Diasporic fashion space: women's experiences of 'South Asian' dress aesthetics in London

Shivani Derrington

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis responds to the emergence of a ‘diasporic fashion space’ in London, examining its implications for women of South Asian descent and their lived experiences of dress. It draws upon in-depth qualitative research in which women provided testimony about their dress biographies, wardrobe collections and aesthetic agency. The aim is to complement, and advance, past research that considered the production and marketing of ‘South Asian’ fashions and textiles in Britain (e.g. Bhachu 2003, Dwyer & Jackson 2003) through a more sustained analysis of the consumption and use of styles and materials. The research is situated in relation to both specific bodies of scholarship – such as that on contemporary British Asian fashion cultures – and wider currents of thought – in particular on diasporic geographies and geographies of fashion. The approach taken draws especially from work within fashion studies that has sought to recognise lived experiences of dress. The thesis develops its argument through four complementary perspectives on the testimonies constructed in the empirical research. First, it considers the role of dress in inhabiting what is termed ‘British Asian fashion space’ and ideas of British Asian identity. Second, it then examines how dress functions as a technology of diasporic selfhood, focusing on the practice of dress choices both in everyday life and in significant ceremonies such as weddings. The third substantive chapter focuses on the interrelated materialities and memories of dress, considering both the collections of clothing held within women’s wardrobes and their embodied wear. The final substantive chapter foregrounds the relations between dress and place, focusing on both the general contextuality of dress practices and the navigations of London’s fashion scenes by the women researched. Overall, the thesis shows how dress is a material practice that both allows and demands a contextually sensitive objectification of diasporic selves, social relations and sensibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Crang, Philip, Supervisor
  • Gilbert, David, Advisor
  • Breward, Christopher, Advisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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