'Consuming Mass Fashion in Britain, 1929-1939: The Impact of the Purchasing Power of Young Working Class Women on the Development of Mass Ready-to-Wear Manufacture.'
This thesis will investigate the design, manufacture, retailing and consumption of fashion for young working class women in the 1930s. It will concentrate on new developments in the manufacture of light-weight clothing targeted at the younger consumer and on retailing in the department store, the independent dress shop, new chain stores, home dressmaking, second hand clothing and the fashion mail-order catalogue industry in England.
This thesis will explore young working class women’s fashion interests, probing the influences of issues such as fashionability, modernity, peer group pressure and cohesion, leisure and related dress, along with analysis of the reactions of the middle and upper classes to the emergence of more fashionably dressed young working class women as well as the reactions of the women’s parents and peers. In the context of work, income, family and gender expectations, this study will also assess the relationship between their consumption desires and consequential mass manufacturing developments, building on Reillo’s view that; ‘fashion should be the interaction of changing consumers needs and producers’.
The initial starting point will therefore explore the life, work and aspirations of the young working class woman in Britain in the 1930s, including assessment of regional differences. The relationships between fashion, manufacture and business history have previously been opened up by Katrina Honeyman, through her exploration of the way early twentieth century changes accelerated developments in the women’s ready-to-wear trade. Economic issues have been assessed by Andrew Godley, Anne Kershen and Raphael Schapiro, and Alison Beazley. This thesis will thus identify themes which intersect between the business, social, fashion history and material culture boundaries. It will explore how changes in consumption desires and mass manufacture can be driven by the forces of fashion. Through company history search into archives of retailers such as Marks and Spencer, to be a case-study, the intent is to prove how new business structures, targets and developments in both production and retailing, sustained the relatively early mass marketing of female attire, specifically for the young consumer. A material culture approach will develop cultural meanings.
On onset of this work, it has proved worthy to research previous and current PhD’s, M.Phil’s and M.A.’s theses. Although many look at working class women, none appear to have or are following a business-fashion-economic-socio-historical trajectory.
 Giorgio Riello ,“La Chaussure a La Mode: Product Innovation and Marketing Strategies in Paris and London Boot and Shoemaking in the Early Nineteenth Century,” Textile History, Vol. 34, No.2, Nov 2003, 108
This study will identify the themes which intersect the business-fashion history boundary.