A review of Manchester Art Gallery’s Fashion and Freedom exhibition – a creative and contemporary look at war-time fashion.

An exhibition of war-time fashion, featuring work from the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda Ilincic and J JS Lee and exclusively at Manchester Art Gallery is an exciting and informative experience for all fashionistas. Incorporating modern and eccentric designs with the classic 1910’s styles is interesting to see what modern designers can contribute to the traditional war-time clothing.


Fashion exhibitions can really only be fully appreciated in person – while there are images available on the internet, the ability to go and see the designs themselves is invaluable, much like the process of shopping for clothes in general – you get a better idea in person of what they are actually like. This exhibition did not disappoint with it’s excellent craftsmanship, presentation of the designs and of course the outfits themselves. Right down to the stitching, the ability to re-create the fashions was impressive and educational.

Wardrobe staples like the trench coat and the jumpsuit originally derived from this time period – a time where women were forced to ditch the corsets as new styles, in light of women being forced to take on workforce roles, began to appear. Roles included working in munitions factories, driving ambulances and even ‘manning’ the London Underground. Admiring the war-time fashion at an exhibition like this is a nice way of commemorating the way in which Britons worked in order to defend their country. A dose of style and history is well and truly delivered at this exhibition.

15049980_10207801507384827_1290147063_nOriginal war-time attire from Manchester Art Gallery’s costume collection were used alongside contemporary designs by top British designers. Vivienne Westwood’s multi-coloured jumpsuit shown in her A/W 2006/7 Gold Label collection has been restructured to portray a classic factory workwear piece while Sadie Williams pays respect to nurses in the war-time period with a floor-length gown featuring a large red cross.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of short films from SHOWstudio, which are on shown in the Gallery as well as being available online.

Darrell Vydelingum, creative director of Fashion & Freedom, says: “Fashion & Freedom is first and foremost a celebration of women – their strength, creativity and resilience.

“Although the First World War had many negative outcomes for the United Kingdom, it fast-tracked women’s rights as they took over traditional male roles during the war.”

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