Louisa Cross

Research Student

Research Topic

Thesis Title

The display of fashion in urban Scotland c1780-1825


Fashion is defined by Brookes-Picken as the 'prevailing or accepted style: often embracing many styles at one time' and also as 'particular line or construction, as of a garment'. 'Fashion' is an indicator of behaviour of the prevailing group in society. 'By its very nature, 'fashion' is changeable. Fashionable display, therefore, is an outward statement of what the wearer wants to communicate about their identity in relation to others. The concept of 'fashion' in an eighteenth century context is related to the elements of 'politeness' and 'taste'. The wearing of fashionable clothing is part of a social performance and the way in which it is worn is part of the behaviour that marked out groups and individuals through time.

This thesis will trace the development of fashionable display in Scotland c1780-1825, a key period of urban development. The study seeks to provide a perspective on Scottish urban and social history which is often lacking. This will also provide a sound basis for exploring the rising importance of fashion and display to the expanding middle classes in Scotland, and the extent to which this importance is part of wider trends evident in many parts of Britain, America and Europe. While there is a focus on Edinburgh as a centre of fashion, with strong links to London and to Europe, consideration is given to fashionable display in Inverness, Glasgow and Dundee to establish focal points of fashionable display and patterns of variation in Scotland.

The thesis will look firstly at Edinburgh as the capital and an established centre of fashion, and consider the extent, or not, of the influence of London fashion in that city. Consideration of the arenas of display consider both the private and public, with accounts of attendance at balls, visits to the Assembly Rooms, promenades in Princes Street and to the races in Leith and Dunfermline. Theatrical performances also afforded Scottish women the opportunity to see the latest London fashions. However, fashionable display needs to be considered on a much wider scale to achieve the full picture in Scotland. In particular, fashionable display is examined in relation to the concept of the 'social theatre' of eighteenth century urban society, exploring the emergence of a distinct identity for the expanding middle classes through the medium of fashionable display and theatrical behaviour.

A range of written sources have been analysed , including trade directories, sederunt books in which stock and creditors are detailed, newspaper advertisements and family accounts which together build a picture of shopping patterns within individual towns. Contemporary comment on fashionable display is analysed through newspaper reports of fashionable gatherings, such as races and balls, and London fashion reports, magazine articles, alongside personal diaries and correspondence. Additionally, a further range of visual sources of fashion prints, portraiture and caricature are analysed alongside the written sources. This picture of the arenas of display and of the actors in the social theatre of eighteenth century urban Scotland assesses the import of fashionable display in the Scottish context.



Book Chapters

Louisa Cross, The Display and Trading of Fashionable Dress and its Impact on Women in Scotland's Growing Urban Centres, c.1780–1825 in Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton (eds), Women in Eighteenth-Century Scotland: Intimate, Intellectual and Public Lives (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013)

Louisa Cross, Fashionable hair in the eighteenth century: theatricality and display in G. Biddle-Perry and S. Cheang (eds), Styling, Culture and Fashion (Oxford, Berg, 2008)

Book Reviews

Louisa Cross, Elite Women and Polite Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland by Katharine Glover, English Historical Review (2013) 128 (533): 968-970

Louisa Cross, The European linen industry in historical perspective by B. Collins and P. Ollerenshaw (eds), Continuity Change (2004) 19 (2): 319-321