Category Archives: Fashion and Clothing

The Fifty Shilling Tailors and John Collier

The Fifty Shilling Tailors was one of the most successful ‘wholesale bespoke tailors’ on the British high street through the 1920s, 30s and 40s. In later years, when it became impossible to sell a made-to-measure suit of clothes for a … Continue reading

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Foster Brothers

Circumstances surrounding the founding and naming of Foster Brothers, the men’s clothing retailer, are rather mysterious. When the founder, William Foster (1852-1914) died, his obituaries noted that he had opened his first shop with his brother in Pontefract in 1876. … Continue reading


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A Brief History of Wallis

The Wallis chain of women’s fashion shops was a familiar presence on British high streets for 97 years. It started out as a standard ‘costumier’, selling dresses and coats – called ‘mantles’ in the trade – including furs. The first … Continue reading

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Multiple Multiples: Disentangling the Story of Millets

Millets, the outdoor retail specialist, has maintained a strong presence on the British High Street for over 100 years. Recently I began to dig into Millets’ company history for my forthcoming book on chain stores. Before long I had stumbled … Continue reading

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The Story of Dorothy Perkins

Dorothy Perkins, like Etam, started out as a specialist in ladies’ underwear and lingerie. As with Burton, Dorothy Perkins’ stablemate in the Arcadia retail group, the commonly related history of the company doesn’t always fit the evidence. The usual version … Continue reading

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Spotting Historic Shopfronts: Baldock

A plum spot on the Great North Road meant that the small market town of Baldock in Hertfordshire became an ideal staging post for people journeying north from London. From the 17th century onwards it was chock-a-block with coaching inns, … Continue reading

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The Story of Dunn’s the Hatter

Introduction Dunn & Co. was the most recognisable chain of men’s hatters throughout the first three-quarters of the 20th century. By the late 1920s it was also a men’s outfitters. A failure to keep up with changing fashions – which … Continue reading

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The Story of Montague Burton – the Tailor of Taste

Introduction Montague Burton was not the first to establish a successful chain of tailor’s shops throughout Britain: Joseph Hepworth and his son Norris had opened their first shops in 1884. Nevertheless, between the 1920s and the 1960s, Burton was the … Continue reading

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Burton’s ‘Modern Temples of Commerce’

Montague Burton began to build new shops – ‘modern temples of commerce’ – around 1923, when he had amassed around 200 branches. The next year the company opened in a wing of Woolworth’s new superstore in Liverpool where Burton’s architect, Harry Wilson, … Continue reading

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A Spotter’s Guide to Montague Burton – the Tailor of Taste, Part 2

Art Deco Motifs Burton’s architect, Harry Wilson, had fully embraced art deco by 1930 and seems to have had great fun dressing façades in variants of this popular style. This involved the application of stylised geometric motifs, sometimes in profusion. By … Continue reading

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