Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Katie (Dean) Irani

MA work

‘The only properly dressed troops in India’: an exploration of design intention and subaltern agency in First World War sepoy service uniforms

This dissertation examines the uniforms worn by infantrymen in the Indian Army ('sepoys') during the First World War. Split across two chapters, the first explores the intention behind the design of the 1914 sepoy service uniform; the second examines how this uniform was worn in practice and asks whether these practices of dressing disrupted the original intentions behind its design. These questions are not currently addressed in the existing literature: in part, this dissertation suggests, because dress historians to date have not developed the correct methodologies with which to do so. This research seeks to remedy this gap in the scholarship on military dress by adopting an object-focused, design history approach across a range of primary materials, including surviving uniform specimens, photographs, newspaper articles, diaries and letters, governmental and charitable records and correspondence, recruitment handbooks, Army Clothing Department reports, oral history interviews, private company records, and recruitment posters.


  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2019

  • Katie (Dean) Irani is a design historian, whose research focuses on the body, dress, the material culture of war and conflict, and decolonial methodologies. Her MA dissertation (distinction) was entitled '"The only properly dressed troops in India": an exploration of design intention and subaltern agency in First World War sepoy service uniforms'. Katie will be presenting part of this research at the First World War Network Conference in June 2019, and will begin her PhD on the material culture of the First World War Indian Army at the RCA in September 2019. Before returning to academia, Katie trained as a corporate solicitor at Linklaters LLP.

  • Degrees

  • Graduate Diploma, History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2016–17; LPC (Graduate Diploma Legal Practice), University of Law, 2014; BA Jurisprudence, University of Oxford, 2010–2013
  • Experience

  • Curatorial Research Assistant, Design Museum, London, January 2019 – present; Project Assistant, Graphic Designer and Social Media/Website Co-ordinator, OPEN Initiative, RCA, December 2018 – present; Content Manager and Head of Production, 'Almanac' publication (V&A/RCA), October 2018 – January 2019; Editor, 'Interactive Histories' Catalogue (V&A/RCA), April – May 2018
  • Awards

  • Distinction, 2018 (RCA); Dean's Award, 2017 (Courtauld)
  • Conferences

  • 'Revisiting the Sepoy: a design history perspective on uniform and the body', First World War Network Conference, June 2019 (forthcoming)
  • Publications

  • 'Remembering: RCA Students’ Combatant and Non-combatant Sacrifices of the First World War', RCA Blog, 11 November 2018