Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Audra Skukauskaite


Kevin Vichcales


Jessica Kimmel


Michael T Haynes


Fashion embroidery has been an integral part of high fashion since before King Louis XV of France in the 18th century. Upon the development of haute couture in France, a professional fashion embroidery industry arose to serve the needs of the new high fashion designers. Despite significance of professional embroidery in high fashion, there is little documentation of the history of the fashion embroidery industry. Particularly scarce is information about the professional embroiderers working in the industry. The purpose of this qualitative study was to capture the life stories of the people working in the modern fashion embroidery industry in France, Italy, and England. This qualitative study utilized oral history methods for designing and conducting face-to-face interviews with 20 participants who worked in professional high fashion embroidery workshops in France, England, and Italy. The primary research question guiding the study was: How do professional embroiderers represent their work and life as an embroiderer? The participants were all professional embroidery professionals chosen via purposeful and snowball sampling methods. 16 participants took part in audio-recorded interviews, while 4 additional participants’ contributions were captured in field notes. All but 2 of the interviews took place in the participant’s embroidery workshop. Interview transcripts were analyzed using the constant comparative method of analysis. I uncovered 3 primary themes in the embroiderers’ conversations: education and career progress of embroiderers, evolution of the company and methods, and current challenges and future aspirations. Findings revealed that the embroiderer’s education or training was one of the most influential events in their lives. The embroiderer’s education not only shaped the future of the embroiderer, but also impacted the future of the embroiderer’s employing company. In addition to education, a company’s history and present working methods also strongly affect the company’s potential for future survival and ability to compete globally. The stories of the embroiderers also provide support for teaching embroidery history not only in European embroidery programs, but in American fashion design programs as well.