Alison was appointed as Director of Research at Norwich University of the Arts in May 2017. She has previously held academic posts at Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham Trent University and the University of Auckland. Having trained initially as a cultural geographer, her approach to the study of clothing is interdisciplinary and borrows from fashion theory, cultural studies, dress history and sociology. Alison gained her PhD on constructing, and constructions of, ‘Britishness’ in/through contemporary fashion in 2001 and her book The National Fabric (Bloomsbury, 2005) elaborates the theme.
Latterly, Alison has developed her interest in rural clothing, establishing and leading (during her time at NTU) the ‘Fields of Fashion’ (FoF) project on contemporary rural lifestyle research. She is interested in the ‘uses of the past’ by present day fashion retailers (particularly those defined as ‘heritage brands’) and their associated style tribes (think: ‘Rahs’, ‘Hipsters’ and ‘Scandi-wegians’). Alison also specialises in the history of rural clothing and, in particular, equestrian dress and its related material and visual culture. Most of her work has focused on the fashion and dress of the Interwar period. She has been awarded a number of competitive research fellowships (John H Daniels Fellow, Jan-Apr 2011; Bard Visiting Fellow, Oct-Jan 2013-4; Viva Foundation Fellow, May 2015), using these as a means to support extended periods of overseas archive work in the USA. Her current writing explores the clothing worn by spectators at sporting events, focusing on American sportswear during the 1930s, equestrian events, the shirt dress and the designer, Elizabeth Hawes.
Alison is UK commissioning editor for the Understanding Fashion book series (Bloomsbury). She sits on the editorial boards of Clothing Cultures (Intellect), Annals of Leisure Research (Taylor and Francis) and the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management (Emerald). She is former Vice-President of the New Zealand Costume and Textile Association and former co-editor of Context, the Society’s scholarly publication. She served as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2010-2014), is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and chairs the Lord Aberdare Literary Prize committee.
As part and parcel of her academic citizenship, Alison undertakes external examining across the UK and specialises in postgraduate (doctoral) training, management and the ‘practice-based’ PhD. She regularly presents her research at international conferences, has contributed to various media broadcasts and has been invited to address learned societies about her work.