CHORD Workshop

 

Retailing, Commerce and the Human Body: Historical Approaches

14 May 2014

University of Wolverhampton

 

PROGRAMME

 

10.30 – 11.00 COFFEE  AND WELCOME

 

11.00 – 11.30         Fan Carter, Kingston University, Getting the ‘Honey Look’: Magazines, Marketing and  the Teenage Consumer in 1960s Britain

Abstract

 

11.30 – 12.00         Jenny Evans, University of Wolverhampton, Purity, Piety and Pants: The ‘Religious Bodyin Early-Twentieth Century British Underwear Marketing

Abstract

 

12.00 – 12.30         Susan Vincent, University of York, Hairdressers and Barbers: Intimate Acts

Abstract

 

12.30 – 13.00         Victoria Barnes and Lucy Newton, University of Reading, Portraits of Bank Managers: Buying the Corporate Image in the Early Nineteenth Century

Abstract

 

13.00 – 14.00 LUNCH

 

14.00 – 14.30         Phil Lyon, Liz Ross and Craig Cathcart, Offering Hope: Aurists’ Advertisements in Mid-Nineteenth Century British Newspapers

Abstract

 

14.30 – 15.00         Samantha Khaw, Australian National University, The Challenge of Marketing Colour Cosmetics in Nineteenth Century British Popular Press

Abstract

 

15.00 – 15.30         COFFEE

 

15.30 – 16.00         June Rowe, University of the Arts, Marketing Youthful Femininity: The Fashion Display Mannequin and British Style 1947-1970

Abstract

 

16.00 – 16.30         Ya-Lei Yen, Royal Holloway, University of London, ‘Let the Photographer “Pose” You; He is the Best Judge of your Face and Figure’: Female Beauty and Fashion in Mid-Victorian Photographs

Abstract

INFORMATION

 

The workshop will be held in room MH206/7, Mary Seacole Building, University of Wolverhampton.

 

Mary Seacole (MH) Building is located on City Campus Molineux (North), a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations. For directions see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/default.aspx?page=6856

 

The fee is £18

 

To register, please complete the registration form, available here.

 

For further information, please e-mail:

Dr Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk 

Or

Dr Karin Dannehl at k.dannehl@wlv.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Victoria Barnes and Lucy Newton, University of Reading, Portraits of Bank Managers: Buying the Corporate Image in the Early Nineteenth Century

Following the financial crisis in 1825, legislation was passed that enabled the establishment of a new type of retail bank – the joint stock bank.  These banks had a board of directors and shareholders.  This was part of the new shareholding democracy that developed in the nineteenth century and contrasted with the previous private retail banks that were owned and run by private individuals.

The aim of allowing joint stock banks to be established to stabilise the banking system, and was welcomed by many local communities that had suffered from the failures of private banks on their high streets. The new joint stock retail banks grew in number and flourished, usually at a small-scale, local level.  Both shareholders and customers were local people that looked to stable institutions to invest in, to deposit their money with and to provide credit – the usual activity of the high street bank.  But the joint stock banks had to establish themselves, and their reputation, in opposition to and from existing private banks.  Reputation was particularly important for retail banks as they had/have to convince customers to trust them with their money.

This paper examines the methods, mechanisms and marketing used to sell these new retailing banking institutions, in particular the use of portraits of bank managers and directors. The first wave of joint stock banking companies possessed unlimited liability and the banks provided limited information to consumers.  Customers were looking for stable, local banking institutions but these were a new and untested form of retail bank.  What persuaded shareholders, depositors, and borrowers to engage in these new, untried and risky ventures?  This paper focuses principally upon the image projected of bank managers and directors, the men that made the decisions about the day-to-day running of the banks.  Photographs, painted portraits and prints of notable employees were commissioned and some were sold nationally. Did the images and the bankers themselves maintain the notions of tradition, respectability and stability? Or did technology and medium used to record these images signal the novelty of the new financial institution? Was the strategy of commissioning and selling such portraits significant in terms of shaping the spread of shareholders and construction of shareholder constituencies? The aim is to examine the consumer’s understanding of new retail banks in comparison to the old model of private partnership banking by evaluating the reception and success of the marketing strategies involving portraits of bank managers and bank directors.

 

Fan Carter, Kingston University, Getting the ‘Honey Look’: Magazines, Marketing and the Teenage Consumer in 1960s Britain

In February 1965, an announcement appeared on page 38 of Honey magazine (Fleetway/IPC 1960 -1986) a monthly publication ‘for teens and twenties,’ which publicised the opening of the first ever Honey Boutique at Schofields department store, Leeds. By the end of the year a further 26 hand opened across the country. The boutiques were   lauded as places were local ‘honeys’ could not only purchase the clothes featured  in the pages of the magazine but also receive advice and guidance on how to perfect the ‘look’ from trusted sales professionals, or ‘Honey girls’. Along with the boutiques  came a series of collaborations  with  hair salons, often the in-house salons of department stores like Lewis’s, which promised to cut the latest styles and live up to the high expectations of the discerning magazine reader and shopper.

 

This early example of brand extension is one of a number of instances of collaboration between the magazine, brands and retailers which helped to establish Honey as a   trusted intermediary between the market and the young female consumer in 1960s consumer Britain.

 

This paper explores the interconnections between marketing, retail and magazine publishing at a moment when the teenage and youthful female consumer was increasingly sought after and courted. Drawing on features in Honey magazine and reports in the  trade press, along with marketing studies of the period, the paper sets out to examine the ways in which fashionable dress, make-up and hair styles were marketed as the necessary tools and disciplinary regimes with which to construct a ‘get-ahead’ feminine identity. The paper considers the ways in which the shop assistant and hair dresser were positioned as knowledgeable experts and looks at the instructions given to readers on how to manage their commercial encounters.

 

Jenny Evans, University of Wolverhampton, Purity, Piety and Pants: The ‘Religious Bodyin Early-Twentieth Century British Underwear Marketing

Wolsey and St Margaret were prominent manufacturers of mass-produced affordable underwear and hosiery in Britain, 1900-1950. Both brand names carried clear religious connotations and these links were carried through into the branding and marketing of their products. The Hodson Shop Archive provides an ideal starting point to examine the marketing of these brands and the attitudes towards the female body upon which such approaches were based. This paper will unpick the relationship between underwear and religion in the early-mid 20th century.

 

Using examples of promotional materials found in the Hodson Shop Archive and garments from the Hodson Shop Collection, this paper will explore the use of religious and pious historical figures (such as Joan of Arc, Cardinal Wolsey and St Margaret) in the promotion of womens mass-produced underwear and hosiery. It will also examine the language used in promotional copy and chart the gradual shift away from ‘purity', ‘protectionand ‘hygienetowards a more romanticised and, arguably, sexualised approach to lingerie marketing during the second half of the twentieth century. It will also argue that these reoccurring motifs of purity and cleanliness reflect public attitudes towards the female body - though perhaps not always the private attitude.

 

The paper will begin with a brief introduction to the Hodson Shop Archive and introduce some examples drawn from the collection of the ‘religious bodyin underwear marketing. The religious origins of the Wolsey and St Margaret brand names will then be outlined, along with examples of how the companieslogos and identities evolved. Next, there will be analysis of three examples of underwear marketing copy and imagery from the 1910s-1930s before considering the gradual shift away from such language and marketing. It will finally examine evidence of the ongoing relationship between religion and underwear in the 21st century.

 

Samantha Khaw, Australian National University, The Challenge of Marketing Colour Cosmetics in Nineteenth Century British Popular Press

The challenge of marketing colour cosmetics in nineteenth century British popular pressCosmetic products and practices have been subject to moral debates in Europe since antiquity. Victorian Britain has sometimes been considered a particular low point in the acceptance and use of cosmetics as the ascetic new Queen’s natural, unpainted face was touted as ideal beauty, and society came to recognise that many contemporary beauty products were toxic. Ongoing association of cosmetics and ‘painting’ with occupations such as prostitution and acting suggests a widespread anxiety about problematic bodies, especially female bodies, in Victorian Britain. Yet empirical research suggests the nineteenth century saw an explosion in the number of cosmetic products advertised for sale as well as a concurrent boom in the number of popular publications available to literate members of society with economic means. However, given the prevailing social attitudes and values at the time, the challenge remained for those involved in promoting these products to negotiate ways in which to address the lingering association of cosmetics with deviance, decadence, or at least lacking respectability. Previous scholarship on the subject of cosmetics in Victorian Britain has not thoroughly analysed the role and significance of advertising in encouraging consumers to purchase cosmetics outwardly considered objectionable by much of society. This paper will address this gap in order to enable insight into the wider context of social and cultural ideals surrounding gender and beauty culture in the Victorian period.

 

By utilising a range of archival sources and focusing upon advertisements for cosmetic products in the periodicals and newspapers of nineteenth-century Britain, this paper seeks to explore the ways in which Victorian women were persuaded, or enabled, to make their beauty purchases within the cultural constraints of their era. Although most advertisements were text-based with little illustrative detail, they were constructed in a way that sought to mitigate the health and ethical considerations of prospective buyers and was vital to the gradual assimilation of beauty culture with high art and metropolitan fashions. This association grew stronger over time, and is the foundation upon which today’s global cosmetics industry was built. By emphasising the role played by popular press advertisements in normalising the public consumption of beauty culture in the face of widespread opposition, this paper seeks to enlarge understandings of the motivations and rationalisations made by participants in a rapidly changing consumer market.

 

Phil Lyon, Liz Ross and Craig Cathcart, Offering Hope: Aurists’ Advertisements in Mid-Nineteenth Century British Newspapers

This paper examines the ameliorative options facing people with hearing loss in mid-nineteenth century Britain. As reflected in professional journals of the day, medical understanding of diseases and dysfunctions of the ear was limited yet there was vigorous assertion and counter-claim as to the cause and treatment of problems. At the time, medicine was largely unregulated and quack practitioners were also able to promote their nostrums and services to a credulous public with little chance of a genuine cure for their hearing loss. Using the nineteenth century British Library Newspapers Archive for 1850, 379 advertisements offering cures for deafness were identified and examined to illustrate the variety of nostrums and devices offered to the public. Advertisements placed by these practitioners exploited the commercial possibilities of national and regional newspapers, the railways and postal services. They provided advance notification of consultations in different towns when the aurist travelled a circuit and, quite often, the opportunity to purchase cures by post. Advertisements could be cleverly constructed to persuade by allusions to ‘wonderfully discovered’ cures that brooked no comparison with the misguided efforts of other practitioners. Endorsements from people cured against the odds and from witnesses were designed to reassure any reader who harboured doubts.  Individuals with hearing loss were easy prey to such advertisements in a time when even qualified medical practitioners had little understanding of cause or treatment. For those who responded to the advertisements there was scant legal protection from fraudulent treatment claims, or redress for their failure. That said, the services offered by aurists illustrate needs unmet by qualified medical practitioners at the time.

 

June Rowe, University of the Arts, Marketing Youthful Femininity: The Fashion Display Mannequin and British Style 1947-1970

The fashion display mannequin can be read as a cultural symbol of femininity as well as a form for the representation of changing silhouettes. From its early developments the mannequin was produced to contribute to new forms of display and engagement with the female consumer and to promote ideological and desirable features of the feminine form.  The paper examines the display mannequin as the representative body of fashionable femininity linking its representations to its broader social and historical context and the convergences between fashion practice, the female body and consumption.

 

The research is informed by my doctoral thesis, which aims to situate the display mannequin as an object of socio-cultural significance and an exemplar of feminine representation and fashion iconography. The paper emphasises a critical perspective on the display mannequin related to influences of visual culture and fashion consumption in the British context from 1947 to the 1970s. The historical period covers changes in beauty and fashion aesthetics in relation to the modern body and illustrates stylistic changes in fashion silhouettes in the promotion of youthful femininity and post-war consumption.

 

Particular transitions occurred in mannequin design in the immediate post-war period followed by a greater shift in the features and postures of mannequins from the early 1960s. The paper assesses how changes in conventions in mannequin design related to changes in consumption and feminine spectacle and shifted perceptions in contemporary attitudes to the dressed body led by innovations in fashion design.

 

The mannequin as an object represents beauty, gender and fashion but also functions as an aspirational form for the female consumer. The convergence of social, political and aesthetic influences of the post-war period created new tropes of contemporary femininity which were exemplified in the fashion mannequin. As the model for the fashionable figure in retail display the mannequin promoted new attitudes to the female body as a social and cultural entity and became a creative and collaborative playing piece between consumption, fashion and commerce.

 

Susan Vincent, University of York, Hairdressers and Barbers: Intimate Acts

According to Benjamin Franklin, being able to shave himself meant he was never subjected to ‘the dirty fingers or bad Breath of a slovenly Barber’. His words conjure the physical proximity and level of touch between a hairdresser and client – in Franklin’s case being unable to turn away as the barber breathed into his face, with grubby fingers stretching and feeling around Franklin’s mouth, nose and cheeks as the razor travelled the contours of his skin. This little vignette invites us to consider the physicality of hairdressing, the way its intimacy helped shaped attitudes towards its practitioners, and the profound consequences of such intimacy for the relationship between client and professional.

 

The close and corporeal nature of hairdressing explains why it has been a locus for health advice and interventions. Such services were grounded in the trust that exists between client and stylist or barber, on its most basic level a trust that allowed a client to be confident, despite the scissors cutting near their eyes or the open razor passing over their throat. Given the reality of this vulnerability, it is surprising that the cultural imaginary does not team with scissor-wielding maniacs, and that the murderous Sweeney Todd brandishes his cut-throat razor alone. Instead, the activity of hairdressing has been most often associated with a lowering of the normal barriers of reserve. There is a long history in which intimacy is seen as leading clients to confide in their hairdressers, disclosing information and conversing in a way that is unusual in a business relationship. But while the paradigm of hairdresser or barber as confidant is very old, so is their character as gossip. They may be seen as a vessel for secrets but invariably the vessel proves a leaky one, whether spilling gossip or political sedition. The physical and emotional closeness of tending hair has also resulted in an explicit sexualisation. Since the emergence of the trade in the eighteenth century, the male hairdresser in particular has been constructed as sexually active, yet simultaneously effeminate and unmanly – an association that owes much to his female clientele, his pretensions to a social status higher than the barber’s, and his overt engagement with fashion. We find, in sum, a longevity to hairdresser and barber stereotypes, a corresponding continuity in their relationship with clients, and a persistence in the intimacy of tending of hair.

 

Ya-Lei Yen, Royal Holloway, University of London, ‘Let the Photographer “Pose” You; He is the Best Judge of your Face and Figure’: Female Beauty and Fashion in Mid-Victorian Photographs

This paper is divided into two sections to investigate how mid-Victorian studio cartes-de-visite visualized the appearance and clothing of English middle-class women. The pocket-sized photographs served as visual memories of kinship, friendship, admiration and special events among mid-Victorians women. Sitters were therefore keen to create a positive image and to show both their individuality and their social conformity, with a view to their family, friends and offspring considering and remembering them as such. However, because the technology of photography was still in its early stages, sitters had to follow the photographer’s direction in order to produce an elegant and respectable image. The first section explores how historical photographs represent the ideals of female beauty and women’s identity at different stages of life. For the mid-Victorians, the concept of female beauty referred to morality, virtue and manners rather than solely to physical attractiveness. Young women often looked askance at the camera, presenting an image of feminine shyness and delicacy. The thin-looking and poor hair should not be shown, and so a large proportion of elderly women wore a cap. Props, such as books, pianos, or pets, also helped the sitters to portray different feminine ideals.

 

The second section examines what photographers advised sitters to wear, how middle-class women negotiated advice from photographers and women’s fashion magazines to dress up for photographs, and the differences between fashion in photographs, magazines and reality. As Victorian photography was not sensitive to all colours, sitters were advised to dress in green, orange or red and to avoid wearing light colours that would make the photographs appear to lack detail. Indeed, historical photographs indicate that the most common style of dress was dark, plain textile, the most notable and popular fabric was moiré, and a minority of sitters, especially for young women, dressed in figured, striped, horizontal-striped, checked, velvet or light-coloured dresses. Older women were conservatively dressed, whereas middle-aged women were often the most splendid in photographs. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that in reality women’s clothing was much more colourful, and had more design patterns. Historical photography was therefore itself able to construct an image of fashion.

 

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Page author: Laura Ugolini
Last updated: May 2014