Photo by Bob Collins 'Women examining second-hand clothes at a street market in Mile End' circa 1948

The Look of Austerity – 2015 Conference on Post-war Dress

A Call for Papers has been issued for a two-day conference hosted by The Museum of London in September next year. ‘The Look of Austerity’ will “explore the effect of post-war austerity on the appearance of people and cities… ‘The Look of Austerity aims to re-examine the post-war period, looking at the changing meaning and the face of austerity and exploring the real implications of austerity policies and culture on sartorial aesthetics. Focusing on the immediate post-war period, specifically the years 1945-1951, we invite papers that examine the popular experience of obtaining and wearing clothes throughout the western world during these turbulent and changing times, exploring the often overlooked areas of ready-to-wear innovation, international dialogues, and approaches that look beyond some of the popular myths of post-war fashion.”

The conference will take place at the Museum of London, on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 September 2015. Presentations are invited of 20 to 25 minutes’ duration – material culture and interdisciplinary contributions are particularly encouraged. Topics for discussion may include:

  • fashion consumption and austerity, particularly popular and everyday experiences of obtaining and wearing clothes
  • the production and distribution of ready-to-wear
  • the role of couture after the war
  • dialogues across Western nations and fashion capitals, particularly Paris, New York, Berlin and Rome
  • visual and written representations of fashion in newspapers, magazines, advertisements, cinema and amateur film
  • biographic approaches, for example diaries, novels and short stories
  • the designer in a culture of austerity
  • the connection between austerity and glamour
  • re-emergence of the austerity look in later periods, for example in the 1970s/1990s
  • the legacy of the look of austerity

The effects of war did not end immediately in 1945. In Britain clothes rationing lasted until 1949 while rationing only ended altogether in 1954. The ‘Make Do And Mend’ mentality of the war years continued long after, as Europe began the slow process of rebuilding. Knitting played vital part in the budgets of many households and really should be represented appropriately by a paper at this conference. So put on your [knitted] thinking caps!

The deadline for submission of proposals is Monday 27 October 2014. Further information is on the Museum of London website, where you can also download a copy of the Call For Papers.