Dr Benjamin Wild

Senior Lecturer (Critical & Contextual)

Dr Benjamin Wild

Senior Lecturer (Critical & Contextual)

Email: b.wild@mmu.ac.uk

Telephone: 0161 247 2621

Academic and professional qualifications

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Previous Employment

Conde Nast College of Fashion & Design, London

Sotheby's Institute of Art, London

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Academic service (administration and management)

Equality and Diversity Lead (Manchester Fashion Institute)

Advisory Board, Research Network for the Study of Race and Racism (MMU)

Undergraduate teaching

Unit lead Fashion Cultures

Postgraduate research supervision

Available for MA and PhD supervision

Current PhD Supervision:

  • Naomi Kayayan, ‘The Dynamics of Dynamic Teaching and Learning: Engaging Students as Partners in UK Conservatoire Piano Departments’ (Director of Studies).

Current Masters Research superivison:

  • Sophia Dolores Stamatopoulou, 'Exploring Gender-Neutral Fashion as a Product of a Dual Heritage Maker' (Principal Supervisor).
  • John Earnshaw, 'Documenting Improvisation: What is the collaboration/relationship that occurs between the image maker and sitter? A practice research study working with subject and environment, allowing space for self-expression through attitude, object and dress' (Principal Supervisor).
  • Layla Regan, 'Collective Dreams: Constructed Nostalgia in Contemporary Chinese Fashion Photography' (First Supervisor).

Projects and initiatives

Media appearances or involvement

Visiting and honorary positions

Editiorial Board membership

  • Editor, Journal of Dress History.
  • Executive committee member, Association of Dress Historians.


Research Interests

  • History of human dress & appearance
  • De-centring 'western' fashion methodologies & narratives
  • Cultural (mis)appropriation
  • Marginality
  • Fancy dress costume

A historian, my research seeks to situate contemporary and historic dress and fashions within their social and cultural context. Chiefly, I am keen to understand how material objects - primarily clothing and jewellery - become imbued with meaning to convey their owner's and wearer's values. Much of my research is characterised by an interdisciplinary and diachronic approach, which I believe is most effective to identify continuities and changes in cultural history.

My research interests initially focused on the dress and appearance of a society’s leaders and elite, but I have become increasingly interested in the self- and group presentation of people marginalised by a society. Previous research inclines me to believe that what a society chooses to repudiate is often more revealing of its values than what it publicly champions; for to deny, fear and hold back often requires more conscious and sustained effort than to acquiesce and blithely accept. This thinking did much to shape my recent book project on fancy dress costume, Carnival to Catwalk: Global Perspectives on Fancy Dress Costume, which is underpinned by Barbara Babcock’s observation that the ‘socially peripheral is often symbolically central, and if we ignore or minimize inversion or other forms of cultural negation we often fail to understand the dynamics of social process generally’.

I explore these ideas further in my current book project, Wearing Culture: Controversy, Negotiation and the Pursuit of Fashion, which explores why the fashion industry struggles to convey diverse cultural and global perspectives. The book aims to elucidate the cultural construction and negotiation of controversies that arise from the fashionable appearance and adornment of human bodies and to explain how this creates acceptance, causes offence and sometimes sparks resistance.

In a related project, I am writing Appropriation for Bloomsbury's new Fashion in Action series. The book offers an introductory guide to the topic of cultural appropriation in fashionable dress and appearance.

The relevance of my research focuses encourages me to share my work with broad audiences. For example, in May 2019, marginality was the subject of my TED talk.

Conference organisation

Face Off: The Provocation and Possibilities of Masks and Head Coverings, 13-14 January 2021. Further information here.


Wild, BL., 2020. 'Carnival to Catwalk Global Reflections on Fancy Dress Costume', Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Wild, B., Walker, T., 2016. 'A Life in Fashion The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton'.

Wild, BL., 2012. 'The Wardrobe Accounts of Henry III'.

Book Chapters

Wild, B., 2019. 'Clothing Royal Bodies: Changing attitudes to royal dress and appearance from the Middle Ages to Modernity'. In The Routledge History of Monarchy, Routledge.

Wild, B., 2019. 'Romantic Recreations: Remembering Stuart Monarchy in Nineteenth-Century Fancy Dress Entertainments'. In Remembering Kings and Queens in Early Modern England and France: Reputation, Reinterpretation, Reincarnation, Palgrave MacMillan.

Wild, B., 2019. 'Qui copier quand il n'ya plus personne à suivre? L'imitation dans la mode'. In Faut il imiter pour exister ? Tous des copieurs (et tant mieux) !, Philippe Duval.

Wild, B., 2016. 'Reasserting Medieval Kingship: King Henry III and the Dictum of Kenilworth'. In Baronial Reform and Revolution in England, 1258-1267, Boydell & Brewer.

Wild, B., 2011. 'The Empress’s New Clothes: A Rotulus Pannorum of Isabella, Sister of King Henry III, Bride of Emperor Frederick II'. In Medieval Clothing and Textiles, Boydell Press.

Journal Articles

Wild, BL., 2020. 'Critical reflections on cultural appropriation, race and the role of fancy dress costume', Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, 11 (2), pp. 153-173.

Wild, BL., 2019. 'We Need to Talk About Fancy Dress: Connections (and Complications) Between the Catwalk and Fancy Dress Costume', Fashion Theory, pp. 1-24.

Wild, B., 2019. 'Liminal Luxury: Establishing the Value of Fancy Dress Costume', Luxury, 6 (2), pp. 179-187.

Wild, B., 2016. 'Imitation in fashion: Further reflections on the work of Thorstein Veblen and Georg Simmel', Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, 3 (3), pp. 281-294.

Wild, BL., 2015. 'To have and to hold: Masculinity and the clutch bag', Critical Studies in Men???s Fashion, 2 (1), pp. 43-54.

Wild, BL., 2014. 'Secrecy, splendour and statecraft: the jewel accounts of King Henry III of England, 1216-72', Historical Research, 83 (221), pp. 409-430.

Wild, B., 2014. 'The civilizing process and sartorial studies', Clothing Cultures, 1 (3), pp. 213-224.

Wild, BL., 2011. 'Emblems and enigmas: Revisiting the ‘sword’ belt of Fernando de la Cerda', Journal of Medieval History, 37 (4), pp. 378-396.

Wild, BL., 2010. 'A Gift Inventory from the Reign of Henry III', The English Historical Review, CXXV (514), pp. 529-569.

Office Location

Room C2.32
Cavendish South
Manchester Fashion Institute
Manchester Metropolitan University
Cavendish Street
Manchester M15 6BG