A degree for lovers of fashion and history

Published

Dora Pongracz
Writer

It has been six years since the Dress and Textile Histories postgraduate course started at the University of Glasgow, and thanks to social media it is getting more attention from students all over the world. Lecturer Sally Tuckett and previous student Jade Halbert open up about the secrets of the course.

“It is a very competitive course. Currently we have 10 students, the most we had was 18” says Sally. It is unique to Scotland and the United Kingdom as it emphasises the importance of the history of clothing, not just on contemporary fashion. “It is part time on lectures, but full time on everything else” says Jade as a previous part-time student of the course.

An Instagram account was created recently (@uofgdressandtextilehistories): it will be of interest to anyone who’s passionate about clothes, textiles and the history of clothes making in general. The University of Glasgow is the only place where the course is taught, focusing so greatly on historical contexts. While other universities offer similar courses, University of Glasgow showcases a comprehensive understanding of history like no other institution.

Dress and Textile Histories is about systematically looking at things, for example difference in dress according to class and political involvement. The interactive part of the course includes students examining clothes showcased in museums and listening to curators, as well as doing their own research. While this is more time consuming than more conventional postgraduate courses, the fact that Glasgow has a strong textile history make it easier for students to travel to smaller museums around Scotland and find the most captivating textiles and dresses.

“Last year we went to London for a study trip, this year we are going to Manchester” says Sally. Interactive study and research are as important as essays and seminars, and the opportunity to travel further expands the students’ horizons. I asked Sally whether vintage shops may help students in their research, since they usually have unique clothes from previous decades, often from smaller companies and designers. However, as expected, owners of these shops tend to know less than museum curators. “This is just a man’s pyjama for you from a vintage shop, but we know who owned it, when they owned it and what’s the story behind it” explains Sally as she shows me a pyjama set from her own collection. She takes pieces like these to lectures in order to show how details of textiles give indication of the history behind the clothing.

Dress and Textile Histories is a degree which explores not only fashion and taste, but also gender and ever-changing consumption patterns. By focusing on the history of dress and offering a multitude of ways to gain information, it offers a full range of skills to student who would like to learn about the “behind the scenes” of clothing making and curation.