Ms Bethan Bide

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Bethan Bide completed an AHRC CDA funded PhD in 2017. The project was supervised by Beatrice Behlen at the Museum of London and David Gilbert at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her thesis explored post-war ‘austerity’ London though the fashion consumption, making practices and clothes of the city’s inhabitants.

 

The thesis consideres the relationship between fashion, austerity and London in the years 1945 to 1951—categorised by popular history as a period of austerity in Britain. London in the late 1940s is commonly remembered as a drab city in a state of disrepair, leading fashion historians to look instead to Paris and New York for signs of post-war energy and change. Yet, looking closer at the business of making and selling fashion in London, it becomes clear that, behind the shortages, rubble and government regulation, austerity was a driving force for dynamic processes of change—particularly in relation to how women’s ready-to-wear fashions were made and sold in the city—and that a variety of social, economic and political conditions in postwar Britain changed the way manufacturers, retailers and consumers understood the symbolic capital of London fashion.

 

Bethan’s research places material culture at the centre of this story to create new historical perspectives and expose the processes and networks concealed within the social and gender hierarchies of London fashion at this time. It redraws the map of the fashion city, making connections between the city-centre and suburb, West End stores and East End workrooms, and national government policies and local business strategies. In mapping these connections, the thesis reveals how this period of austerity, and Londoners’ responses to it, formed the mould that would shape London’s trajectory as a fashion city for the rest of the twentieth century.

 

Bethan has previously completed degrees at the London College of Fashion and the University of Cambridge, and has worked as a researcher, scriptwriter and producer for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC Proms. 

 

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