Don’t forget your pants! An exploration of the Women’s Wear Daily archive online

pants photo“Women’s Wear Daily”, as the name suggests, is a daily publication focusing on the business of women’s clothing. Published in America from 1910, it’s been monitoring trends for over a century.

The complete archive of this publication, complete with high quality scans of every page (including articles, advertisements, and covers) and indexed text, is now available to search and browse online via our ProQuest subscription.

Providing a valuable source for students of retail business, fashion history, popular culture, gender studies, marketing and much more, the issues combine a news-style commentary on the business, designers, retailers, models and muses, with interesting and stylistically evolving illustrative content.

All the usual ProQuest search tools are available, meaning you can refine searches from wide-ranging to very specific with only a few clicks of the mouse. However, it’s really worth remembering that WWD is American when formulating your searches. For example, a search for “trousers” returned 28,222 results, a search for “slacks” 55,237, and “pants” 95,337! Of course, you can combine these terms to get a full picture, but the nuances of American English will influence what you find.

Similarly, when searching for the impact of events, people or policies, don’t expect to find anything specifically UK-centered. I searched for “rationing” during the 1940s and got some very different results to those I would expect to find in a contemporaneous publication here. That said, coverage of Royal Weddings (even those of minor royals) was relatively extensive, and plenty of British designers got a mention.

Despite these geographical differences, all the key moments in the last century of the industry, as well as major designers, brands, retailers and advertisers are covered. With details about the etiquette of wearing white gloves to a wedding, or how long a veil should be when attending a society event, there’s plenty here to become immersed in. And if the mentions of Royal Weddings isn’t enough for you, there are quite a few royal photographs which wouldn’t have made the British press; Princess Margaret was never pictured smoking in the UK during her youth, for example, whereas within these pages are not only those photographs but captions indicating how they wouldn’t be allowed “back home”.

As with any archive of such a long-lived publication, it’s fascinating to watch the passage of time through the pages. The style employed in the formatting, the tone employed in the articles, and the technology employed in the display of representations all changes as wonderfully as you would imagine. I’m sure students in Creative Arts will find it a hugely valuable resource, but wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to students from any of the other numerous disciplines I think would find useful content within it too. Go and have a look – you never know what you might find.

Photo by arlyna

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