Tweed: a design and cultural history 1828–2014
Anderson, Fiona. Tweed. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. Tweed undertakes an in-depth analysis of the design and cultural history of these fabrics from their initial development in Scotland in the 1820s to 2014. This soleauthored book investigates the origins, design, production and consumption of British tweeds and their international export. It diverges from the existing literature by focusing on all types of tweeds, including Harris Tweed and fantaisie tweeds. The book explores the history of these textiles from the raw fibre to the finished garment worn by both men and women. The core methods employed were from Material Culture Studies. In order to investigate the complex processes and shifting social, cultural and economic contexts involved, inter-disciplinary methods and sources were used. Tweed is, however, predominantly based on primary sources, most of which have not previously been published. Original research included analysing artefacts in museums and archives in mainland Scotland, the Outer Hebrides, the West of England, County Donegal and Paris. It also involved fieldwork trips to mills and interviews with individuals who work, or who previously worked, for leading designers and manufacturers of tweeds. That research was pivotal to the investigation of the hidden history of the design dialogue and commercial interactions between British tweed producers and their export customers. The case studies of three contemporary manufacturers also informed the conclusion that despite the considerable decline in the UK-based industry, tweeds retain their cultural significance as a core aspect of the British fashion identity. Tweed undertakes a detailed investigation of the shifting relationships between these cloths, fashion and gender identities. In particular, it makes a major contribution to advancing knowledge about men’s fashion textiles after 1830, which have received scant academic attention. Tweeds are commonly described in contemporary media as ‘heritage’ fabrics, which was a starting point for the enquiry into the relationships between these textiles and modernity, heritage, tradition, nostalgia, authenticity and innovation. The book concludes that tweeds developed in the early nineteenth century as an element of the cultural response to industrialisation and urbanisation known as Romanticism. Tweed also contests the mythical idea that these cloths may simply be linked to the past and traditional, rural, upper class lifestyles, by revealing their intrinsic and complex relationships to modernity and both rural and urban landscapes.
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