Items where Subject is "Costume"

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In 2018 Ellison was invited by curators Lou Stoppard and Adam Murray to exhibit a series of his Cumbrian portraits and landscapes in North: Fashioning Identity at Open Eye, Liverpool, Somerset House, London and Civic Centre, Barnsley. This celebrated exhibition generated worldwide press coverage and formulated new research opportunities into regional identities in Photography and Fashion. Following this celebrated exhibition, Ellison was invited by Centre Centre to publish Tek Hod, Embroidered Wrestlers of the North.

Research Imperatives

Ellison explores the cultural significance of embroidered costumes of regional sport Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. The costume of white cotton vest, velvet underpants and white cotton long john’s features motifs that represent or identify the wrestler. Commonly, embodying the idyllic picturesque image of the English Lake District, this costume represents the celebration of rural life depicted by vernacular embroidered symbols. Usually associated with nature, the costume embroidery is sewn by the family who wrestle, often abbreviating the initials of the wrestler and decorated with flora and fauna featuring the native landscape of Cumbria and much celebrated English Lake District.

Ellison researched critic John Ruskin’s connection to the arts and crafts in the Lake District and how his patronage of craft influenced the style of embroidery seen on wrestling costumes. Ellison’s subsequent documentary photographs (2008-2018) follow the wrestling contests in the landscape and trace the performance of tradition. Furthermore, his cross disciplined analysis of embroidery and photography traces the ‘skilled’ labour of the arts and crafts in the Lake District against the ‘unskilled’ vernacular embroidery seen on wrestling costumes from archival photographs.

The book Tek Hod, Embroidered Wrestlers of the North brings together a documentary photographic practice alongside a rigorous research project that re-frames knowledge of the arts and crafts and the picturesque through archived photographs used to chart the evolution of craft - crediting amateur makers of embroidery.

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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15 outline a broad concern for us to take better care for our lands and oceans and act on the negative anthropogenic impact that we, as humans, are having on this planet. However, I propose that many of us see ourselves as separate from nature and lack a connection with it. This, in turn, affects the way we treat it. In this research I explore how we can frame our futures by telling visual stories about the land and sea and the geological foundation of the world we live in. This is achieved by exploring the relationship between natural landscapes, earth sciences and the ‘bodily’ canvas. By presenting examples of costume and textile design in response to a specific brief this visual essay introduces the notion that by anthropomorphizing nature through costume design a sense of connectivity between humans and nature can be bridged. Although there are many examples of how nature has been used as a springboard for garment design this article draws attention to theories explored in social science that claim if we attribute human characteristics to natural forms we feel greater connectivity towards it. I present ideas that using the visual detail of the landscape and by exploring the opportunities of how these can be embedded into costume design we can create a playful public engagement performance tool. This approach has the potential to, not only investigate new ways of interpreting landscape and geology through a costume-design-led performance model, but also challenge the way people think about the natural world with the potential to foster pro-environmental behaviour.


This research project explores the notion that by anthropomorphizing nature through an emergent practice of landscaped inspired costume design a sense of connectivity between humans and nature can be bridged. It builds on somatic costume research by Dean (2014 and 2016) and asks the question: How can the body be used as a somatic landscape to create a playful public engagement performance tool to promote a connection with the natural landscapes of Dorset.

A costume -design -led approach was executed by combining theoretical and empirical research that explored the connectivity between the landscape and the body. This included field trips and visual hands-on research included rock rubbing, sketching, fossil hunting, archival research and investigative walking. Most significant was the dialogue with the earth scientists from the Jurassic Coast Trust who supported the research and its development. Combining this practice-based approach with theories in social scientists (Tams et al. (2013), Berry & Wolf-Waltz (2014) and Lumber, Richard and Sheffield (2017)) the outcome of this research highlights how the intervention of performance, or more specifically costume design in performance, can be used as a method to get its audience to think about natural landscapes. Cited in Resonance in Rocks: Building a Sustainable Learning and Engagement Programme for the Jurassic Coast, Proceedings of Geologists’ Association, the work was referred to as a ‘remarkable piece of interpretation’ Khatwa Ford, (2018).

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The 1940s were an iconic period of women's dress history, with the familiar square shoulders, crepe tea dresses and seamed stockings paired with red lips, victory curls and head scarves. This book explains the period's sewing techniques and makes a range of 1940s outfits to recreate the look of those vintage years. With detailed step-by-step instruction and over 300 photographs, it captures the style of the time and explains the impact of wartime austerity on the cut and construction of women's dress.


The Second World War necessitated the transferral of labour and supplies from civilian manufacture to war production. Orders initiated by the government, in an attempt to make economical use of limited resources, severely affected the clothing industry from production to consumption. As a result, many contemporaneous sources and contemporary scholars claim that civilian dress was standardised. Scrutiny of trade journals, government documents, Mass Observation records, extant garments, and sewing patterns demonstrates that though manufacturing methods were standardised and simplified, there continued to be a range of styles in women’s dress.

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In the context of a rapidly changing world, Rachel Worth explores the ways in which the clothing of the rural working classes was represented visually in paintings and photographs and by the literary sources of documentary, autobiography and fiction, as well as by the particular pattern of survival and collection by museums of garments of rural provenance. The book analyses the ways in which clothing and how it is represented throws light on wider social and cultural aspects of society, as well as how 'traditional' styles of dress, like men's smock-frocks or women's sun-bonnets, came to be replaced by 'fashion'. This study, with black & white and colour illustrations, both adds a broader dimension to the history of dress by considering it within the social and cultural context of its time and discusses how clothing enriches our understanding of the social history of the Victorian period.


In what ways do changing notions of social class correspond with key developments in the history of fashion? Focusing on examples ranging from 18th-century Britain to aspects of the global fashion industry in the early 21st century, 'Fashion and Class' examines the meaning and evolution of the term 'class', from its Marxist origins to modern day interpretations. Did industrialisation, technological change and developments in fashion retailing bring about a degree of 'class levelling' or in fact intensify class antagonism? And to what extent does modern mass consumption and cheap labour revive some of the ethical issues faced in 19th-century British textile factories? Exploring a variety of case studies that examine the changing relationships between fashion and class in different historical contexts, from the French revolutionaries of the 1780-90s through to the changing relationships between couture, designer and high-street fashion in the mid-20th century and onwards, this book is essential reading for those wishing to understand the ways in which the fashion system is closely connected with ideas of class.


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