By Polly Hamilton
PhD Dissertation, University of Wolverhampton, 2007
Abstract: This study investigates the supply, distribution and use of haberdashery wares in England in the late sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with especial reference to the paired counties of Cumbria and Lancashire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire, Hampshire and West Sussex. A brief comparison is also made with London. Through examination of documentary evidence and extant examples, it aims to set the provision and use of haberdashery for dress into the context of the Early Modern period, and challenges widely held assumptions concerning the availability of wares through the country.
The purpose of the argument is firstly to demonstrate that haberdashery, being both a necessity and a luxury, was an important, and historically traceable, part of traded goods in the early modern period, and secondly, with particular reference to the response of retailers to changing needs and demands, to show that the widescale availability of haberdashery for use in dress made it significant in the expression of personal identity and appearance for individuals of all social strata, while its manufacture and distribution provided employment for considerable numbers of people.
Introduction: In the Western world the body clothed has long been accepted as a normal and preferable state, and from the cradle to the grave, dress is of major importance. The history of clothing is inextricably linked to the history of humankind, indeed as Claire Wilcox so aptly wrote, ‘Clothes are shorthand for being human.’ Since textile garments were first made and shaped to fit, haberdashery wares were employed in their construction and present in dress at all levels of society. It can be postulated that the examination of haberdashery as an essential component of clothing allows consideration of the one element that exists in all types of garments throughout the period in question, irrespective of rank or style.