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Jordan Mitchell-King

History, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

Undress: Informal Women?s Clothing in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Historians of eighteenth-century dress have been preoccupied with garments worn in public spaces and have privileged dress’ performative role in socio-cultural interactions and display. This project challenges the pre-eminence of publicity in cultures of dress, making a case for the cultural significance of ‘undress’ for women in Britain. Undress consisted of garments appropriate for informal domestic settings, including waistcoats, jackets, and quilted gowns. The contemporary construction of undress as a sartorial category compels us to ask new questions about the role clothing played in privacy and comfort in eighteenth-century Britain. This project rests on the intersection of the manual and cultural construction of undress garments. It asks how this undress was culturally constructed and enacted, and how these garments were made, worn, and experienced by their producers and wearers. 

To tackle these questions, the methodology for this project combines a traditional archival approach with object-based research and original-practice based dress reconstructions. Replicas will be created of extant garments, making two each of waistcoats, bed gowns, jackets, petticoats and stays. The object-based research will build a corpus of material evidence from collections across the UK and US. This includes garments in the collection at Colonial Williamsburg and the Bath Fashion Museum. A database has already been started. I have also identified archival collections vital to this project at the National Archives and various regional archives. This archival and object-based research will underpin innovative reconstruction methodologies. This will generate insights into the unwritten labour processes of garment-making and allow experimental wearing as a way to access dressing practices and to understand how garments interacted on the moving body. 

Research Area

  • Cultural History
  • History


Book review 'Patternmaking: History and Theory', Journal of Dress History, 5:1, 2021.

'The Clothing of the Contadina: Women's Work, Leisure, and Morality in Sixteenth-Century Northern Italy' with Elizabeth Currie in Refashioning the Renaissance: Everyday Dress and the Reconstruction of Early Modern Material Culture, 1550-1650 ed. Paula Hohti, Manchester University Press, forthcoming.


'Reconstructing a Contadina's Apron' Refashioning the Renaissance: Everyday Dress and the Reconstruction of Early Modern Material Culture, 1550-1650, September 2021, Aalto University, Finland.

Public Engagement & Impact

Special interest publications:

'The History of Nineteenth-Century Drafting Systems' Foundations Revealed, August 2021

'Using Nineteenth-Century Drafting Systems' Foundations Revealed, August 2021

'Making, Selling and Defining Eighteenth-Century Jumps and Quilted Waistcoats' Foundations Revealed, upcoming

'Wearing Eighteenth Century Waistcoats, What it Meant and How it Changed' Foundations Revealed, upcoming

Digital outputs:

MA cohort Graduation website, publication and symposium. This shared the research of students across our cohort in various mediums, from traditional academic papers to accessible and fun workshop activites. Click here.

Publishing videos on YouTube to share aspects of my research and interests with interested online communities. Click here.