The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes

Secrets from a Victorian Woman’s Wardrobe


The hidden fabric of a Victorian woman's life told through her unique scrapbook.

In 1838, Anne Sykes was given a diary on her wedding day. Using it to collect snippets of fabric, she created a record of her life and times. Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of fashion historian Kate Strasdin who spent the next six years unravelling the secrets contained within its pages.

Piece by piece, she charts Anne's life and times. 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. 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.

‘Flawless’ Amber Butchart
‘Fascinating’ Clare Hunter
‘Irresistible’ The Times


  • Strasdin's painstaking detective work has uncovered many of the fascinating insights behind the fabric swatches contained in this unusual collection
    Sunday Times

About the author

Kate Strasdin

Kate Strasdin is a dress historian who has been fascinated by old clothes since she was a child. She is a lecturer in Cultural Studies at Falmouth University and is a freelance consultant for dress and textile exhibitions. She has appeared on The Great British Sewing Bee as an expert.

In 2016 she was given an anonymous album full of annotated dress swatches that had been kept in a trunk for over fifty years, its original keeper unknown. She spent the next six years unlocking its secrets.

She lives in Devon with her husband and two children.
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