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“Knitting is the saving of life.” – Virginia Woolf

We are weaving our way through the topic of knitwear in this new Featured Content, stitching together the patterns of its history, fibers and fabrics, and its colorful future. Unravel global definitions, trends and technological developments, and the cultural relevance of knitwear as it continues to be one of the most diverse and purposeful sectors in today's fashion and beyond.

History of Knitwear

Chart the History of Knitwear from 256 CE to stylistic trends in the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries, as silhouettes, patterns and color palettes were interpreted by design icons, and technical advancements responded to fluctuating socioeconomic conditions.

Set your (compass) needles to Iceland and discover the stories behind knitted apparel such as the ‘thrikynyur’, a triangular shawl traditionally worn in agriculture, or the unspun woollen fibers of the legendary Lopi sweater. The expression that the wealth of Australia rode “on the sheep’s back” comes from its most significant product - Merino wool - learn about how it’s been selectively bred for over two hundred years and what makes its fine and soft fibers so popular.

Step back into the ‘make-do and mend’ culture fostered by Home Front Clothing Initiatives in Britain during the Second World War as knitting and sewing were promoted to extend household efficiency and contribute to the war effort. Reveal the history of Soviet-era underwear beyond fashion, exploring how its manufacturing and consumption were determined by the ideology and political goals of the state and economic priorities.

History of Knitwear image
Image credit: Make Do And Mend poster, 1939-1945. Photo by The National Archives/SSPL/Getty Images.
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Fibers to Fabrics

Alpacas are more than just a fluffy face! Brush up on your knowledge of alpaca fiber – from its sustainable credentials and surprising durability to its twenty-two different natural colors. Hear from the creators of a socially-responsible knitwear business, ‘Indigenous Designs’ as they battled the challenges of developing a product line comprised of hand-knitted sweaters made in Ecuador, using the skills of female artisans.

Get into the mindset of a fashion student looking to scale her certificate program concept for a line of hand-knitted luxury dog coats, sweaters, and dresses with organic designs using eco-friendly yarns - consider the business questions she faces when developing and expanding her brand, Turtlebacks™.

Image credit: Matthias Clamer. Getty Images.
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  • Dress (The Museum at FIT)

Future of Knitwear

What’s next for the world of wool? Explore the computer-aided design (CAD) programs available - such as Stitchpainter, Kaledoknit, and ProDesign - and how designers are using these systems or even 3D printing to implement collection styles. Take a look at how the customized knitwear brand, Unmade ‘hacked’ a proprietary programming system with new code to harness the digital capabilities of industrial knitting machines and produce on-demand apparel.

How did student Jie Li’s knitwear project reach the final of the McQueen Fashion Design Contest… when she was unable to knit? Discover how she turned this to her advantage, developing her idea of a hand-weaving craft technique to include machine-made and handmade fabrics in a new way. Finally, get to grips with sustainable knitwear manufacture through a business case on ‘Plummy Fashions LTD’ in Bangladesh, a leader in ethical and eco-friendly apparel production - discover insights into how they gained a competitive advantage over their close rivals.

Alexander McQueen oversized knitted jumper with twisted wool collar
Image credit: Alexander McQueen, Fall/Winter 2000 © Niall McInerney.
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How has masculinity been embodied through dress across ancient and modern cultures? Where do tailors begin when creating and modifying garments to fit an individual’s unique body and style? And how do styles of menswear and cultural attitudes towards it differ throughout the world? Explore the meaning, making and manifestations of menswear through our selection of free articles, chapters, images and videos.


Learn more about orthodox and transgressive silhouettes in advertising and on the catwalk, the evolution of the male skirt throughout fashion history, and the influence of zoot suits and jazz style on womenswear design. Two fashion business cases shed light on tomboy style fashion brands and merchandising strategies for menswear retailers in the early 1940s respectively.

Model from the Julien Macdonald, 1997 show
Image Credit: Julien Macdonald, 1997. Fashion Photography Archive.
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Unpick the process of tailoring with us, as our authors examine the art, craft, regional styles and business behind the shaping of garments, as well as the work of both Jean-Paul Gaultier and Giorgio Armani. Subscribers of Bloomsbury Fashion Video Archive can take up their front row seat to watch Rei Kawakubo’s 1989 show ‘Liberation from Tailoring (Next New One)’ for Comme des Garçons which includes deconstructed tailoring such as oversized wide leg pants and tailcoats.

Man's tailored jacket with zebra-patterned plush, by Browning King & Co.
Image Credit: Man's Jacket. Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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  • Tailoring (Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion)
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Global menswear

Menswear takes a variety of forms globally which reveal much about our societies and (sub)cultures. Discover more about the relationship between young men and the aesthetics of fashion in contemporary Japan; and consider traditions and identity in Arab men’s clothing in the Eastern Mediterranean. Then step back in time to examine the effects of the Beat generation, hippie countercultures and gay liberation on American fashion; as well as the influences on the dress and body transformations of Afro-Brazilian men in the 19th century.

Japanese man with ponytail at dusk in Tokyo
Image Credit: Ippei Naoi / Getty Images.
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“Your dresses have such a new look”
- Carmel Snow, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar to Christian Dior

The New Look was the name given to a style of women’s clothing launched by Christian Dior in his first haute couture collection presented in Paris in 1947. Bloomsbury Fashion Central now has a new look of its own which we’re delighted to share with our users.

Dior’s New Look made its impact through a reimagination of form, style and structure and we hope that you will enjoy the redesigned visuals and experience when discovering our fashion resources once more.

Invention and reinvention embody the spirit of fashion and evolving approaches to the adornment of the body – from the sparks of creative inspiration that lead to the reality of product innovation, to fearless rebranding and the ethical ingenuity of reuse and recycling.

Inspiration to Reality

Model from Alexander McQueen, Fall/Winter 1998 show
Image Credit: Alexander McQueen, Autumn/Winter 1998. Fashion Photography Archive.

The inspiration to realise a new idea in the turbulent world of fashion often evolves from recombining the past, interpreting the zeitgeist or daring to conceive something from ‘regulated chaos’ that deviates from expectations. This ‘generative moment’ can happen in street fashion or subcultures as much as through the work of professional creative genius!

Current fashion design is often defined by consumerism or ‘the cyclic world of revival’, but when it comes to realising and sourcing inspiration for a new collection, various skilled creative people, such as brand specialists or production planners are still required. Discover more about Creating a Collection in a Big Company in the context of Hugo Boss.

Realising fashion innovation is also a process of dissemination, moving from the primary stage involving ‘fashion insiders’ through influencers, distribution and the fashion scene to the quartiary stage or ‘fashion-conscious masses’ as When is Innovation describes. It examines innovation through the ages, using design examples from Mary Quant to Rei Kawakubo and exploring everything from fashion fusions with sports or workwear, to apparel that cross borders, genders, and even technology in the form of wearables like ‘Hug Shirts’.

Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ is a rich example of repercussive innovation – learn about its origins as a reaction against wartime style and a stylistic desire to ‘sculpt contours’, its social impact, and how it inspired the contemporary works of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Yohji Yamamoto.

An innovation may generate ‘social enthusiasm’ or it also may be defined by expert observers as part of the art sphere, like remote-control dresses by Hussein Chalayan. In time though, the thrill of all innovations fades, making space for new ‘creative destruction’.

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Photo of David Bowie wearing an eye patch, 1974
Image Credit: Getty Images.
“Only those who accept change are able to grow.”
- Paul Wilson

The characteristics of a strong brand are identified in Fashion Branding Unravelled as, ‘a strong identity (…) innovative, consistent, competitively positioned, and a positive (customer) image’. What then can be the impact of destabilizing a brand to create a new identity?

A master of the rebrand, David Bowie’s career comprised several alter egos - each with their own distinct sartorial feel - developed for his various concept albums, including Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke. Discover how his playful, chameleonic approach to fashion explored a variety of identities and questioned gender divides, inspiring designers such as Dries Van Noten and Hedi Slimane. In his own words he was “the first pop star to invent masks to hide behind”.

Calvin Klein was not afraid to deviate from the expectations set by his previous works when he presented his spring/summer 1993 collection – look back at the catwalk photos which show a more natural look that ‘diminished the importance of the hyper-glam supermodel aesthetic’.

Technologies and innovations are having a current impact on the branding concept and process. Learn about redefining a brand in response to models such as mass customization or experiential branding in Redesigning the Brand. An abiding challenge for fashion businesses is the maturing of their brand and customers, creating a need to revitalize their offerings. Step into the shoes of the CEO of a mature brand, ‘Alexander Castiglione’, in a theoretical scenario which explores brand repositioning to reach new customers and the use of line extensions to maintain relevance in a shifting marketplace.

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Co-Founders of Conscious Commerce Olivia Wilde and Babs Burchfield pose together at H&M Conscious Exclusive event at H&M Showroom on April 4, 2016 in New York City.
Image Credit: Getty Images.

Reinvention can also be about new uses for waste such as discarded clothing products or material collected during product manufacturing - recycling them to create new apparel or selling them for other purposes. More than 50 percent of post-industrial textile waste is reused or recycled in some fashion and many used or ‘post-consumer’ products are deconstructed to be used as raw material for recycled textile fibres. Follow the threads of this process and learn more about the three main types of recycling, mechanical, melt processing, and chemical, in Recycled/Circular Textiles Technologies.

‘Is it possible for sustainable fashion to be beautiful and good for the planet?’ - In 2002, architect William McDonough and green chemist, Dr. Michael Braungart laid out a new design methodology in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Read about the application of its principles for the ‘Next Industrial Revolution’ i.e. 1) ‘Everything equals food’, 2) ‘Produce with renewable energy’, 3) ‘Celebrate diversity’ when applied to the fashion industry and supply chain.

In a scenario set out in the Textiles Take Back business case, join the owners of local fashion retailer, ‘Junie’s Boutique’, as they seek to create a ‘strategic plan that demonstrates a purposeful retailing commitment to environmental sustainability’. The case study shows how to implement sustainable ‘take-back plans’, varying from receiving specific items, such as shoes or bras, to accepting any unwanted clothing and accessories.

Finally, explore the prescient collections of designer Martin Margiela which explored reuse, recycling, and reconstruction. Watch one of his shows and read about how he pre-empted ‘the wider social change that would follow of environmental awareness and rejection of fast fashion.’

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  • Man's robe (Berg Fashion Library museum image - subscriber-only content)

As many employees whose workplaces switched to working from home during the pandemic continue to make the transition back to working in an office environment, we’re considering ‘workwear’ in all its forms – from down-to-earth uniforms that designate occupational identity to gravity-defying spacewear.

We’ve recruited a selection of the best chapters, articles, images, business cases and video from across Bloomsbury Fashion Central to explore how the social practice of adopting workwear can empower, protect, or underpin hierarchies – shaping our collective perception of many professions and those who perform them.

Power Dressing

The eighties was a time of big fashion, both in the workplace and on the runway, defined by ‘power dressing’ that reflected the glamorous and glossy corporate culture emerging from big changes in politics, economics, gender equality. As the diversity of the global workforce increased, discover the symbolic importance of an ‘effective business image’ to those fighting to progress through established power structures such as people from ethnic minorities.

Women embodied their subversion of traditional gender roles by adopting power suits characterized by a broad, square shoulder-padded silhouette. Watch videos from the runway at that time and browse our chosen articles which explore how male fashion designers, such as Thierry Mugler, presented fetishized versions of power dressing and female identity.

Model at the Givenchy, Spring/Summer 1986 show
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Utility Wear

Making and using protective clothing for hazardous environments involves higher stakes than your average workwear! Learn more about the complex design requirements for industrial, military, first-responder, and medical environments. Our article on Functional Wear then looks to the future of protective wear as it increasingly responds dynamically to changes in the body and environment.

The sky is no limit when designing for the weightless body, so discover how spacewear is built to contend with the gravitational conditions in spaceflight and on the surface of other planets. Utility Chic then considers the tensions between uniform - as a symbol of conformity to an institution - and fashion - associated with change, creativity, and individual liberty – though frequently taking inspiration from uniforms. You can also delve into a business case exploring Under Armour’s line of golf apparel and take a closer look at both catwalk and museum images of utility wear.

Part of a fishing outfit compiled by Cordings for the Cutting edge exhibition held at the V&A in 1997
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Image Credit: Cordings. Fishing outfit. 1996. Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Bloomsbury Fashion Central.

Dress Codes

Dress codes rationalize our appearance in a range of settings from the workplace to formal occasions and within the subcultural identities that form our everyday lives. Our content explores employer guidelines for appearance as it relates to conduct and the origins of ‘black tie’ and ‘white tie’ formal garments. A business case about Brooks Brothers’ Made-To-Measure dress shirt program sheds light on bespoke formalwear.

When it comes to negotiating the blurred lines between the public and private spheres in modern life, uniform has helped to divide time by giving the wearer ‘a sense of certainty by acting as an agent of the external forces of power and control’. Read more about how its rise was a response to ‘profound changes in the experience of time and space in Western capitalism’.

Finally, take a trip through the popular culture contexts in which uniforms have been adopted as the dress code, from revolutionary and resistance groups, to body decoration within subcultures such as punk, and even imitation of filmic codes of dress by certain groups.

Book Chapters
Business Cases Images

Image Credit: "Figure 9.11" Photograph by Bettmann/CORBIS. In: Michael P. Londrigan. "Menswear: Business to Style." Fairchild Books Library.

This quarter, we’re zooming in on fashion photography, a genre which might naturally call to mind the flawless imagery of high fashion or creative storytelling of editorial shoots. Our selection of chapters, articles, images, business cases and video allow you to take a deeper dive into the world of fashion photography and also portraiture, to reveal a rich history, diverse aesthetic ambitions and the complex interplay between images and their consumers.

The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women

Book cover of The African Lookbook
By Catherine E. McKinley

Most of us grew up with images of African women that were purely anthropological--bright displays of exotica where the deeper personhood seemed tucked away. Or they were chronicles of war and poverty--“poverty porn.” But now, curator Catherine E. McKinley draws on her extensive collection of historical and contemporary photos to present a visual history spanning a hundred-year arc (1870–1970) of what is among the earliest photography on the continent. These images tell a different story of African women: how deeply cosmopolitan and modern they are in their style; how they were able to reclaim the tools of the colonial oppression that threatened their selfhood and livelihoods.

Citation: McKinley, Catherine. “Clothes for a New Nation: Independence and Post-Independence, 1957–1970s.” The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women, 1st ed., New York, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021, pp. 153–61.
Fashion Photography, Art and Advertising

Take a look at the history of fashion photography as a way of documenting or selling clothing or accessories. We start from the earliest fashion photographs made in the 1850-60s for Parisian fashion houses, move through the 20th century with a snapshot of Australian fashion publishing, and into the present day. The content explores whether fashion photography’s commerciality compromises its artistic integrity; and how the ‘hyperreality’ of many modern fashion images treads a fine line between persuasion and alienation of the consumer.

Photograph of Model at Lincoln Memorial
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Image Credit: "Photograph of Model at Lincoln Memorial" Photograph by Tony Tinsell. In: Nancy Hall-Duncan. "Fashion Photography." The Berg Companion to Fashion.


Consider the intersections of fashion, media and gender in portrait painting and photography from the Renaissance era through to Bill Cunningham’s street photography in the 1970s.

A close up photograph of a model at a Todd Oldham show in 1995
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‘New York welcomes commerciality, Milan embraces understated classicism, London adores wacky creations, (..) Paris welcomes creativity, luxury, and newness.’ This is Tony Glenville’s characterisation of the ‘Big Four’ fashion capitals. But how did they reach this point, and what comes next?

Our featured content this quarter traverses the globe to explore fashion cities, starting with stories of the traditional capitals – London and the rich history of its garment industry; Paris and the experimental creativity of haute couture; New York with the enduring relationship between its fashion (sub)cultures and identity; and Milan – capital of prêt-à-porter, navigating the age of fast fashion.

We then look to the emerging fashion centres such as Tokyo, city of influential street fashion and innovative design; Shanghai with its manufacturing capacity and emerging market; São Paulo and its new generation of designers such as Jum Nakao; and Dakar – dubbed the ‘Paris of Africa’ but with its own tradition of sartorial excellence that ‘far exceeds French projects of colonial civility’.

Virtual fashion spaces and the use of digital technology such as augmented reality or interactive museum collections, including those at MoMu Antwerp Fashion Museum, offer a dynamic alternative to the established fashion landscapes. Discover how the rise of digital fashion is disrupting the conventional interconnections between people, materials, capital and ideas in the industry.

Click on the links below to discover content from across all Bloomsbury Fashion Central products, from in-depth articles, chapters and real-life business cases, to runway photographs and videos that showcase city styles or digital garment printing.

Big Four Fashion Cities: London, Paris, New York, Milan

Fashion Cities of the Future: Shanghai, Tokyo, Sao Paolo

A model wearing a paper dress, designed by Jum Nakao, at the 2004 São Paulo Fashion Week
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Image Credit: "A Model Wearing a Paper Dress, Designed by Jum Nakao, at the 2004 São Paulo Fashion Week" Photography by Fernando Louza. In: Andrade, Rita, and Regina A. Root. "Dress, Body, and Culture in Brazil." Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Latin America and the Caribbean.

Digital Fashion

Iris van Herpen 3D Top
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Image Credit: "Iris van Herpen 3D Top." In: Harris, Clare. "Digital spaces and innovations." The Fundamentals of Digital Fashion Marketing.

Featured shows: Isaac Mizrahi, A/W 1994; Romeo Gigli, S/S 1991; Margiela, A/W 1998; Margiela, S/S 1990; Galliano, A/W 1994

Like a theatre set, the runway is a carefully designed space that shapes the viewer’s perception of an artist’s work.

On a broader scale, fashion itself reflects the places, cultures and traditions that produce it. At the same time, the globalisation of fashion has hugely impacted national fashion cultures, transforming business models and approaches to design.

In recent years fashion has transcended place altogether, with the industry shifting much of its presence online.

From the catwalk to cyberspace, from the street to the global stage, our Featured Content explores the ways that space and place influence fashion, and vice versa.

Click on the links below to discover content from across all Bloomsbury Fashion Central products.

Global Fashion

Runway shot from Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring/Summer 1994
Local Cultures

Post-place: Beyond the Runway

Street Style