Staff Profile: Honorary Research Fellow Dr Alison Toplis

Dr Alison Toplis
Honorary Research Fellow
Subject Area
Research AreaCentre for Historical Research


Dr Alison Toplis specialises in the social history of dress and textiles.  She is particularly interested in how clothing was acquired by consumers and the development of the early ready-made clothing industry.  Her research combines archival and visual evidence along with surviving artefacts.


  • BA Hons, Medieval and Modern History, University of Birmingham
  • MA, History of Dress, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
  • PhD, ‘The Non-elite Consumer and “Wearing Apparel” in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 1800-1850’, University of Wolverhampton

Research Interests

  • Dress and Textile History
  • Acquisition of working-class clothing
  • Itinerant retailing
  • Rural networks of retailing
  • Clothing and the Poor Law

Membership of Professional Bodies

  • Costume Society (member)
  • Association of Dress Historians (member)
  • Medieval Dress and Textile Society (MEDATS) (member)


Selected Papers

  • How to, or how not to, make a profit: a Birmingham draper’s trade with 1830s Van Diemen’s Land’, Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution (CHORD) Annual Conference, September 2012.
  • ‘Eaten out with Pride’: The Clothing Choices of the Female Non-elite Consumer, 1800-1850, The Costume Society Annual Symposium, July 2009.
  • ‘A Stolen Garment or a Reasonable Purchase?  The Male Consumer and the Second-Hand Clothing Market in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century’, European Social Science History Conference, (ESSHc), Lisbon, March 2008.
  • ‘The manufacture of rural garments in the first half of the 19th century – how to establish evidence’, Pasold workshop in textile history, ‘Researching the garment industry: sources and approaches’, Leeds University, September 2007.


  • The Clothing Trade in Provincial England, 1800–1850 for Pickering & Chatto’s “Perspectives in Economic and Social History” series, June 2011, [].
  • ‘A Stolen Garment or a Reasonable Purchase?  The Male Consumer and the Illicit Second-hand Clothing Market in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century’, in Jon Stobart and Ilja Van Damme (eds.) Modernity and the Second-hand Trade (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010).
  • ‘The Illicit Trade in Clothing, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, 1800-1850’, in John Benson and Laura Ugolini (eds.) Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, special edition, 'Beyond the Shop: Acquisition and Exchange Outside the Formal Market', August 2010.
  • ‘The Manufacture and Provision of Rural Garments, 1800-1850: a Case Study of Herefordshire and Worcestershire’, Textile History, Vol. 40, November 2009.
  • ‘Ready-made Clothing Advertisements in Two Provincial Newspapers, 1800-1850’, in The International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, special edition, 2009.
  • Co-editor, Index to Probate Records of the Archdeaconry Court of Buckingham 1483-1660 and of the Buckinghamshire Peculiars 1420-1660 (Buckinghamshire Record Society, Aylesbury, 2001).
  • Main contributor to Patricia Frost, Miller’s Collecting Textiles, (Miller’s Publications, London, 2000), researching and writing 21 chapters.