The tailored suit, jumpsuit, shorter hemlines, short hairstyle and trousers are all part of everyday wear in the 21st century, but their life began through the First World War.Darrell Vydelingum, Creative Director, Fashion & Freedom
One of the most radical changes at home during the war was the huge change in women’s lives and work. With men away fighting, more than one million women went to work for the first time during the war years – in munitions factories and on the buses, driving ambulances and even ‘manning’ the London Underground. These new responsibilities gave women new freedoms – and they also led to a new look, as tight corsets and heavy skirts were replaced by more natural and fluid silhouettes. A century later, this era inspired Fashion & Freedom, an ambitious, multi-faceted exhibition that examines the fashion legacy of the First World War for the 21st century.
From the doyenne of British fashion, Vivienne Westwood, to Belgrade-born, London-based designer Roksanda Ilincic and rising star J JS Lee, leading female designers created contemporary pieces inspired by the profound changes in women’s dress that occurred during the First World War. Exquisite craftsmanship courtesy of fashion stalwarts Emilia Wickstead, Holly Fulton and Sadie Williams was also on display. These exclusive designs were presented in an exhibition alongside historic wartime selections drawn from Manchester Art Gallery’s renowned costume collection.
Fashion & Freedom also showcases the next generation of fashion talent through contributions from students at five British fashion colleges, working to the First World War-influenced theme of Restriction and Release. The new designs, the films and the students’ contributions combined to bring a modern-day sensibility to the fashions of this landmark era in women’s history.
Darrell Vydelingum is the Creative Director of Fashion & Freedom
Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Manchester Art Gallery, supported by the British Fashion Council