Fashion & Freedom at Manchester Art Gallery

November 13, 2016

On Friday 4th November, I took my first ever trip to Manchester. I can not believe that I had never been before then. I went with some girls from my course because the Manchester Art Gallery currently have an exhibition open called 'Fashion & Freedom'. Obviously we jumped at the chance to go given that we all study fashion. I was especially excited because I am so intrigued by war time fashion and so was so excited to have a little look. It showcased designs by Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda, Holly Fulton, Emilia Wickstead, J JS Lee, and Sadie Williams.

We also had a little look around the rest of the gallery but because I had taken so many photos, I thought I would write a separate blog post about them. I also have another one coming up where I will share the rest of the photos that I had taken around Manchester throughout the rest of the day.
"The background to Fashion & Freedom is an epic story, one that most people should know through history, but it seems to have been forgotten," the exhibition's creative director, Darrell Vydelingum, said. "As men left home to fight on the frontline, women across the UK went to work for the first time, taking on jobs such as bus conductors, ambulance drivers and window cleaners, as well as in factories. This new responsibility gave women new freedom and led to a new look, as silhouettes changed and hemlines rose." - Vogue
The main message of the exhibition was to showcase how the First World War made an impact on the lives of women back home, which coincidentally made an impact on their dress given their new sense of freedom. To contrast this, there was also garments from the Elizabethan period, like the two above. I absolutely adored the green day dress on the right and can only dream about how it must have felt to wear it. It is highly embellished with lavish embroidery and beading, very much different to what women were wearing after the war.
I was also so fascinated by the difference between these two undergarments. The one on the left was called the Jenyns' corset which was manufactured in Australia in 1911 by Mrs E Jenys, and the corselette on the right appeared in 1928, after the war. The first one is definitely more decorative but I think I would much rather be wearing the second!
The two images above also show two garments from the twenties and a women's Royal Navy Service uniform from 1918. I absolutely love the twenties and so to see a typical 'flapper' dress with my own eyes was such a treat. 
I was so fascinated by the pieces from leading London based fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood and the inspiration behind their designs. Although I never took a photo of the front of the piece, Vivienne Westwood created the jumpsuit pictured in the first two photos out of the three above, which was inspired by the jumpsuits that women wore when they worked for the first time. 

The yellow dress was also created by Roksanda who took inspiration from yellow skin caused by TNT poisoning and my favourite, the nurses dress which was created by Sadie Williams.
There was also an area in the exhibition which showcased designs created by students from five British fashion colleges who used the theme of Restriction and Release as an inspiration for their pieces. They all had their own stories and backgrounds behind the inspiration for them, however, I didn't take a photograph of the writing next to each of them and so forgot the majority.

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  1. A great side effect of dance is that “exposure to dances foreign to them (the students) helps them to understand and appreciate differences in societies.


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