Eleanor Houghton is an academic, writer and illustrator.
After reading English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford, Eleanor set up her own business as a model milliner, making hats and headdresses for brides, race-goers, socialites and stores. After six years of fun with feathers, she decided to return to the world of academia, having long wished to reunite her two great passions – English Literature and fashion.
In 2014 Eleanor was awarded a first-class master’s degree in Eighteenth Century Studies from the University of Southampton, where, after studying the literature and history of the long eighteenth century, her thesis placed focus upon Jane Austen and the management of her clothing. Through the study of her extant letters and other key sources, Eleanor charted Austen’s clothing acquisitions, evolving personal taste and her spending patterns during the changing circumstances of her life.
Eleanor was then fortunate enough to be granted a full Wolfson Doctoral Scholarship. Her thesis, Decoding Clothing: Charlotte Brontë, ‘Plainness’ and the Language of Dress is a highly innovative, at times even provocative, interdisciplinary study. It reveals Brontë’s complex relationship with her appearance through a close examination of the author’s surviving clothing, letters, novels and the contemporary recollections of those who had known her.
Alongside her research, Eleanor has worked as a costume consultant for television, historical novelists, museums and curators. Her detailed illustrations have been sold at the Morgan Library, New York and will soon go on sale at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Yorkshire. She is currently compiling a book of detailed, annotated drawings from the Brontë Clothing Collection.
Eleanor comes from an extraordinarily large family. Due to a childhood illness, her secondary education was largely carried out at the kitchen table, but it is to this unorthodoxy that she believes she owes her organic way of approaching her subject and her natural affinity for interdisciplinary study.
Though, like most academics, she seems to spend much of her life working, her spare time is spent reading fashion magazines, drinking hot chocolate and drawing. Currently, she is writing and illustrating a paper-cut children’s book and in this, as in all other things, she is assisted by her now famous West Highland Terrier, Porridge, who due to her own infectious personality, has now amassed quite a following on Instagram. Porridge's Instagram