Fashion: Visual & Material Interconnections Book Series Launch

Speaker: Alison Toplis (Honorary Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton)

Fashion: Visual & Material Interconnections Book Series
Bloomsbury Publishing/The Courtauld
Series Editor: Rebecca Arnold

And the List’s first publication:
The Hidden History of the Smock Frockby Alison Toplis

We are proud to announce the launch of a new book series – a collaboration between Bloomsbury Publishing and The Courtauld Institute of Art that brings together scholarly and innovative approaches to understanding the relationship between the visual and material in forming fashion and dress cultures. It focuses on books that foreground fashion as lived experience – the ways emotional and sensory encounters with dress, its design, manufacture, promotion, and consumption, but also, wearing clothing and the role it plays in social engagement – changes its meanings and significance. Books included in the series explore the ways looking, seeing, wearing and being interconnect, with each other, but also with, for example, wider visual and material cultures, and technological changes in the ways dress and fashion are represented, produced, promoted and experienced.

A social history of one garment, The Hidden History of the Smock Frock delves into the clothing practices of nineteenth-century working people. Investigating how smock frocks were manufactured, including by the nascent ready-made clothing industry, it also discusses how smocks were bought and sold to men in many different trades as well as exploring export markets such as Australia. It examines who wore smocks and how men experienced the garment, relating this to surviving material examples. By the late nineteenth century, the smock came to represent a nostalgic idea of rural England and was increasingly seen as an emotional and sometimes sentimental object, a timeless piece of clothing. Re-invented as a garment for both women and children, its resonances are still felt in the fashion industry today.

Alison Toplis is currently an honorary research fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. After completing her MA in the History of Dress at The Courtauld Institute, she worked for several years as  a dress and textiles specialist at Christie’s Auctioneers. She then completed her doctorate in the area  of nineteenth-century working-class dress and has since taught at Central St Martin’s, University of the Arts, London, and lectured and published widely, including her first book, The Clothing Trade in Provincial England 1800-1850 (2011).

Rebecca Arnold has been Senior Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles at The Courtauld  since 2009

Organised by Rebecca Arnold (The Courtauld) and Kathryn Reed (The Courtauld) 

Fashion: Visual & Material Interconnections Book Series Launch

21 May - 9 Feb 2023

21 May - 9 Feb 2023

12.30pm - 1.30pm

Free, booking essential

Booking closes 30 minutes before the event start time.
If you do not receive the log in details on the day of the event, please email


Book cover of The Hidden History of the Smock Frock
Front cover of 'The Hidden History of the Smock Frock' by Alison Toplis
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