Scholarly biography and interests

Professor Lou Taylor's academic career has focused on the development of critical approaches to the discussion of the objects of clothing in their historical, material culture and museology settings, through teaching, publishing, exhibition curating and PhD supervision. Her first book Mourning Dress, A Costume and Social History was published by Allen and Unwin in 1983.

Lou Taylor has written an account of her views on dress history methodologies and the collection, display and interpretation of dress in museums, in her two books:The Study of Dress History, 2002, and Establishing Dress History, 2005, both published by Manchester University Press. Establishing Dress History deals with the historiography of dress history and the creation and interpretation of dress collections in museums of every kind. Alyea, in the American Journal, Dress, 1/32 2005 noted: "[Taylor] highlights just this: how do the conscious and unconscious aims of the curator or institution affect what is collected, what is excluded, and how a collection is maintained, studied and exhibited. The call to self-awareness is the fundamental lesson for future generations of curators."

Taylor's application of material culture and consumption studies has positively transformed dress history. She is driven by the conviction that transdisciplinary approaches to the construction of history, including working with surviving garments, offers a fresh, close understanding of the cultural 'eye' of a specific period or community. Taylor also has a longstanding interest in the history of the teaching of fashion in British art Schools (IHTP 2007).

She works internationally with dress historians in New York, with Valerie Steele (FIT paper 2006); in Paris with Veillon and Ruffat of the IHTTP; (chapter, 2007 and conference paper, 2005); in Copenhagen with the Designskole (paper 2005); in Stockholm with the Swedish Ethnographers Association (Wiman 2005) and in Warsaw with the Polish Academy of Sciences (2002 ' Kultura i Spoleczenstwo) and Warsaw Academy of Fine Art (paper 2006). And by invitation she has worked with colleagues in Milan and in Paris - (the IHTP Dress History Group) on issues of design, material culture and national identity related to British ‘youthquake’ fashion in the 1960s.

Prof Lou Taylor works at the interface of object-based dress history, museum curatorship, and material culture. Her energies are focused on enhancing a flow of respect between collection/museum work and the university history/critical theory worlds. This concern formed the basis of her Study of Dress History, of which Honeyman noted (Economic History, 2002, p789): "Taylor displays awesome knowledge and critical skill as she provides examples of best practice in a range of methods well suited to a more complete approach."

Taylor's work places clothing/textiles and related archival documentation, into their specific design, manufacture and consumption context. Two sample projects are her research on fabrics printed in Lyons, during World War Two, which she deliberately presented in France. This work verifies, through analysis of imagery on surviving fabric samples, the all-too-close commercial and civilian support for the Pétain regime across France in 1940-44, (Lethuiller 2007). Her Costume Society 2007 Symposium paper presented the cultural biography of lace from the Polish Silesian Highlands. She has worked on national exhibitions and advised the V&A on the selection of dress for their 'International Arts and Crafts' exhibition, writing the text on this in the show’s related book, edited by Linda Parry and Karen Livingstone.

Taylor also jointly, with Eleanor Thompson and Amy de la Haye, curated and wrote the book Fancy and Fancy Dress - the Messel Dress Collection 1870-2004 (Philip Wilson, Autumn 2005) for Brighton Museum. This a major fashion exhibition which examines issues of fashion, memory and collecting through assessment of six generations of clothes worn by the women in Lord Snowdon’s family.

Lou Taylor is a regular book and exhibition reviewer for Costume, Fashion Theory and Textile History as well as making her own article contributions to these journals and other publications. Her work has also been published in France, Sweden, Poland and the USA.

Featured works and projects

Absence of Fashionable Dress

Absence of Fashionable Dress at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities

'L'English Style'

'L'English Style' at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities

Establishing Dress History

Establishing Dress History at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities

Study of Dress History

Study of Dress History at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities

Research activity

Repository holdings

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  • Chapter: 'Edwardian Fashion and Etiquette' in Lister, Jenny and Strodder-Davis, Cassie, Heather Fairbanks, Woman of Fashion 1900-1920 ,V&A publications
  • Chapter: 'Fashion and dress history: theoretical and methodological approaches in de la Haye, Amy, Rocamora, Agnes, Thomas, Helen et al, the Fashion Studies Handbook, Berg, Oxford.


  • Book Review, Journal of Art Historiography, Peter McNeil, Fashion: Critical and Primary Sources, Berg, Oxford, 2009


  • Book Review: Costume, Journal of the Costume Society, Christine Ruane,  The Empire’s New Clothes – a history of the Russian Fashion Industry 1700-1900, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2009 
  • Book Review Costume: Journal of the Costume Society, Bronwyn Labrum, Fiona McKergow and Stephanie Gibson, Looking Flash – Clothing in Aotearoa, New Zealand, Auckland University Press, 2007 


  • Maud Messel's Harris Tweed Costume, 1905: an object-based material culture analysis, Textile History.
  • Jean-Pierre Lethuillier Costumes Regionaux, mutations vestimentaires et ‘modes’ de constructions identitaires, Université de Rennes, Centre de Recherches Historiques sur les Societés et les Cultures de l’Ouest Européen. 'Les marguerites, les lapins, et les moulins à vent: la creation de textiles haute nouveautés lyonnais pendant L’Occupation et les issues du symbolisme Vichyist 1938-1944'.


  • Michel Ruffat, Veilllon Dominique, Années Soixantes, chapter: Le Style Anglais: les origines de la création de Mode en Grande Bretagne 1955-70, Editions Autrement, Paris.
  • Review of book and exhibition, London Style, (book edited by Breward,C. Evans C. and Erhmmann E. ) for 'Textile History'.


  • Co-written with Amy de la Haye and Eleanor Thompson, 'Fancy and Fancy Dress: the Messel Dress Collection, 1870-2005', Philip Wilson and the Museum of Brighton. Chapter 4: 'Leonard and Maud Messel - collecting, fancy dress and style'; Chapter 6 (written with Elizabeth McCrum): 'The Rosse Family in Ireland: The heritage of Birr Castle, Demesne and Anne, Countess of Rosse's patronage of Irish fashion'; Chapter 7: 'Conclusion: "The Fifth and Sixth Generations, 1970 -2004": Heritage, memory, dispersal and survival of the Messel Dress Collection'.
  • Parry Linda and Karen Livingstone, International Arts and Crafts, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, named section on 'Arts and Crafts Dress'.
  • Wiman, Mona: Pakladd Uppkladd Avkladd, Om klader, kropp och identitet ('Dressed, Dressed Up and Undressed'), Norstedts Akademiska Förlag, Stockholm. Chapter titled, 'The History and Current State of Object-Centred Dress History'.
  • Review of book and V&A exhibition: Tulloch, Carol: Black British Style, And related book Black Style Tulloch Carol (ed) 'Costume', the Journal of the Costume Society.
  • Review: CD Rom: British Costume - Archive CD Books English Costume painted and described by Dion Clayton, Adam and Charles Black, 1923, for 'Costume', Journal of Costume Society, 2005.


  • Contributions to Scribners Enclycopedias: Scribners Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion: entries on Mourning Dress; Art Nouveau Fashion; Art Deco Fashion; C.W Cunnington. Scribners New Dictionary of the History of Ideas: entry under 'Historical Studies of Fashion' (3000 words).
  • Enrioc MODA, Chapter: Designer Fashion in Britain since the 1960s.
  • Review for Textile History Journal: Christopher Breward, Fashion, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • The Art Journal: Review of exhibition and related book: Clark, Judith, Spectres, V&A.


  • David Jenkins, Encyclopedia of Western European Textiles, Cambridge University Press, with Fiona Anderson, Chapter: 'Fashion in the Twentieth Century'.
  • Mary Schoeser and Christine Boydell: Disentangling Textiles, Middlesex University Press, Chapter: 'The Hierarchy of Fashion Fabrics'.


  • C. Breward, B. Conekin and C. Cox: The Englishness of English Dress, Berg, Chapter: 'The Wardrobe of Mrs Leonard Messel, 1895-1920'.
  • 'The Development and Practice of Oral History - with specific reference to the study of clothing' in Kultura i Spoleczenstwo, Journal of the Sociology Department of the Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw.
  • Fashion Theory 6/1, Why the absence of Fashionable dress in the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition Art Nouveau, 1890-1910?

Citations and reviews

Reviews of books include

The Study of Dress History, Manchester University Press; Margaret Maynard, Textile History, 34/1/2003; Barbara Burman, Fashion Theory, Vol 7, Issue 2 pp243-246 2003; Katrina Honeyman, the Economic History Review, Vol LV, no 4: Nov. 2002 pp788-789; Anthea Jarvis. Costume Vol 37, 2003; Establishing Dress History, Manchester University Press; Dr Ben Highmore, Design History Journal, 2005, pp220-222; Matt Shinn, Museum Practice, Spring 2005; pp60-61.

Sample Citations

Professor Taylor is an eloquent advocate for her many branches of dress history study, and those practicing it, to get together and share research and knowledge for mutual benefit… It will be an essential textbook for all dress history students.
(The Study of Dress History (2003), Anthea Jarvis in 'Costume', vol 37, 2003)

We gain from the author’s decision to integrate fashion and, rather than prioritize it, to treat it as one of many equally important facets of clothing’s use and meaning in society. In mapping the routes from other branches of history …this book make a timely case for inter-disciplinarity.
(The Study of Dress History (2003), Barbara Burman in 'Fashion Theory' vol 7, Issue 2, 2003)

In its capacity simultaneously to entertain and to edify, 'The Study of Dress History’ is exceptional. Its message is not that historians of dress should draw indiscriminately from as many of the available methodological options as possible, but rather that it is time to out the study of dress back into history.
(Establishing Dress History (2004), Katrina Honeyman, in 'The Economic History Review', vol LV. No 4 Nov. 2002) 

Juries, committees and editorial boards  


Au-delà du bleu - waide : patrimoine et création" - "Out of the blue - woad : heritage and creativity, Joint Amien- Brighton EU funded project – Instigator and advisor for woad fashion design project. 

2010 and 2012

Organiser of bi-annual post graduate research study days with Institut d' Histoire de Temps Present, (CNRS) Paris: Fashion in World War 2 ND Women and Fashion Between the Wars.


Key note presenter at the opening of the research study days series: La Mode: Objets d'Etudes?' for the Institut National de l'Histoire d'Art, Paris 

Member of the Editorial Boards of the Journals Fashion Theory and Costume


Visiting Consultant/lecturer. Department of Fashion Studies, University of Stockholm, Sweden


Consultant for new book proposals in the field of fashion and dress history to Bergs. Oxford.

From 2005

Member of the Steering Committee of the Newsonline Steering Group (ITN/Reuters) organised by the Joint Information Systems Committee.

Member of the Board of Governors of the Royal Pavilion Art Gallery and Museums of Brighton.

2004 - Ongoing

Museum of Brighton, co-curator 'Fashion and Fancy Dress: the Messel Dress collection 1875-2004', opened October 2005.


Member of the Steering committee for the conference 'Dress and Culture', organised by the Institute d'Histoire du Temps Present, and the Design Museum, Paris, at the Pompidou Centre, December.

From 2001

Member of the Dress Research Group, of the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Présent of the CNRS, Paris.

From 1998

Member of the Editorial Board: The Journal of Fashion Theory, Bergs, Oxford.

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