The 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians was on the subject of ‘Fashion’. To coincide with the conference, the IHR collaborated with Senate House Library (SHL) Special Collections to develop a small digital exhibition. Senate House Library holds four unique fashion catalogues from London Department stores, dating from 1916/17. They are:
- Bradley’s, Chepstow Place, known at the ‘Arctic Fur Store’. The store remained open until the 1950s, when it gradually switched over to dry cleaning. A couple of the dry cleaning stores remain, although not in London.
- Dickins & Jones, Regent Street. Dickins & Jones was bought in 1914 by Harrods, and the brand was purchased more recently by House of Fraser.
- Peter Robinson, Oxford Street. After the First World War Peter Robinson opened a store on Oxford Circus, which was subsequently bombed during the Second World War. The current Topshop fashion chain began in its basement.
- John Barnes & Co, Finchley Road, Hampstead. This store opened in 1900 and was bought later by John Lewis.
In addition to being beautiful objects in their own right, the catalogues are a fascinating source for fashion, business and cultural history, as well as for the history of London. They are now very fragile, so digitisation (to be undertaken in SHL’s digital imaging suite) performed a valuable conservation function. Online delivery of the resulting images, with contextual historical material, was provided by the IHR. The exhibition launched at the Anglo-American Conference in July 2015, and was a very successful in promoting the event to a wider audience.
For more information, please visit the project site: Fashion and Consumption in the First World War: Department Store Catalogues 1916/17.