Alison Settle Archive

  • Reference
      GB 1837 DES/AST
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 linear metres / 3 large and 2 standard boxes

Scope and Content

The archive contains professional papers spanning Alison Settle's career from the mid-1930s until the early 1970s, and offers insights into the worlds of fashion, textile and clothing manufacturing, design promotion, middle-class domesticity, and women's professional practice. As well as extensive cuttings of her articles from newspapers and magazines from the 1940s and 1950s onwards, it contains scripts of talks and notes for her books, as well as photographs illustrating her ideas of style. In particular there are extensive notes for the history of fashion on which she worked after her retirement, but which was never completed. There is also important correspondence with leading designers, and a sequence of correspondence revealing her relationship with the 'Vogue' Editor-in-Chief, Edna Woolman-Chase.

Administrative / Biographical History

In a career spanning from the early 1920s to the early 1970s, Alison Settle worked as a fashion journalist. She was a tireless champion of the interests of women, as well as campaigning for good quality, affordable design through her relationships with designers and manufacturers. Settle sought to improve design standards in all areas of manufacture and production, and contributed to the work of both the Council for Art & Industry and the Council of Industrial Design. She remained one of the best known fashion journalists in the country.

Settle was born in London in 1891; as a child she seems also to have spent some time at her grandmother's home in Kemp Town, Brighton. She intended to read History at Oxford, and won a bursary to Somerville College, but was unable to attend because of lack of funds. Instead she attended a secretarial college and eventually moved into journalism. She wrote first for the 'Sunday Pictorial' and before the end of the 1920s had worked for 'Sunday Herald', 'Eve' and the 'Daily Mirror'.

In 1929 Settle was appointed editor of British 'Vogue', a role she executed with great success, apart from a turbulent relationship with the 'Vogue' Editor-in-Chief, Edna Woolman-Chase. She engaged many great writers of the day to contribute leading articles for the magazine, including Edith Sitwell, Vita Sackville West and Colette, while Marcel Boulestin wrote on cooking and Andre Simon on wine. Another particular success was a regular feature called 'Vogue's Smart Fashions for Limited Incomes'.

In the late 1930s, Settle started work on her first book, 'The Clothesline', and began writing for the 'Star'. During the Second World War, she became a war correspondent for the 'Observer', although she was not permitted to go abroad until 1944, when she reported from several key moments in the conflict.

After the war, Settle began to write regularly for 'The Lady' and 'Homes and Gardens' and was a founder member of the Women"s Press Club. She began to write for the 'Observer' on a range of subjects, not exclusively fashion: her column was entitled 'From a Woman"s Viewpoint'. As the column"s popularity increased, its name changed to 'From Alison Settle's Viewpoint', and in this space Settle investigated and campaigned on a broad range of subjects representing the concerns of women.

After a health scare in the 1960s, she was advised to cut down her work, and produced a beauty column for the 'Observer' instead of her previous column. In 1961 she was awarded an OBE for services to fashion journalism, the first woman to receive such a citation. In the early 1970s a serious accident forced Settle to retire, at which point she began working on a history of fashion, work which never came to fruition but which is amply represented in the archive.


The current system of arrangement was established by Kerrie Anne Newman who produced a catalogue list as part of a student project in 1986. When cataloguing is completed, it will be grouped into the following series:

AST/1 Journalism and lectures

AST/2 Advisory work

AST/3 Research and reference material

AST/4 Personal papers

Access Information

Researchers wishing to consult the collection should make an appointment. Telephone 44 (0)1273 643217 or email

Acquisition Information

Transferred from St Peter's House Library to the Design Archives in 1998.

Other Finding Aids

The archive was the subject of two student projects, one to produce a catalogue list (1986, by Kerrie Ann Newman), and one to produce a leaflet guide (1993, by History of Design Third Year Case Study Group).

Archivist's Note

Collection level record created 2008, and completed by Sue Breakell, December 2009

Conditions Governing Use

Permission must be sought to publish any material from the collection. Email

Custodial History

The archive was presented to the then Brighton Polytechnic in 1980 by Alison Settle's daughter, Mrs Bowman, and stored at St Peter's House Library.


Settle, Alison 'Clothes line' London: Batsford, 1963

-- 'English fashion' (Britain in pictures series) London: Collins, 1948

-- 'A Family of shops: Marshall and Snelgrove' (introduction by Alison Settle) Privately printed, 1951

-- 'Fashion as a career' London: Batsford, 1963