The poet and novelist Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is a figure of major importance to British literary heritage and the wider cultural industries, with significant and growing international appeal, including in Asia and North America. The Thomas Hardy and Clothing project will build upon student-led research undertaken at Exeter to create a digital research database of references to fashion in Hardy’s writing and biography. Working in partnership with Dorset County Museum, the project also aims to promote knowledge and enjoyment of Hardy and the Victorians, and to develop understanding both of one of Britain’s foremost writers and the time in which he lived.
The database will highlight the importance of fashion in Hardy’s writing, providing references to the fiction, poetry and other writing, and offering annotations on historical, social and political context. The database will also provide links to digital images of clothing worn by Hardy, his friends and relatives. It will be a rich educational resource on nineteenth-century clothing for BA, MA and PhD students at Exeter as well as for members of the public.
The project will also contribute significantly to the learning outcomes for the Thomas Hardy: Fashion, Fact and Fiction exhibition which in 2017/18 will tour through the South West, including Exeter. This exhibition will demonstrate for the first time the importance of fashion in Hardy’s writing, displaying a wide-range of costume worn in nineteenth-century Dorset. Both the exhibition and database will, additionally, develop symbiotic relations with the AHRC-funded research network Tailored Trades: Clothes, Labour and Professional Communities, 1880-1939, which is led by Dr Vike Plock at Exeter. The project will also highlight and raise awareness of significant archive and costume collections in the South West, helping to publicise and interpret this heritage for the future.