Danielle Sprecher

Danielle Sprecher

PhD Student

Summary: Fashion for the High Street: The Design and Making of Menswear in Leeds 1945-1980.

My Research

Fashion for the High Street: The Design and Making of Menswear in Leeds 1945-1980

The aim of this collaborative research project is to investigate the important contribution of the Leeds tailoring industry to the production and consumption of men’s high street fashion in the period from 1945-1980. This was a period of transformation in men’s fashion. The Leeds menswear industry – including national chains such as Montague Burton Ltd and Joseph Hepworth & Son – was significant throughout most of the twentieth century producing substantial proportions of men’s suits and tailored garments.

Through this exploration of menswear I hope to challenge the existing emphasis on women’s wear in understandings of fashion through the study of the design and wearing of men’s suits (the primary product of the Leeds tailoring industry). The research will also investigate the way in which constructions of gender have shaped the relationship between masculinity and fashion, particularly through advertising and the designed spaces of the multiple tailors’ stores. The Leeds industry primarily catered to the mass market and the high street and I am interested in the role of design and fashion change within this area of ordinary clothing, especially to counter the domination of fashion history by a concentration on elite and London-based design. An important element of the research will be undertaking object studies of surviving garments and textiles alongside archival sources, visual material and oral histories.

This research project is in collaboration with Leeds Museums and Galleries and will contribute to the greater understanding and accessibility of their tailoring collection.

Supervisors: Dr Kate Dossett and Natalie Raw, Curator of Costume and Textiles, Leeds Museums and Galleries
Funded By: AHRC and Leeds Museums and Galleries

About Me

Before beginning my PhD in 2011 I worked for five years in the museum sector, most recently as the costume curator for Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, as well as in the Exhibitions Department at the V&A. As a curator I organised exhibitions and displays, increased public accessibility to the costume and textile collections through store visits and talks, and supported other museums with costume and textile collections.
In 2006 I graduated from the Royal College of Art and the V&A with an MA (RCA) in the History of Design. My dissertation ‘One Moment You’re Naked and the Next You’re Dressed: Lavalavas in Polynesia and New Zealand, c.1950-2005’ looked at the adaptation and survival of a Polynesian style of dress through the cultural context of colonisation and migration. After graduating I worked as a freelance curator and taught fashion and design history at the University of East London and the University of the Creative Arts, Rochester.
I have a BA and MA (First Class Honours) in History from the University of Auckland, New Zealand where my longstanding interest in fashion history resulted in my MA thesis. Titled ‘The Right Appearance: Representations of Fashion, Gender and Modernity in Inter-war New Zealand, 1918-1939’ it explored New Zealand’s developing consumer culture through both men and women’s fashionable clothing and resulted in a publication.


I delivered a lecture titled ‘Made-to-Measure: The Leeds Tailoring Industry and 20th Century Men’s Fashion’ as part of the 20th Century Fashion module, School of Design BA (Hons) in November 2013.


I am involved in the Dissertation Mentoring scheme, where I am supporting history undergraduates studying a wide variety of subjects during their final year projects.


Book Review of Yuniya Kawamura, Doing Research in Fashion and Dress: An Introduction to Qualitative Methods (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011), Costume, 47: 1 (2013), 134-5

‘Good Clothes are Good Business: Gender, Consumption and Appearance in the Office, 1918-1939’, in Caroline Daley and Deborah Montgomerie, eds, The Gendered Kiwi (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1999), pp. 141-162


November 2012: with Natalie Raw, ‘Fashion for the High Street: The design and making of menswear in Leeds, 1945-1980’, Dress and Textile Specialists conference, Glasgow

October 2012: ‘Museums as Archives, Objects as Sources: Leeds Museums and Galleries’, Historians Workshop, University of Leeds

September 2012: ‘One Uniform for Another? Demob Suits and Post-War Menswear’, Industrious Women: A One-Day Conference to Celebrate the Life and Work of Katrina Honeyman, University of Leeds

June 2012: ‘The Hepworths Centenary Fashion Show, 1964’, School of History PhD Colloquium, University of Leeds

December 2011: with Natalie Raw, ‘Fashion for the High Street: The design and making of menswear in Leeds, 1945-1980’, Developments in Dress History conference, University of Brighton

July 2011: ‘One Moment you're naked and the next you're dressed: Aspects of Polynesian Cloth and Fashion’, Costume Society Symposium: Pleasure, Leisure, Travel and Fashion, Eastbourne

Other responsibilities

Currently I am treasurer of the national museums subject specialist network the Dress and Textile Specialists and have previously served as secretary.

My research is contributing to the redevelopment of the Tailoring Galleries at Armley Mills Industrial Museum and I am co-curating an exhibition on tailoring and fashion at Leeds City Museum in 2014.


I have completed the following University of Leeds training courses: Starting your Research Degree; Research skills – Search and Save and Working with Literature; Time Management during your Research Degree; Ethics and Ethical Review.

I have also completed the Oral History Society training Introduction to Oral History and Oral History for Museums at Leeds Museums and Galleries in 2012.