Fashion And Freedom

As far as fashion is concerned I like something that’s aesthetically pleasing. If I have to pick apart subversive messages about politics or question mans place in the universe,  it kills it for me. That’s just the way I am. But I do appreciate that other people see something very different to me.


Fashion and Freedom‘ which launched on 13th May at the Manchester Art Gallery is the story of woman’s fight for freedom and equality, as shown through explorations in fashion design, structure and use of materials.

I would never class myself as a feminist. There’s nothing I like more than the silhouette of a tight corseted Edwardian gown and I don’t question the morality behind it or the sexualisation of women. Because it’s history. And equality (for what it is worth) has to go through many changes before it reaches perfection. We are still a long way off.

IMG_20160514_131547Attitudes towards female roles in society have changed since time began and have fluctuated between good and bad. It has not always been a positive journey. There is nothing more ironic than a society that claims to be moral and upstanding and apparently respectful of women and then dresses her in bosom amplifers, 20 inch rigid steel boned corsets and petticoats to the ankles. Such is the majority of fashion pre-1920s.


So I was glad to see the opening display at the Manchester Art Gallery given over to a handful of clothing examples from 1890s-1940s thus setting the tone for the rest of the exhibition. I hung back and listened to the comments from the public and it amazes me how little people know about the things I take forgranted. These garments also served to demonstrate how in such a short period of time women took control of their overall image, largely thanks to World War One.


The designers who gathered from a number of universities across the country  touched on a variety of subjects to get their inspiration – from Amelia Earhart, to the factory girls, women working during WW1 and ideas of empowerment and gender identity. They were designing from a research point of view, with very little first hand experience of what it like to live in an oppressed society.


This was a fascinating exhibition, inspiring from a design point of view, and I loved the tailored and structural effort that went into all the pieces on display. And there were some interesting uses of upcycling and recycling to inspire the ethically conscious.

If you have an interest in design, fashion or British history, this is the exhibition for you. And whilst you’re there, take a turn around the rest of the gallery. I discovered works by Alma Tadema and Tissot which I never knew were there.

Fashion and Freedom
13 May – 27 November
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley St, Manchester
Admission: Free

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