontana Press
10. Myths, Materials and Memories of Women and Leisure in 1950s Britain: A Study of Southend-on-Sea, Swimsuits, and the Lived Experience


Southend-on-Sea is a seaside resort town, 60 kilometres from London, which lies on the Thames estuary and the North Sea. Southend-on-Sea, more popularly known as simply ‘Southend’, is for many Londoners a destination that conjures up memories of travelling by train from East London for day trips to the seaside. The Kursaal, the gardens at Westcliffe and a two-kilometre-long pier—the longest pleasure pier in the world—are central to Southend’s heritage. I started to think about the regional space of Southend that was part of my own heritage: the stories told by my grandmother about the East End of London, day-outs by train to Southend, and memories of leisure and fashion that prevailed in the post-war era. In its heyday, which rolled out in the Edwardian period and later in the post-war period, Southend had its golden hour, yet the summer months still see cockles rolled out for new generations.

[Creator Unknown] (1951) Joyce and Ernest on the Beach [Photograph]

The structure of my work tracks three main areas of study. The first chapter investigates representations of the 1950s. I have been fascinated by the surviving film of the post-war period, depicting a seemingly sparkling portrayal that denotes something almost iconic or familiar about this time. The East Anglian Film Archive and British Pathé have a wide platform of archival film, spanning a broad time-frame and variety of topics; an inquiry into many aspects of social life. The popular frames the lifestyles of the 1950s in a way that has formed perceptions of the decade, pointing to the myths that can form through convictions held about the 1950s.

From my preliminary research concerning this topic, literature that surrounds the immediate post-war period and into the 1950s recognises the significance of political activity and cultural reform that could be said to culminate in 1951 with the unveiling of the Festival of Britain. A surviving Festival of Britain Guide led me to discuss the significance of colour — the primary colours of the festival’s imagery a kind of metaphor for change out of the austerity of wartime, and a celebration of a new decade with cultural reforms, laid out by a Labour government.

The middle chapter introduces surviving dress from the collections at the Southend Museums Service. An item of dress that is dated from the post-war period—a piece of clothing from the 1950s, for example—will have meaning in its subjective context: the owner, where it was purchased, its particularity of construction, and other pieces of the story connected to the specific object itself. I chose to look at a cream, sateen swimsuit, which from my modern perspective, seemed quite luxurious and glamorous. It may be seen as not only a practical item for swimming but also an item of clothing designed to portray the body in a particular way. A photograph of my grandmother in 1951, showed her wearing a similar swimsuit and this led me to make speculation about femininity and modesty. Regarding the glamour of the 1950s, the associations with Dior’s New Look are paramount, yet it is how the ‘look’ of the 1950s arrives on Southend’s beachfront that is of interest.

‘Oh, it’ll soon be fine, going down to Southend eh? That was it. Going down to Southend. If you wanted to be made cheerful, you’d go down to Southend.’ (Joyce Poole)

Francis, P (2020) Cream Sateen Swimsuit [Photograph] [Archive] Taken at Beecroft Art Gallery 04 March 2020. Southend Museums Service. Southend-onSea.

Oral history creates a narrative which illustrates the lived experience. ‘Its starting point is in the local, in the subjective, in the particularity of memory itself’ (Radstone, 2000, p.13). The experience of my grandmother, though subjective, recollects both the individual and shared memories of the 1950s. The 1950s may evoke a certain atmosphere of abundance and prosperity, yet memories of scarce commodity challenges some of these assumptions. I took the memory of a piece of floral fabric to return to the idea of aspiration. Perceptions of the past, in this instance the 1950s, are formed through myriad memories, memories that this study uses to further explore the themes of leisure and fashion, as well as aspects of lifestyle, in post-war Britain.

Findings showed that it is clear from this exploration of 1950s leisure and fashion that the essence of the 1950s cannot be summated neatly; rather, the exposure of certain events and significant features that represent the time have a part to play in unpacking notions of societal activity that recognise the way things were. Within that experience, the space was provided for leisure, and through leisure the experience was shared, and is remembered.

Radstone, S. (2000) Memory and Methodology, Oxford: Berg.



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