Dress in Context

Research Centre

Dress in Literature Symposium

20th May 2020 at the Birmingham & Midland Institute

We are currently still planning to go ahead with this event, but will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation. We will let you know of any change, so please continue to visit the website.


The Dress in Context research cluster at BCU is hosting a public symposium on representations of dress in literature or media. The keynote speakers are Dr Rebecca Mitchell (University of Birmingham) and Professor David Roberts (BCU). Free for BCU staff and students; £20 for external attendees.

Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us… There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

Dress and its representations provide a way of developing literary characters and indicating historical periods, emphasising or undermining gender roles, or indicating class and status. From Miss Havisham’s wedding dress and Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress, to discussions of celebrity clothing, the significance and performance of dress as cultural index saturates literature, film and the media.

Any aspect of dress or costume may be explored, and topics may include:

  • Dress in literature
  • Theatrical costume
  • Art and dress
  • Fashion and dress in the media
  • Gendered approaches to representing dress
  • Changing representations of dress over time
  • Dress as an aspect of performance

Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to Serena Trowbridge (serena.trowbridge@bcu.ac.uk) by March 25th.