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Critical Writing Award Winners



 Bethany Pleydell

Mapping the Renaissance Body: English attitudes to Spanish National Dress in C16th

Emerging from Bethany's doctoral research, this paper analyses how and why, at a time when clothing was linked to national identity, English fashion should felect the dress of rival nation, Spain. Through the study of Port Books, State Papers, Patent and Gift Rolls, wills, costume and textiles, this paper illustrates that, despite successive embargoes, war and an increasing xenophobia towards Spaniards, an Anglo-Spanish exchange of material goods persevered throughout the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I, resulting in a sizeable presence of Spanish garb in the English household. Ultimately, this paper argues that elite English consumers used foreign Spanish fashions to negotiate their own national identities, and cultural anxieties, vis-à-vis the dominant global power of Spain.

The award will enable Bethany to develop her research further by funding various trips to UK costume collections to study, first-hand, extant sixteenth-century garments.

JOINT WINNER - Catherine Harper Dean

Creative Cultural Industries (Portsmouth University)


Catherine Harper academic profile

 Stained and Bloodied Figure3

The Stained and Bloodied Cloths of Ireland

My essay uses my practice as a textile and visual artist to locate my country (Northern) Ireland as a bloodied and stained cloth, marked irreversibly by history, conflict and abuse, and bloodied by its own repression and denial of her people’s rights and needs. Weaving a tale through women’s social, cultural and reproductive history I use textile artifacts articulate a new method for Ireland to make peace with the past. The award will allow me to visit the Museum of Free Derry to carry out further object analysis on textiles there – a handkerchief, infant’s sleep suit, a man’s coat – that were present at and marked by the violence of Bloody Sunday in Derry, 1972.



 Alexis Romano

Negotiating Modernity in 1950s French Elle: Prêt-à-porter, Quotidian Space and the Image of Women

This paper stemmed from a chapter of Alexis’ doctoral thesis, which studies France’s readymade clothing industry between 1945 and 1970, and asks how it connects to the country’s wider project of post-war modernisation and reconstruction, and conceptions of national and gender identities, and modernity. Chapters alternate between examinations of the industry and analyses of the representation of dress, women and space in the fashion press. Through this juxtaposition, her thesis seeks to relate the production, conception and presentation of fashion to ways of seeing and experiencing fashion and modernity by women consumers. The award winning paper is an example of the latter and specifically considers visual and textual representations of women as active participants in wider currents of modernity, as seen in 1950s Elle. It asks how the magazine negotiated components of modernity, such as speed and scientific management, and disseminated them in relation to readymade dress. In relating the modern consumer identity that Elle presented to gender ideals under the Fourth Republic government, this paper seeks to rethink women’s history and narratives of French fashion.



WINNER - Susan Burnett

Belfast School of Art

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 Susan Burnett

Missing Patches

Subtitled The rejection of quilting by the American Women’s suffrage movement, the paper demonstrates that textiles were a strong political force within the suffrage movement in America. The judges felt this was an exceptional paper for an undergraduate and that Susan put forward a good argument which was clear, well structured and underpinned by excellent primary and secondary source material. The essay was well illustrated with good referencing and bibliography. There was also thoughtful analysis of how new research in this field could benefit the Textile Society on the global stage.



Indigo and madder ajrakh border

Traditional ajrakh block printing

Ruth Clifford’s paper showed the development of the traditional ajrakh block printing in India for contemporary markets. She used an anthropological approach to show how in a rapidly changing country, which is growing economically, the artisans were applying their craft. The judges were particularly impressed with her use of new primary sources, which she had gathered through going to India. Ruth’s findings also showed that because of improved educational facilities, the artisans were growing in confidence and producing new and exciting designs to suit the contemporary markets. The Textile Society Critical Writing Award will go towards further research in India allowing her to build a rich collection of data.