The Enterprise of Culture

Fashion for the masses: understanding fashion as social history at the M&S Company Archive

Fashion for the masses: understanding fashion as social history at the M&S Company Archive

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The Enterprise of Culture has teamed up with the Marks and Spencer Company Archive to bring the history of fashion to life in a series of public talks this autumn.

Understanding Fashion will explore what fashion reveals about us and our society. It will give public audiences the opportunity to see gems from the unique M&S Company Archive collection and to see fashion in a whole new light.

The first talk, Understanding Fashion: Fashion as Social History, will take place at the M&S Company Archive in Leeds on Tuesday 6 October from 5:30pm and will be hosted by Company Archivist, Katharine Carter. The talk will provide the opportunity to discover the extensive M&S archive collection, which dates from the early 1920s, and consider ‘fashion for the masses’ as a cultural and economic phenomenon.

The second talk, History Under Wraps, will see special guest, Lorraine Hamilton Smith from London College of Fashion, come to the M&S Company Archive on Friday 20 November at 12:00pm to talk about underwear in the 1950s and 1960s. The session will explore the changes in lingerie over time, from the very first M&S bra in 1926 to today’s innovations, and will show how our smalls can help us to gain a bigger understanding of history.

Katharine Carter, M&S Company Archivist, said: “The Understanding Fashion programme will provide a real insight into the history of fashion as part of our wider social history. We hope the public are able to join us and discover fashion in a whole new light. Those interested should book early to avoid disappointment.”

Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Leadership Chair in the History of Business and Society and Project Leader for the Enterprise of Culture (EOC) said: “The Enterprise of Culture is excited to collaborate with the M&S Company Archive on this series of public programmes. These events build on the excellent resources in the M&S Company Archive and home in on the EOC’s focus on the business history of fashion. This series will help the public to put fashion retailing within the broader social context and connect everyday styles to the idea of cultural encounters.”

Booking for both events is essential as places are limited. Entry into the talks is free, and light refreshments from M&S will be available. To reserve a place and for further details please email or phone 0208 718 2800. More information can be found here.

The M&S Company Archive has a collection of more than 70,000 historic items and was unveiled at the University of Leeds’ Michael Marks Building in March 2012. The permanent Marks in Time exhibition celebrates the role that M&S has played in peoples’ lives since 1884 and charts the development of the iconic British retailer from its roots at Kirkgate Market to the present day.

Image: Detail from Marks & Spencer Magazine, Christmas 1932 (Marks and Spencer Company Archives)

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