Jennifer Daley is an expert in uniforms like these, worn by the British Royal Navy.

A conversation between Cañada fashion department (CFD) and Jennifer Daley (JD):

CFD: You’re a fashion historian. Please tell our readers more about what that entails.

JD: My interest in fashion history began 15 years ago, when I took a course at Cañada College called Design and Development of Historical Costume, taught by Judy Jackson. She taught me all about cut and construction and fashion history and sumptuary laws.* This is the class that really sparked my interest in fashion history. In my current research into fashion history, I look at how and why standards of dress evolved in response to political, economic, industrial, and technological developments; empire and immigration; shifts in gender and class formations; and popular culture. Fashion history is simply a way in which to study history through the lens of fashion.

CFD: You specialize in British Navy uniforms. Correct? How did you become interested in that topic in particular?

JD:  I became interested in sailor uniforms during a flat pattern drafting course at Cañada College, taught by Ronda Chaney, who taught me how to draft a square ‘sailor collar.’ I thought it was such an interesting design feature. I then started researching the development of sailor uniforms and how/why/when elements of sailor uniforms started appearing in women’s fashion. That interest led me to complete two master’s degrees and a PhD.

CFD: You’ve worked for some very large corporations, doing marketing/communications, including Donna Karan. What was that like?

JD: I have always worked in marketing and communications, mostly in the technology sector; however, I have worked as a consultant for some fashion companies, such as Donna Karan in New York. Of course, it was always more interesting working for fashion companies. There are so many interesting jobs within the fashion industry.

CFD: You also managed her own millinery studio in London, which seems very different. Tell us more about operating your own business versus working for a big company. What did you learn from that experience?

JD: I became interested in millinery during a millinery course at Cañada College, taught by Wayne Wichern. He taught me everything about hat design and construction and was so generous with his time and expertise. After I left Cañada College and moved to London, I graduated from the intensive, year-long millinery course at Kensington and Chelsea College. Since then I designed and sold hats and headpieces, with a design focus on fur and feathers.

CFD: What courses did you take at Cañada College? How was the Fashion Design & Merchandising program for you?

JD: Cañada College changed my life! The professors were so knowledgeable and engaging. They inspired me. I learned so much through all of my classes, including flat pattern design, moulage/French pattern drafting, trouser pattern drafting and construction, bustier pattern drafting and construction, fashion draping, advanced tailoring, techniques of fit, ready-to-wear pattern replication (woven and knitted garments), image and trend analysis, fashion industry and merchandising, costume history, design and development of historical costume, introduction to the costume industry, millinery, interior sewing for the home, serging, fabric embellishment, fashion illustration, portfolio development, small business development.

CFD: You are currently finishing your PhD through King’s College, University of London. In what ways do you expect having a doctorate will affect your career? What does the future hold for you?

JD: I pursued a PhD in fashion history because I wanted to academically explore the topic of sailor uniforms and nautical fashion. And I needed the credential in order to teach at the university level in London, which I am now doing. I am currently turning my doctoral dissertation into a book which will be published soon. My courses Cañada College really set a firm foundation to my fashion education, and I use this knowledge every day.

Jennifer Daley is Chairman and Trustee of The Association of Dress Historians (ADH) and Managing Editor of The Journal of Dress History. Her thesis title is “The Fabric of Maritime Power: The Integral Role of Royal Navy Sailor Uniform in the Military and Cultural Expansion of the British Empire.” She currently teaches History of British Fashion at NYU London.

Learn more about Jennifer at

*Black’s Law Dictionary defines sumptuary laws as being “… for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc.” Variations on these laws were enacted in many parts of the world over many centuries.