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The Changing Role Of Women In The First World War Inspires Fashion & Freedom Exhibition

This coming Spring, The Gallery at The Civic presents Fashion & Freedom; an exciting and inspiring exhibition which sees some of today's leading female fashion designers explore the impact the First World War had on the changing role of women and fashion.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK's arts programme for the First World War centenary and Manchester Art Gallery, with support from the British Fashion Council, the exhibition will include contemporary pieces by Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda, Holly Fulton, Emilia Wickstead, J JS Lee and Sadie Williams. Also featured is a collection of new works created by students from five of the UK’s most prestigious fashion colleges on the theme of "Restriction & Release" and a series of specially commissioned original short films which complement the garments on display, including films by directors from Nick Knight’s award-winning SHOWstudio, who pioneered fashion film online. 

Exclusive to the exhibition’s stay in Barnsley, is a specially curated selection of historical wartime and Edwardian fashion and ephemera.

In 1914, British society was changed significantly when men left home to fight on the front line of the First World War, enabling over a million women to work for the very first time. Many took on jobs that were once occupied by men, including ambulance drivers and bus conductors, as well as in factories. New responsibilities meant new freedoms and a new aesthetic. As hemlines rose, the female silhouettes that Britons were once so familiar with were starting to change forever.  It is these profound changes to women’s dress during the First World War that have inspired the specially commissioned designs that make up Fashion & Freedom.

The gallery’s Assistant Curator, Jason White explains that “over the last two years, Barnsley has seen some very high quality exhibitions and works of public art that have told thought-provoking stories of the soldier’s that fought in the First World War and family’s affected by it. They have been of such a high standard, all quietly thought-provoking, insightful and beautifully put together. The Civic are delighted to bring to Barnsley an exhibition which reveals another inspiring story – an exploration of a pivotal moment in Women’s history and  of how the changes at home during the war influenced women’s fashion and still does one hundred years later.”

Jason goes on to explain, “I think it is important that in a time when women still have expectations of what to wear and how to look imposed on them by a white, western patriarchy, that we tell inspiring stories of women who took control, both domestically and culturally.”

Fashion & Freedom opens at The Civic on 11 February and closed 8 April 2017.

Admission is free.