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November 2010: Journal of the month...

Each month we feature a key journal, lifting restrictions on content to make it freely available to all, and providing additional insights into the team behind the journal, its history, and its content. This month...


Journal of The Costume Society of Great Britain.
Find out more about Costume, take out a subscription, or submit a paper.

Meet the Editors... 

Penelope Byrde, Independent historian and formerly Curator of the Museum of Costume and Fashion Research Centre, Bath, UK)

Penelope Byrde has co-edited Costume with Verity Wilson since 2008. Following a degree in Modern History from the University of St Andrews she studied the history of dress with Stella Mary Newton for a master’s degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.

She worked as a curator at the Museum of Costume in Bath for almost thirty years. Her first job there was to set up the study facilities at the Costume and Fashion Research Centre attached to the Museum. She went on to become Curator of the Museum and Costume and Fashion Research Centre and also of Bath’s eighteenth-century Assembly Rooms (in which the Museum is housed).

During her time in Bath Penelope worked on a number of special exhibitions including a display of evening dresses loaned by H M The Queen to celebrate her Jubilee in 2002 and a travelling exhibition of early-seventeenth century decorative gloves from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London (on loan to the Museum since 1987). She led a successful application to have the Museum of Costume designated as a pre-eminent collection of national and international importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Penelope has specialized in the history of nineteenth and twentieth century fashion and has published several books on these periods. She is particularly interested in dress in nineteenth-century literature: her most recent book was Jane Austen Fashion and she contributed an essay on clothes to The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Charles Dickens. She has also for many years been an adult education tutor for the WEA and continues to teach and lecture on the history of dress to special interest groups in this country and abroad. She is currently an Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London.

Penelope has served as a Governor of the Pasold Research Fund which promotes and supports research on textile history and is a long-standing member of the Costume Society.


Verity Wilson, Independent historian and formerly of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

Verity Wilson has been the co-editor of the dress studies journal, Costume, since 2008. She worked for 25 years at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as a curator in the Far Eastern Department. Her area of expertise is East Asian textiles and dress and she has published widely in this field. 

Her companion volumes, Chinese Dress and Chinese Textiles describe and decode the eclectic holdings of the V&A, and the co-authored Dress in Detail from Around the World brings to light the many narratives embedded in garments from across the globe and now in the museum’s collection. She worked on several new gallery installations, notably the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art, the Chinese Export Art and Design Gallery, the  T.T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art and the Korean Gallery, all of which had significant displays of dress and textiles. She mounted temporary exhibitions including Korean Embroidery and Cheongsam from China and her final project before retiring from the museum was to lead the team that catalogued, analyzed, photographed, conserved and made available online the entire collection of Central Asian textile fragments dating from the first to the tenth centuries and  brought back from the Silk Road by Sir Aurel Stein at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Verity continues to write and teach and is just now helping to edit the publication to accompany a V&A exhibition of Chinese Imperial robes from the Forbidden City in Beijing. She is preparing a paper on the reception of dragon robes in Britain and the history of their scholarship in the west. In  the summer term she  will lead a course on dress and politics for the V&A/Royal College of Art History of Design MA. She is an Academic Visitor in the History of Art Department at the University of Oxford and will be organizing a workshop there for editors of academic journals.

Her current work centres around dressing up, fancy dress, disguise and pageants and she is in the process of planning a book around these topics. The photograph, above, shows her in Shetland in the Northern Isles visiting the museum and archive of  Up Hella AA, a community event and fire festival that takes place in January each year and involves a great deal of dressing up.

Costume is part of the MORE History E-journal Collection which provides instant online access to twenty-six highly-regarded, peer-reviewed, international history publications. Regularly cited in the major indexing services, each journal in the Collection provides you with original research papers that are of interest to those involved with history around the world.

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 In 2008 Maney attended, and exhibited at, the first Costume Colloquium, a tribute to Janet Arnold, in Florence. Following the great success of this event a second symposium, Costume Colloquium II: Dress for Dance, will be held in Florence (4-7 November 2010) and we are pleased to be participating once again.

This international symposium will explore interdisciplinary aspects of dance dress and costume, this multi-cultural mode of human expression, from a variety of practical, historical and creative perspectives. A wide of variety of papers and presentations will provide participants to the congress with indepth knowledge and new information about unpublished research, new creations and/or practical experiments related to the international, interdisciplinary and intercultural themes associated with dress for dance.

The topics covered during the event will include the use of historic dress for re-enactment dances, and the interpretation of dance garnments in documents and visual images, the creation of costumes employing traditional and contemporary materials and techniques and their conservation and museum display, and they will incorporate both theoretical and practical perspectives.

The website set up to promote the first Costume Colloquium (at has continued to grow and now exists as an online resource where like-minded individuals can have an international, interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange. Through the Forum and Links you will be able to acquire and post information related to those topics which are timely and pertinent to all visiting this site. In this way you can be informed and connected, through an array of initiatives, within a friendly and congenial format which encourages reciprocal respect of each others’ works and interests.

Article highlights

Roy Strong, ‘Charles 1’s Clothes for the Years 1633 to 1635’  (1980)

Aileen Ribeiro, ‘Concerning Fashion -Theophile Gautier’s “De la Mode”, 1858’ (1990)

Norah Lambourne, ‘Recollections of Designing for the Religious Plays of Dorothy L. Sayers’ (1991)

Naomi E.A.Tarrant, ‘The Real Thing: The Study of Original Garments in Britain Since 1947’ (1999)

Maria Hayward, ‘”The Sign of Some Degree?”:The Financial, Social and Sartorial Significance of Male Headwear at the Court of Henry VIII and Edward VI’ (2002)

Keren Protheroe, ‘Quality Stitch By Stitch: Clothing and Associated Publications Held in the Marks and Spencer Company Archives’ (2005)

Anthea Jarvis, ‘The Dress Must Be White and Perfectly Plain and Simple: Confirmation and First Communion Dress, 1850-2000' (2007) 

Susan North, ‘John Redfern and Sons, 1847-1892’ (2008) and ‘Redfern Limited, 1892-1940’ (2009)

Lesley Ellis Miller, ‘An Enigmatic Bourgeois: Jean Revel Dons a Nightgown for His Portrait’ (2010)






Patterns of fashion

Footage from the Costume Society Symposium, July 2010 (please double-click to view at full-size).

From the swinging sixties to the present day: a colourful journal history

Costume is the dress studies journal published by Maney on behalf of the Costume Society. It has a wide remit, embracing scholarly articles about dress and appearance by a diversity of authors from both practical and academic backgrounds.

The journal first appeared in 1967 and, despite looking a little like a typed parish magazine at that time, it contained enthralling articles in the burgeoning and singular field of dress history. Its name rather belies its content as, from the very beginning, the journal concerned itself with clothes of all sorts; it was not confined to fancy dress, theatre or folk costume, as might be expected from the title, though essays on these valuable topics feature throughout.

Items of dress in museum collections were often classed as ‘costume’ and, as the journal in its early days was closely connected with curators, the name transferred to the publication. We have stood fast with the title for historic reasons and watched as the term ‘costume’ has been replaced by ‘dress’ and ‘clothing’, and latterly by the contested word ‘fashion’.

The enormous developments in the study of dress that took place as a result of the emergence of the discipline broadly known as ‘cultural studies’ impacted positively on our journal and, while not over-theorized, Costume has responded to the advances in the humanities and social sciences, welcoming submissions from anthropologists, linguists and historians as well as from its core contributors of curators and conservators. Although Costume is often viewed as publishing object-based research – notoriously difficult work to do well – it is, in fact, the case that equally as many articles have been written using archival and pictorial primary-source  material. What matters to the editors, both past and present, is evidence of  considered use of source material, whatever form that takes, and an original approach.

A flavour of the varied trajectories that dress studies can take is evident from the following list of articles that were published in Costume within the decade 2000–2010. In number 35 (2001), Maureen Dillon, then the historic lighting consultant to the National Trust, published her essay, ‘“Like a Glow worm who had lost its Glow”: The Invention of the Incandescent Electric Lamp and the Development of Artificial Silk and Electric Jewellery’.

Verity Wilson, who would become the co-editor of the journal, published her piece on dressing up in number 36 (2002), entitled ‘Western Modes and Asian Clothing: Reflections on Borrowing Other People’s Dress’. A much-quoted essay, ‘Dressmakers’ Patterns: The English Commercial Paper Pattern Industry, 1878–1950’ by Kevin L. Seligman, Emeritus Professor at Northern Illinois appeared in number 37 (2003) while close readings of under-used archive sources in County Record Offices resulted in two exemplary essays – Susan Mee, ‘The Clothing of Margaret, Parnell and Millicent Crayforde, 1569–1575, 38 (2004) and Bridget Clarke, ‘Clothing the Family of an MP in the 1690s: Analysis of the Day Book of Edward Clarke of Chipley, Somerset’, 43 (2009).

‘London Haute Couture in the 1930s’ by Stella Mary Newton, edited by Jane Bridgeman, 39 (2005) is an invaluable resource about the inner workings of a fashion house: a fly-on-the-wall account, if you will, by someone involved with the process. In number 40 (2006), Avril Hart contributed ‘Nelson Remembered: Reproductions of Historic Naval Uniforms’ and, in the best tradition of object-based enquiry, Janet Arnold’s article and drawings were published posthumously in number 41 (2007) as ‘The “pair of straight bodies” and “a pair of drawers” dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey’.

Janet Arnold’s life and work were celebrated by an entire volume of Costume devoted to her in the year 2000. Following on in the same vein of close observation of historic dress, Johannes Pietsch contributed text and pattern drawings in his contribution, ‘The Burial Clothes of Margaretha Franziska de Lobkowitz, 1617’, to number 42 (2008).

Costume 44 (2010), the latest issue of the journal, is a volume for Dr Ann Saunders, now Emeritus Editor. During her forty-year tenure as editor, the study of dress reached new academic heights and many authors have her to thank for helping them along the road to publishing their research. The present editors, Penelope Byrde and Verity Wilson, sincerely hope they can emulate Ann’s rigour and tenacity as they move forward with the journal.

The long association between Maney and Costume, begun by Ann, has benefitted both parties and was reinforced this summer by two particular events that helped to move the relationship forward, just as the Costume Society was re-negotiating its contract to publish the journal. The appearance of an article in Ann’s celebratory volume by Liz Rosindale, Maney’s Publishing Manager for the Humanities, about the history of that relationship, and a visit to Leeds, Maney’s home base, by the Costume Society, who held their symposium there this year, helped us all to understand each others’ work and concerns.

Plans for the future of the journal are well underway. We can now publish in full colour and, from 2012, there will be two issues a year. This gives us the opportunity to think about a themed volume for one of the issues, possibly with a guest editor working alongside the editors. Ideas so far are a volume on sportswear to coincide with the London Olympics, collaboration with the Florentine Costume Colloquium whose next venture is Dress for Dance, a volume on Knitting, and one on Asia.

Our new editorial panel will help us and advise.  We will retain our very helpful and popular lists of New and Recent Books compiled for many years by James Snowden, as well as the Selective List of Recent Articles from Periodicals which, from 2011, will be drawn up by Pat Poppy, a university librarian and membership secretary of the Costume Society.

A new addition to the lists will be a checklist of dress exhibitions held in the UK during the previous year, compiled by Imogen Stuart, recently retired from the Victoria and Albert Museum and a past archivist of the Costume Society. These lists are an indispensable part of the journal as so many researchers of all sorts turn to Costume to learn about the history of the subject.

Our Reviews section will continue and, with so many books on dress being published each year, our reviews editor, Christine Stevens, has to weed and refine, cajole publishers and reviewers alike as well as edit their contributions and get them ready for production. Some reviews now go out on the Costume Society website.

Costume's rich archive brought back to life

But undoubtedly, the biggest single change will be the way we access Costume in the future. Over the coming months, Maney will digitize the back archive of the journal so that the many years of original research and pattern cuts will be available by subscription online. This is a move forward into rather unknown territory but the editors have consulted, shared experiences and taken advice on this project. An overall view of what is in store will appear in our 2011 issue; Imogen Stuart has been looking through the back numbers and will contribute an essay charting the important developments in dress studies.

Looking to the future

The rest of our lineup for 2011 includes: an essay on the use made of dress by Thomas Cromwell, Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII (and incidentally now more known through his characterization in the prize-winning novel Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel); an object-based study of a 1620s doublet surviving in Scotland, contextualized, conserved and reproduced; an essay on a startling waistcoat from the French Revolutionary era; an assessment of the 1950s London designer Mattli; and reminiscences of the pioneering Danish-born and UK-based conservator, Karen Finch. It is our hope that, whatever your field of expertise, you might find something in Costume that absorbs you and is relevant to your work.

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Sylvia Ayton: one of the most important fashion designers you've never heard of

A Sylvia Ayton sketch from 1964

'Ask anyone over 40 to name a British fashion designer, and they will probably say the late Miss Muir, Mary Quant, or perhaps Zandra Rhodes. The name Sylvia Ayton will not figure on their list. But Sylvia Ayton has probably dressed more British women than all her UK contemporaries put together; almost half a million women will wrap up this winter in a brand new Sylvia Ayton coat...'

From an article in The Independent, Saturday 30 September 1995. Read the full article here.

Sylvia Ayton is president of
the Costume
Society. Read more about the Society below.



About the Costume Society


The Costume Society was founded in 1964 to promote the study and preservation of examples of historic and contemporary dress. The membership consists of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and embraces textile practitioners and designers as well as historians and art historians, anthropologists and archaeologists, collectors and re-enactors, curators, archivists and conservators. All share a passion for dress in its many guises and the Society acts as a knowledge pool for the dissemination of information and ideas about clothing from all periods and places.

To this end, the Society offers members a scholarly journal – Costume, a twice-yearly newsletter, visits to private and public collections, study days, lectures, international tours  and an annual symposium.

Visits in recent years have included a behind-the-scenes look at the Zandra Rhodes Museum. Society members were given a personal tour by the designer herself, who is world famous for the boldly-coloured prints that were considered too outrageous by traditional British manufacturers in the 1960s.

 Zandra Rhodes

Zandra opened her own shop with Sylvia Ayton, the Costume Society’s present Chair.

Another visit, to the Royal College of Art, was hosted by the senior tutor in woven textiles, Philippa Watkins. She had been invited to Uzbekistan by the British Council to lend her expertise to help re-kindle traditional textile skills there and she shared with members her impressions and possible solutions and also showed them the vibrant ikat silks she had collected.

Study days organized by the Society are a wonderful way to stimulate ideas and scholarship. One such day, Fact or Fiction, centred round the depiction of dress in novels and films. Penelope Byrde, our Costume co-editor, spoke on dress in the work of Jane Austen. A forthcoming study day will look at Edwardian style, focusing on the reign of King Edward VII (r.1901–10) and embracing fashion and shopping at the turn of the century.

Many of these study days, as well as more formal meetings of the executive committee of the Costume Society, are held at the London College of Fashion in the heart of the capital’s traditional rag-trade and shopping district. Today, as a college of the University of the Arts, LCF is a lively venue for gatherings and several of its staff serve on our Costume Society committees and editorial panel.

London, however, is by no means the only place where the Society operates. There are active regional groups and the rich and diverse dress collections throughout the UK host days for the Society. One such day was held at the Bowes Museum, in County Durham. The newly-installed textile gallery, with its Glass Cube housing a study facility, was the focus of the visit.
National and international tours are also arranged by the Society. These give members a chance to network with other organizations with dress interests and to open their eyes to new clothing cultures, the better to understand their own field of interest. Past Study Visits have included the U.S.A. and India and most recently the Society spent a week in Florence and Rome.

The Costume Society’s annual symposium is a fixture in the calendar of many Costume Society members. The four-day event centres round a theme and, as well as input from the Society itself, an academic advisor is appointed to set the tone and ensure a high standard of papers. Keynote speakers are interspersed with presenters giving shorter papers. Visits are a rewarding part of the symposium and, like all the Society’s other events, give members the opportunity to share ideas and knowledge across disciplines.

The 2010 symposium, held in Leeds, where mass-production of men’s tailoring was developed in the mid-nineteenth century, took The Price of Fashion as its theme. Keynote speakers were John Styles, Research Professor in History at the University of Hertfordshire and Lou Taylor, Professor of Dress & Textile History, University of Brighton. Our collections visit was to the Leeds Discovery Centre where the Leeds museums' collections are stored. Curator Natalie Raw showed delegates a selection of items from the costume collection, especially rich in eighteenth-century dresses.

The first symposium, 'La Belle Époque', was held in London in 1967 and other topics in past years have been 'Fashion For All' in Manchester in 1971, 'Jane Austen to Elizabeth Gaskell' in Buxton in 1982, 'The Rise and Fall of King Cotton' in Blackburn in 1995 and 'Coming and Going: Immigrant and Emigrant Dress' in Ulster in 2000. 2011’s symposium will see us at the seaside on the south coast at Eastbourne where the theme is 'Pleasure, Leisure, Travel and Fashion'.

The symposium is also an important platform for education – another aspect of the Costume Society’s work as a registered charity. As one of its aims, to encourage study in the field of dress and appearance, the Society offers a bursary for a student to attend the symposium and winners of other awards are announced during the proceedings. The Museum Placement Award funds a student volunteer to work in a costume collection in a UK public museum.

The Yarwood Award commemorates dress historian and former Chairman of the Costume Society, Doreen Yarwood. The award is offered for a period of three academic years to an MA course in dress history or costume design at a specified academic institution.

The Patterns of Fashion Award was introduced by the Costume Society to commemorate Janet Arnold, a founder member whose contribution to the academic study of dress is immeasurable. The award is given to the student who best produces a reconstruction of a garment from a pattern in one of the Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion books and which reflects the high standards presented in those volumes.

The Student Design Award is presented to the top design student from a fashion course who has undertaken museum research. The finalists present a catwalk show of their inspired designs at the symposium.

The early days of the Costume Society are amusingly recorded by one of its founding members, Madeleine Ginsburg, in Costume, 39 (2005) where she relates how the logo for the new Society was re-drawn by her husband from a German tailor’s guild sign. Madeleine called it a ‘motif’ and intimated that it only rather occasionally appeared. In fact, the open tailor’s shears inside a six-sided cartouche features a great deal on Costume Society stationery and publications and Madeleine, in ‘branding’ the Society, was more prescient than perhaps she knew.

Since 1964, the Costume Society has gone from strength to strength, not only making the books balance annually and keeping the subscriptions rolling in – all achieved by dedicated and efficient volunteers – but also embracing new waves of ideology and fresh ways of thinking about dress. 

Next month...
Neurological Research. View three years of content completely free of charge from 1 December 2010.