Getting close to clothes: Using material objects to rethink the creative geographies of post-war London fashion

Bethan Bide

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Downloads (Pure)


Getting close to clothes provides new perspectives on the geographies of fashion cities and the processes and collaborations by which they function. Taking the history of London's garment industry in the post‐war 1940s as a case study, this paper traces the major stages of the making process of clothes – pattern making, cutting, machining and finishing – through four garments from the Museum of London's fashion collection. By understanding these material fashion objects as processes, it uncovers the hidden stories of historic garment workers through the tiny clues left in old stitching, revealing the creativity of the individuals who made them and how they contributed to the creative cultures of the historic fashion city. This study of material processes shows how individual makers shaped garments and contributed to a creative culture that played a vital role in London's growing post‐war reputation as a fashion city. It also broadens the boundaries of London as a fashion city beyond the confines of the West End by revealing that a network of workrooms and factories across the city supported this centrally located cluster of fashion businesses. Having established the historical role of making in the creative cultures of London fashion, this paper concludes by questioning how future studies of contemporary fashion cities might look to material objects in order to reconsider the creative agency of subcontracted garment workers in the new international division of labour and the contributions they make towards the symbolic reputations of major fashion cities, in spite of geographical distances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Early online date4 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • material culture
  • fashion
  • making
  • creativity
  • globalisation
  • historical geography

Cite this