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In between small model spitfires and Sherman tank key rings, visitors browsing the shelves of the Imperial War Museum’s gift shop will find their gaze met by the reassuringly familiar smile of a round-faced rag doll, beaming from the side of a tote bag.
Essay collections are always a mixed bag, and this one is more muddled than most. The warning signs are clear. The volume is part of a series ominously titled ‘Austrian Studies in English’. Six of the 15 essays were papers presented at a 2010 conference of the same name at the University of Vienna.
Tucked away in museums displaying and storing collections of dress and textiles there is often a subsidiary but significant collection of printed ephemera. This might encompass bills, trade cards, paper carrier bags, fashion plates and dressmaking patterns.
The lower levels of 19th-century society have received increasing amounts of attention from historians, and while their clothing is very nearly always mentioned (at least in passing) Vivienne Richmond rightly notes the individual and collective meanings of this clothing are rarely discussed or analysed.(1) It is an omission which, in Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth