Explore Your Archive 2017 – #archivecatwalk

For our first #ExploreArchives hashtag, #Archivecatwalk, we have an abundance of material! There is so much to choose from: fashion journals and magazines, plates and sketches and staff and student work. This is largely due to the fact that throughout its various incarnations DMU has ran many fashion and textiles courses, such as the Contour Fashion Course, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Previous courses also included dressmaking, dress design, corsetry and millinery.

Course details for Dressmaking and Millinery, Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School Prospectus, 1897-98


As such, over the years, the old college libraries and academics have collected some amazing and rare resources that are now housed in Special Collections.

DMU Courses

DMU’s predecessor, the Leicester College of Art and College of technology were known for their vocational courses and links with local industry. Dress-making and boot and shoe manufacture were very much a part of these courses which have gone on to become the internationally renowned courses that they are today. Both courses are listed in our earliest prospectus, 1897-8 and we have many photographs and press cuttings.

Boot and Shoe Manufacture during WWII

70 Years of Contour Fashion

The Contour Fashion course was originally known as Corsetry and developed to include the design of sportswear, nightwear and lingerie. The school has also produced some notable alumni over the years such as Janet Reger and Special Collections has recently received a large collection of her design templates. Here are some pics showcasing student work over the years:

c 1950s

May, 1978.

C 1960s

1980s sportswear. Check out that big hair. Perfect for #Hairyarchives too!

To celebrate 70 years of Contour Fashion there are currently two exhibitions on public display in the heritage Centre in the hawthorn building; one explores the history of the course, while the other explores the Symington Collection a local Corsetry manufacturers that began in the 1850s.

Display case in the Heritage Centre featuring items from the Symington Collection

This year’s students designs also on display in the Heritage Centre

 Fashion Plates and Magazines

One of our most exquisite collections of fashion plate illustrations are from Chic Parisien, one of the most popular fashion magazines published by Atelier Arnold Bachwitz’s publishing company based in Vienna in the early 1900s.  This successful business was passed onto his widow, Rosine, and their daughter on his death in 1930 until the company was then seized by the Nazi party during WWII and both were murdered at Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The drawings themselves feature the models are a variety of scenarios such as at the races, promenading in the park or by the sea, and at evening functions or balls. Some plates include descriptions of the clothing and reports on the latest trends, in French or English. There are a small number of illustrations of fashion for teenagers and younger girls.

While none of the plates are dated, one report mentions the craze for the ‘Turkey Trot’ dance, which was invented in 1909 and died out by 1914, dating the fashions to these years.

Ladies’/Women’s Magazines

Early women’s magazines (like their contemporary counterparts) also featured illustrated fashion pages like these from the Ladies’ Treasury 1896 and the Lady’s Pocket Magazine, 1830.

‘The Lady’s Treasury’ 1876


Ladies’ Pocket Magazine 1825

What a frilltastic finale!


About Katharine Short

When I was 13 every careers questionnaire I did at school suggested I become an archivist. In rebellion I studied History of Art at Cambridge and the Courtauld Institute before giving in to the inevitable and undertaking a qualification in Archives Administration at Aberystwyth University. I worked at King’s College London Archives and the London Metropolitan Archives before becoming the Archivist here at DMU in January 2013. My role is hugely varied: answering enquiries and assisting researchers, sorting, cataloguing, cleaning and packaging archival material, managing our environmentally controlled storage areas, giving seminars, talks and tours, researching aspects of University history, liaising with potential donors and advocating for the importance of archives within the organisation. I am one of those incredibly fortunate people who can say ‘I love my job’ and really mean it.
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