From 1600s splendour to 1970s style, a new exhibition at Lotherton Hall is displaying wonderful dresses worn by Yorkshire women. Visitors can discover what clothes meant to these women and what we can learn about society from their fashion choices.
Dress by Worth of Paris, worn by Mary Holden Illingworth in 1881
One of these women is Mary Holden Illingworth, daughter of Bradford wool magnate Sir Isaac Holden. Mary obviously loved fashion and several of her luxurious and stylish outfits have survived. The image above shows a dress she bought in 1881 for her daughter’s wedding. It was created by the famous Parisian designer, Worth, and features an opulent fabric, fringing and a train.
Special Collections has loaned Mary’s book of travels and letters she wrote to her sister Maggie which include lots of detail about her interest in fashion. Kay Eggleston blogged about padding mannequins so they were the right shape to fit the clothes on show. Kay discusses how Mary’s figure changed during her life: from a slender young girl to the fuller-figured mother of five children who wore the Worth dress. But, as Kay observes, always stylish!
Fashionable Yorkshire is on show 17 March-31 December 2017. Find out more on the exhibition webpage. This BBC news story and this from the Yorkshire Post include fantastic images of the costumes and their owners.
In this Postscript broadcast, Priestley praised the women of Britain: wives and mothers coping with shortages, and the young women of London defying the bombs. In some ways, the men at war had it easier. Although they were in danger, the Forces took care of them. Priestley remembered this from his own army service in the First World War. Women in Britain were in just as much danger, from bombing raids, but kept all their responsibilities, having to feed and clothe their families. For these women, war was “right inside the home itself, emptying the clothes cupboard and the larder, screaming its threats through the radio at the hearth, burning and bombing its way from roof to cellar …”
Detail from diagram in British Women go to War
In a later book, Priestley explored how Britain had used “womanpower” for the war effort. British Women go to War, published in 1943 by Collins, covered women’s work in the Forces, in industry, the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Voluntary Services. This book is another of my favourites, because it includes evocative colour photographs of women at work, as dispatch riders, on a motor torpedo boat, making jam, salvaging tins, chopping trees, and population diagrams by Adprint. This image is Adprint’s interpretation of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. The copyright situation of the photos is problematic, so can’t include one in this post.
Concluding both this Postscript and BWGTW, Priestley reflected on the implications for post-war society of women’s wartime experience and their new wartime roles. He believed that “The war will have left women dissatisfied with any social and economic conditions approximating to those they knew before the war, conditions that pressed harder on women and children than they did even upon men … I cannot believe that these millions of women will be content with any kind of Britain after the war. Their courage and endurance, their enterprise and growing initiative, will not utterly disappear just because the guns have stopped firing”.
“Margaret Glover: Brushes with Peace”, at Gallery II at the University of Bradford until 11 April 2008, puts on show for the first time a collection of paintings and sketches donated to Peace Studies at the University of Bradford by this Quaker radical artist. A fascinating visual record of British and international peace activists.
For opening hours and more detail: http://www.brad.ac.uk/admin/gallery/glover.php