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The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes with Dr Kate Strasdin

Dr Kate Strasdin explores the dress diary of a Victorian lady who recorded her dress fabrics from Lancashire and Singapore

In 1838, a young woman was given a diary on her wedding day. Collecting snippets of fabric from a range of garments she carefully annotated each one, creating a unique record of her life and times. Her name was Mrs Anne Sykes.

Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and museum curator. Strasdin spent the next six years unravelling the secrets contained within the album’s pages.

Piece by piece, she charts Anne’s journey from the mills of Lancashire to the port of Singapore before tracing her return to England in later years. Fragments of cloth become windows into Victorian life: pirates in Borneo, the complicated etiquette of mourning, poisonous dyes, the British Empire in full swing, rioting over working conditions and the terrible human cost of Britain’s cotton industry.

This is life writing that celebrates ordinary people: the hidden figures, the participants in everyday life. Through the evidence of waistcoats, ball gowns and mourning outfits, Strasdin lays bare the whole of human experience in the most intimate of mediums: the clothes we choose to wear.

Speaker: Kate Strasdin is a senior lecturer at Falmouth University where she teaches histories and theories to students on BA(Hons) Fashion Design and BA(Hons) Performance Sportswear Design. With the addition of a further two courses – BA(Hons) Fashion Photography and BA(Hons) Fashion Marketing – Kate now helps to deliver the HATs programme across the four courses.

Following the completion of her PhD in 2013, her research was published by Bloomsbury Academic as Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra (2017). Kate was the historical consultant for the Royal Women exhibition at the Fashion Museum, Bath, named as one of Vogue’s top 12 exhibitions of the year 2018.

In 2011, Kate was awarded the annual Gervers Fellowship by the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, allowing her to work with their collections. She was the recipient of the 2010 Keith Ponting Bursary to further research at the Fashion Museum in Bath, and won a Design History Society Award towards the cost of travel and study. Kate is honorary deputy curator at the Totnes Fashion and Textile Museum in Devon.

In 2017, Kate was given a remarkable dress scrapbook and spent the next six years researching the life and times of its creator, Mrs Anne Sykes.

Praise for The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes:

‘The story of a singular woman … Kate Strasdin’s forensic detective work has finally let Mrs Sykes – and her book – speak again’ Judith Flanders

‘An extraordinarily rich record of middle-class Victorian life.. fascinating book’ The Guardian


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Full C&TA membership is for those who also enjoy attending in-person – and online – events, the benefits of visiting Norwich’s remarkable Norfolk Museums Service’s costume and textile collections, plus other locally-available discounts. For Full Membership, please click on the blue link. Full individual membership is £25.00 per annum (see the C&TA website for other membership types): www.ctacostume.org.uk

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In 2024, the C&TA celebrates our Coral Anniversary: 35 years as an independent charity supporting the Norfolk Museums Service’s costume and textiles collections

Online Programme for Spring / Summer 2024

The Costume & Textile Association (C&TA) host regular online events via zoom, in addition to in person events in Norwich, Norfolk, UK

Tuesday 23 January Tartan with Jonathan Faiers, professor of Fashion Thinking at Winchester School of Art, author and co-curator of Tartan exhibition at V&A Dundee

Wednesday 21 February Dressing Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with Jane Pritchard, curator of Dance, Theatre and Performance at the V&A. 2024 celebrates the 150th birthday of Nicolas Roerich, the 100th anniversary of Leon Bakst and the 111th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring ballet

Tuesday 12 March Jane Austen’s Wardrobe with Dr Hilary Davidson, dress, textile and fashion historian, curator and author



Free Exhibition in The Gallery, The Forum, Norwich Daily 10 am – 4 pm. 13 – 21 April 2024

ONLINE EVENT Saturday 13 April 2 pm Agony & Ecstasy: History of Corsets with Joy Evitt, C&TA (Free, donations welcome)

ONLINE EVENT Sunday 14 April 2pm Spinning a Yarn: Women Spinners in Norfolk’s Medieval Worsted Industry with Jenn Monahan, Geoffrey Squire Memorial Bursary Award 2019 (pre-recorded talk followed by Live Q&A with Jenn)(Pay what you can)

**IN PERSON EVENT @ THE FORUM, NORWICH 12 noon Monday 15 April 35 Years of C&TA Support with Ruth Battersby, senior curator, Norfolk Museums Service (NMS) (Pay what you can)

ONLINE EVENT Tuesday 16 April 7 pm Double Weave: Modernist Designers Bourne & Allen with Dr Jane Hattrick, co-curator of exhibition at Ditchling Museum


Tuesday 23 April 7 pm Print Pattern & Narrative with Kate Farley, associate professor in design at Norwich University of the Arts

Tuesday 21 May 7 pm The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes: Secrets from a Victorian Woman’s Wardrobe with Dr Kate Strasdin, author and senior lecturer in Cultural Studies at the Fashion and Textiles Institute, Falmouth University

Wednesday 5 June 7 pm Courtly Coral: Red Coral and Coral Motifs at the Chinese Imperial Court with Dr Pippa Lacey, C&TA

Tuesday 23 July 7 pm The Pastons: Clothes Maketh the Man (and Woman) with best selling author Anne O’Brien

August Summer Break

Tuesday 24 September 7 pm Fashion on the Silk Roads with Professor Susan Whitfield, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC)

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May 21 2024


Date: 21 May
Time: 19:00 - 20:30
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Online Talk


Costume & Textile Association
Website: Visit Organizer Website