BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    A fashionable business: seamstresses, mantua-makers, and milliners in seventeenth and eighteenth-Century London

    Birt, Sarah (2021) A fashionable business: seamstresses, mantua-makers, and milliners in seventeenth and eighteenth-Century London. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    SBIRT Thesis Fashionable Business 2021.pdf - Full Version

    Download (104MB) | Preview


    This thesis challenges long-held assumptions about women in early modern London by showing that larger numbers of them than has previously been acknowledged were engaged in highly skilled work through the City’s guilds. Building on a voluminous core of livery company records, along with myriad other sources including wills, probate inventories, insurance policy registers, court proceedings, petitions, and trade cards, this study offers new insights into the nature of women’s interactions with guilds, and their wider socio-economic networks. The concentration of women in companies connected to clothing production and retail -key sectors in the economy -highlights the value of focusing on women engaged in business in the fashion trades in London. The thesis thus contributes to the historiographies of women’s work, guilds, and the social, cultural, and economic history of London. Placing occupational identities at the forefront of my research offers new perspectives on the ‘feminine’ occupational titles of ‘seamstress’, ‘mantua-maker’, and ‘milliner’, their connections to auxiliary fashion trades, and prestigious retailing locations including the Royal Exchange. The study chronicles the progress of female apprentices throughout the life-cycle, highlighting their economic agency. Performing a quantitative analysis over a long period also contributes to debates regarding continuity and change in women’s work over time. This approach is distinctive because it is both quantitative and biographical, thereby complementing recent studies of eighteenth-century milliners, and further illuminating the lives of the middling women who ran fashionable businesses as an integral part of early modern London’s economy.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2021 10:31
    Last Modified: 17 Feb 2023 01:10


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item