Alison Toplis is currently an honorary research fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. Born and brought up in Buckinghamshire, she worked for several years as a dress and textiles specialist at Christie’s Auctioneers before completing her doctorate in the area of nineteenth-century working-class dress. She has since lectured and published widely in the field of dress and textile history. Her second book, The Hidden History of the Smock Frock, will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2021.
In her podcast for Buckinghamshire History Festival, The Surprising History of the Smock Frock, Alison weaves a tale of costume history, charting the humble smock from its origins as an over garment for agricultural labourers to the catwalks of 2020. The smock now has a folky, bohemian image that evokes a simpler, idyllic rural past. However, as Alison uncovers, it was originally a versatile, affordable, and mass produced piece of clothing beloved by the urban, as well as rural, working class.