…the World of Kays

World of Kays views 20th century social history through the prism of the catalogues of Worcester’s prestigious mail-order company, Kays & Co Ltd.

At the heart of the World of Kays website is a database of 1500 high quality copies of images from the catalogues.  We have selected images which reflect the styles of the time, be they high fashion or everyday wear.

As you browse, feel free to comment on these images.  Did you have outfits like these?  How did they make you feel?  Was there an outfit you always wanted but could never wear? Why?

From the launch of the earliest ‘ready to wear’ clothing range in 1920, to the turn of the century in 2000, Kays’ catalogues demonstrate the growth of leisure time amongst the working classes, the increasing commercialisation of childhood and family life, the influence of ‘street style’ on the high street.  They also provide a fascinating insight into the gender roles of the day.

The JISC-funded project aims to create a website and community archive that focuses on the representation of lifestyle and body image in Kays of Worcester’s mail-order catalogues.

The site will also include a blog to which members of the public and specialist commentators are invited to submit articles.  Here the team will explore in greater depth issues relating to body image, gender, health and lifestyle.

The Kays Collection

The catalogues are part of a larger collection of business records relating to Kays of Worcester that have been collected by Bernard Mills, Chair of the Kays Heritage Group . Mr Mills deposited the archive for safekeeping in the Research Collections of the University of Worcester in 2009.

Copyright of documents and images in the Kays Collection is owned by Kays Heritage Group.  Items may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without the permission of the Group.  All applications for reproduction rights must be addressed to Dr Rachel Johnson, Research Collections Librarian, University of Worcester