I have been fascinated by fashion and clothing since childhood and now have two fashion-related degrees: BSc Textile Design and Design Management, from the University of Manchester; and MA History and Culture of Fashion, from London College of Fashion, UAL. My primary area of research interest is twentieth century underwear and developments in textiles, and my work is published under my full name – Lorraine Hamilton Smith.
My Master’s dissertation looked at the history of the bra, and I had an article based on that research published in The Journal of dress History Volume 2 Issue 3. The garments I purchased to help with this research were donated to the London College of Fashion Archives and two of the pieces were subsequently loaned to the V&A for their exhibition Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. I have presented my research at a number of academic conferences and as part of public programmes at the M&S Company Archive, The Courtauld Institute of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. I have also spoken about the history of the bra on Helen Zaltzman’s podcast The Allusionist, Kate Lister’s podcast Betwixt the Sheets and in this video, recorded for The Pool.
Fashion // Intersections
Whilst studying MA History and Culture of Fashion (now MA Fashion Cultures and Histories) at London College of Fashion, I met a wonderful group of women who I went on to organise an academic conference with. We noticed how conferences didn’t always cover the types of topics we were interested in, so we set out to create our own… with no funding! FASHION // INTERSECTIONS: Bodies, Cultures, Spaces took place on Friday 15th July 2016 in central London, with 12 speakers and a panel discussion, exploring “fashion’s intersections, interstices, overlaps, compatibilities and incompatibilities with other disciplines”.
The Underpinnings Museum
I am a founder member of the team behind online resource The Underpinnings Museum, which was set up in 2016 (following a successful crowdfunding campaign) in order to bring the history of underwear to a wider audience, making collections and research freely accessible online. My role predominantly involves undertaking additional object research for the collection’s objects, but I have also written several blog posts for the site and, before we recruited a Social Media Coordinator, was responsible for the museum’s Twitter account. In 2017 I organised the museum’s inaugural event, with guest speakers and a small display of objects from the collection, and I curated an exhibition on technology and the bra, based on my Master’s research. In 2018 I organised a Twitter conference to share underwear-related academic research with a global audience.
Lockdown Clothing Project
During the coronavirus pandemic, I started a project with Jana Melkumova-Reynolds to look at how people were dressing when in lockdown and isolation situations, and how their dressing practices had changed. The project became known as Lockdown Clothing, and all submitted stories were published on this blog. We presented a short work-in-progress paper on the project at the Zoom conference “The New Normal”: Sartorial and Body Practices of the Quarantine Era in June 2020, organised by The New Literary Observer publishing house and Fashion Theory Russia. I also gave a presentation on the project in August 2020 at the online conference Dress in a Time of Crisis, organised by the Dress in Context Research Centre at Birmingham City University.