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Title: A life in the archive : the dress, design and identity of the London couturier Norman Hartnell, 1921-1979
Author: Hattrick, Jane
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2011
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The London couturier, Sir Norman Bishop Hartnell (1901-1979) is famous today for dressing Their Majesties Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900-2002) and the current British Monarch, Elizabeth II (1926) from 1937 until his death in 1979. His legacy is understood to lie in the establishment of the fixed British royal style devised for Queen Elizabeth in 1937, still worn by Her Majesty the Queen today. Hartnell was, however, far more than a provider of dress to British royalty. Evidence in the form of bound volumes of international press cuttings extant in a private archive indicates that he commanded great respect as a couture fashion designer between 1923-1953. He was also the first British fashion designer to attempt to develop as an international fashion brand in the immediate post war period. Neither Hartnell' s production of two couture collections per year between 1923- 1979 and ready-to-wear from 1963 nor his signature looks or house style, have been examined in-depth to date in terms of his legacy. This thesis unpicks Hartnell's work, closely analysing his sketched designs, fabric swatches, embroideries, couture and ready-to-wear garments extant in a vast, privately owned and relatively unknown archive. I suggest that the roots of this signature house style lies in the identity of the man, which is also scrutinised here, in particular, his sexuality and life-long cross-dressing. Hartnell's taste in overtly feminine styles is evident in his use of colour, fabric and embellishment and is present in his all his fashion work. This is rooted in his personal taste and the use of these signature elements in garments designed and made at his couture house for his own personal use. The major business decisions taken at his couture house between 1946-1979 will also be discussed in the context of his complex gendered identity and reputation as the royal couturier. The research on the life and work of the London couturier Norman Hartnell undertaken for this PhD, probes through his vast, privately owned archive and collection of possessions, hidden from public view since 1985. This interdisciplinary investigation will track the relationship between Hartnell' s identity, both the public professional 'face' of Hartnell and the impact of his private life, in the design work of Britain's most prominent couturier. Theoretical 10 approaches to Hartnell' s life and work include material culture approaches to analysing these specific objects of couture and decorative art objects collected by him. Issues of self-presentation, performance and memory are addressed in order to unpick his personal choice in interior design as well as his wardrobe of normative masculine styles and his coded style of dressing, and his queer identity, using studio photographic portraits taken between 1928 and 1970. Oral histories recorded between 2006-2011 with those that worked with him and were close to him in life, offer unique insight into the working regime at the House of Hartnell and a further understanding of Hartnell's personality and character. This research re-evaluates Hartnell' s contribution to British couture in order to position him, and the design and production of couture at the House of Hartnell, at the centre ofthe finally emerging, growing body of research on London couture recently established by Breward, de la Haye and Erhman. This thesis addressed how the identity of a person can be read through what they leave behind and, in particular, what can be read of the celebrity couturier Norman Hartnell's identity through the residue of his life and work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W230 Clothing/Fashion Design