Dress historian Hilary Davidson was recently invited to deliver historical lecture on a topic on which she literally wrote the book: fashion in the age of Jane Austen.
In a livestreamed December lecture, Davidson, who chairs Fashion and Textile Studies, unraveled the global changes of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that made possible the garments that richly illustrate Austen’s works. During this period, England went to war with France and expanded into India and East Asia, bringing in new fabrics, styles, and techniques. These shaped Austen’s world—one “that was increasingly reliant on material things as markers of social connection,” Davidson explains.
Touching on such diverse topics as the personal shoppers of the 18th century (typically trusted friends or family members), the Japanese style that inspired men’s nightgowns, and the smuggling done by the “respectable” classes, Davidson takes her audience through a tumultuous time period that continues to capture imaginations even today.
You can watch the full lecture below or on YouTube.