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.