Dr Veronica Isaac specialises in 19th and early 20th century dress and theatre costume. Her research highlights the importance of working with surviving costumes, examining them closely and unpicking the memories and meanings they carry in their fibres. She shows other researchers - and the public - that costumes are significant objects, with compelling stories to tell about their creators, wearers, and original audiences.
Her interest in costume for performance was cemented by a decade working with the stage costumes held by the Department of Theatre and Performance at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and developed further during her doctoral research into actress Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928). Her thesis ‘Dressing the Part’ Ellen Terry (1847-1928): Towards a Methodology for Analysing Historic Theatre Costume (2016), united approaches from dress history, theatre history and material culture, to develop a specific methodology for the investigation and analysis of theatre costume.
She has continued to develop her research into costume for performance and is currently working with the National Trust to write a new biography of Ellen Terry. With chapters shaped around her surviving garments, it will challenge existing narratives of Terry’s career, demonstrating her agency and highlighting the crucial part that clothing strategies played in her wider process of self-fashioning.
She also currently acts as Book Reviews Editor for Studies in Costume and Performance and recently contributed chapters to Performance Costumes: New Perspectives (2020) and, Scenography and Art History: Performance Design and Visual Culture (2021).
She is committed to promoting a new appreciation of the ‘cultural value’ of costume for performance and to documenting, sharing and preserving the stories of their creators.
Dr Jade Halbert specialises in the histories of manufacturing and mediation in fashion. Concentrating on oral histories and other first-hand accounts from the workroom and the wardrobe, her research is focused on recovering the unwritten histories of making with emphasis on the transmission of manual expertise across a range of production contexts.
Her ESRC-funded PhD, ‘Marion Donaldson and the Business of British Fashion, 1966–1999’ (2018) interrogated the history of the post-war fashion industry taking the fashion business, Marion Donaldson as its central case study. By prioritising oral histories in its primary evidence, it offered a more complex but also contingent understanding of British fashion than has previously been possible, enabling a recontextualization and reconsideration of hitherto undervalued cultures of production and manufacture.
She has continued to develop this work, publishing award-winning research on black markets in fashion factories, cultural economies of knitting, and the development of amateur retail networks in 1960s Scotland. From 2019 to 2020 she was an AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. In this role she wrote and presented The Sunday Feature episode ‘The Endless Demise of the High Street’ and ‘Not Quite Jean Muir’, an episode of The Essay in which she put history and theory into practice by attempting to make a dress following an original Jean Muir pattern.
She is currently working on a monograph that recovers the histories of fashion manufacturing in Britain since 1960 and is also co-editor of Disseminating Dress: Britain’s Fashion Networks, 1600–1970 (Bloomsbury, 2022) and Everyday Fashion in the United Kingdom (Bloomsbury, in preparation).