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Library Guides

Fashion History in the University Archive: Fashion Teaching

An overview of resources held by the University Archive


The University of Westminster’s fashion teaching has two parallel but distinct histories: the Regent Street Polytechnic and Harrow College. 

Courses taught at the Polytechnic included Garment Cutting (tailoring), boot and shoe manufacture, dressmaking, millinery and hairdressing. The courses started in the 1880s and ceased in 1947.

Courses taught at Harrow College included dressmaking and textile design. These courses were developed into undergraduate and postgraduate courses during the 1980s.

In 1992, the Polytechnic and Harrow College merged to become the University of Westminster. The Archive collects materials right up to the present day.


The Archive holds 3 textbooks written by Dr Thomas Darwin Humphreys, who taught the first Cutting (Tailors) course from 1882. The books cover anatomy as well as tailoring techniques and include many detailed diagrams.

The Archive also holds a 1900 ‘Manual of Boot and Shoe Manufacture designed for the use of technical students’. This includes diagrams, techniques and principles of shoe design.


Photographs give us some idea of how fashion teaching has changed over time. The Archive holds photographs of classrooms from the 1890s to the present, showing changes in technique, style and student body.


The Archive holds notebooks kept by a student, Ethel Bil, who studied on the Ladies Garment Cutting course during the 1930s. They include written notes, diagrams, and scale paper patterns.

A page from a Victorian tailoring manual


Prospectuses give brief written details of the courses taught at the University and it's predecessors. They are most useful if you are looking for historical information about when a course started or how it changed over time. From the 1980s prospectuses may contain some images, but they are not a very visual source.