PhD and Bursary Award Opportunity

University of the Arts Bournemouth, UK 


Arts University Bournemouth is pleased to offer part-time fees only bursaries to support PhD research that contributes to its Fashion and Textiles Research Cluster, Documenting the Hidden: Lives of Cloth and Clothing.

The attempt to ‘document’ what might be ‘hidden’ raises important methodological questions about, for example, the nature of textiles / dress (‘cloth / clothing’) as ‘evidence’ of past and present cultures; the articulation of thought processes; ideas regarding what constitutes and classifies art or design; the application of skills to the process of making and manufacture. The notion of ‘documenting’ is explored in relation to how we perceive and understand the subject of our enquiries.

Central to this is analysis of the ways in which the ‘lives’ of cloth and clothing may be hidden. For example, they may be hidden for the following reasons:

- we do not know the maker / makers

- we do not know where or how something was made

- we do not know who ‘consumed’ the item

- we do not know precisely the circumstances in which the item was used or worn

- we do not know the mender or menders who perpetuated the life of the item.

In summary, they are hidden because we do not know the complete life-cycle of the items being considered. Consequently, the histories of these topics have been neglected.

1. Writing Dress

The title does not necessarily focus directly on the object itself but on different ways in which the ‘hidden lives’ of ‘cloth and clothing’ are written about, including – but not limited to – academic writing, documentary / fictional literature and/or poetry, either in a contemporary or historical context. The research could focus on one writer, a body of writing or a particular genre of writing.

The contribution to knowledge would be in relation to the notion of hidden lives on a number of different levels. For example, in a particular context, a poem might elicit understanding of the different ‘values’ attached to cloth and clothing by an individual or a community; the emotional responses experienced when making, mending or wearing an item of clothing; the way in which a reference to cloth and clothing takes on a performative role in the memorialization of the past or the chronicling of change.

It is anticipated that the final presentation of research would be in the form of a thesis alongside a piece of creative writing, which ‘writes’ the themes that are explored in the thesis.

2. Mending and Embroidery: Historical and Contemporary Dialogues 

Current research interest in making tends to focus on the design, creation and display of new artefacts in their social and environmental contexts, but relatively little attention has so far been paid to the invisible mending and wearing or use of torn or worn out (historical or contemporary) garments or other everyday textile artefacts. Contemporary design and craft practitioners, making in a culture where mending is no longer essential to prolong the useful life of an object, are increasingly turning their attention to the visible and symbolic meanings of darned, patched or embroidered clothing. Just as the historical evolution of mending and embroidery is thought to have strong associations, stitching with needle and thread links these practices in a contemporary context, suggesting new research avenues that ground object-based study in a maker culture. Topics that aim to explore the following areas of interest will be considered:


- Invisible lives of mended, repaired, altered and repurposed garments

- Regionally specific social, historical, and cultural mending and stitching practices (including darning, patching, embroidery, lacemaking)

- Historical, theoretical and practical re-readings and re-makings of mended, stitched and decorated garments or household textiles and their possible inter-relationships

- Shifting perceptions of class and gender roles in relation to textile and clothing functions (e.g. the use or wearing, care and display of clothes and other household textiles)

- The transforming potential of skills, materials and tools associated with mending.


Supervision will be given by Professor Rachel Worth and Dr. Emma Shercliff who have combined research experience in social and cultural history, dress history, textile design and making, social anthropology, ethnography, text, visual and object analysis.


The deadline for applications is 1st June 2017. Interviews will be held at Arts University Bournemouth on Tuesday 20th and 27th June 2017.


Please refer to the How to apply pages for details on making an application. If you have any queries about the bursaries, please contact the Research Office:


T: 01202 363334



PhD and Bursary Award Opportunity, University of the Arts Bournemouth, UK

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