Each month, we offer the spotlight to one of our funded researchers to exhibit their research projects in more detail.
The Featured Researcher for January 2023 was Alana McPake, with her PhD Project titled ‘Make-do and mend’ to ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’: Attitudes towards clothing production and consumption in postwar Britain.
HEI: University of Glasgow.
A muckle title – to use a good Scots word – for a muckle topic and time frame. Whether to help a war effort or tackle the climate crisis, both slogans ask anyone who hears them to consider their consumption habits carefully. Yet the world of clothing has changed radically in the decades that separate these movements: we do not consume clothing as our parents or grandparents did. Two crises and two calls to action, yes, but not two equal situations.
Although growing in popularity, making and mending are not part of most people’s ‘wardrobe practices’; yet previously, these tasks were fundamental, habitual. Buying ready-to-wear items has instead become the norm for most. My research studies the what, when and why of these shifts by exploring changes in education; the messages disseminated in instructional literature and print media; the relationship between consumer and business; and the changing status of second-hand clothing.
Each section of my doctoral thesis features case studies to draw out themes. Time, money, and skill emerge as key influences in the decision to make, mend, buy, or care for clothing. Is making or mending worth people’s time and money, and how do they define that ‘worth’? Do they have the necessary skills, opportunities, or tools? Most of all – the classic historian’s question – how has all this changed over time?
(A muckle topic, indeed; here’s hoping it’s tackled by March 2025.)