In these opening weeks of 2012, hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to the West End’s shopping districts to ease the post-festive season blues by hitting the shops.
The January sales are not a new attraction: catalogues at the City of Westminster Archives Centre show how bargain-hunting was a big draw for Londoners and visitors as far back as the 1890s, and photographs show shoppers eyeing up stock on sale at Liberty’s in the 1920s.
People have been lifting their mood by investing in wardrobe updates for centuries, and the psychological and cultural relationships between individuals and the clothes they wear has long been analysed and documented.
A recent contributor to this field of study, acquired for the reference collection at the City of Westminster Archives Centre, is NJ Stevenson’s The Chronology of Fashion.
Stevenson’s book, which traces the development of modern fashion (from 1800 onwards), contains sumptuous full-colour illustrations depicting trends ranging from the Empire-line silhouette of the Regency era, through to Victorian whale-bone corsets, outlandish 1980s post-punk creations and ending with an intriguing forecast of what we’ll be wearing in 2020.