It all started a little over twenty years ago when I was an enthusiastic post-graduate student of fashion history. Somehow I got given the working dress topics to research by our professor – not sure whether she saw a deep affiliation in me with the subject, or whether it was the way I dressed, cheap mixed with vintage (ie hand me downs) before it became fashionable, which suggested I might be comfortable with the subject. Within that topic the smock frock kept coming up, a garment once so ubiquitous as to be almost unmentionable, today pictured in terms of a rustic, rural idyll of a bygone age, before machines and industrialisation took over.
I confess that I have gradually become more and more obsessed with the smock frock and I now have the opportunity to research them in detail as part of a project examining rural retailing (http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/our-schools-and-institutes/faculty-of-social-sciences/school-of-social-historical-and-political-studies/staff-contact-list/dr-alison-toplis/). The more you look the more fascinating they become and they seem to creep into many different contexts, not just simply a garment, but a political act, a disguise, a currency, respectable, disrespectful, ritualistic.
It does seem strange that a little over one hundred years ago many men were wondering around the country in a frock, essentially a dress, meaning the silhouette of men was considerably different to menswear today. I suppose that is not unexpected when you consider how much the women’s silhouette has changed from Victorian times, from crinolines and bustles to today, but this change in men’s clothing does seem to have slipped under the radar of most fashion historians.
This blog is all therefore about smock frocks, some posts maybe further developed into research ideas, some posts snippets of interesting stuff which I hope that others will enjoy too.
If you have any smock frock histories please get in touch.
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