Leeds museum celebrates 500 years of Yorkshire fashion

Danielle Sprecher looks at the jacket and Portrait of Margaret Layton of Rawdon dated 1620. PIC: Simon Hulme
Danielle Sprecher looks at the jacket and Portrait of Margaret Layton of Rawdon dated 1620. PIC: Simon Hulme
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It’s a collection of timelessly fabulous fashion that any Yorkshire woman would be proud of.

And next week, Lotherton Hall’s stunning fashion gallery will be transformed into the ultimate historical walk-in wardrobe for a spectacular new sartorial celebration.

The glamorous Fashionable Yorkshire exhibition will see the galleries filled with outfits worn by local women over the past 500 years, exploring both their individual stories and how women’s fashion as a whole has evolved through different eras.

It also examines how the themes of status, religion, the Industrial Revolution, work and freedom have been expressed through fashion.

Women who are the focus of the exhibition include Margaret Layton, the daughter of a wealthy London merchant who married a Yorkshire landowner in the 1600s and whose beautiful embroidered jacket and portrait will be on display. This is on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Also part of the exhibition will be two dresses dating from the mid-1700s, believed to have belonged to a member of the Priestman family, Quakers from Thornton le Dale, near Pickering, North Yorkshire.

They will be on display alongside customised clothes worn by poet and performer Khadjah Ibrahiim, founder and artistic director of Leeds Young Authors who studied at Leeds College of Art in the 1980s

And flat caps by contemporary designer Rhian Kempadoo Millar, which have been designed, sourced and manufactured in Yorkshire will give the exhibition a modern flavour.

Danielle Sprecher, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ costume curator, who has been putting the exhibition together, said: “The clothes that each of these women have worn not only tell a story about their lives, but they also give us a glimpse into the way changing fashions mirror the changes in our society over the centuries.

“Each of the women’s fashion choices have been influenced by the world around them, whether that’s the traditional clothing worn by Quakers or vibrant, contemporary designs that celebrate the freedom and diversity of the 21st century.

“By exploring the way clothes and designs have evolved through different eras, we can build a vivid picture of how life has changed for women, preserving the stories of those who have paved the way while celebrating the freedom we have today.”

One of the highlights of the exhibition will also be clothes that belonged to fashionista Mary Holden Illingworth, who lived in both Bradford and Paris between 1838 and 1908.

Mary grew up in a family who prospered during the Industrial Revolution of 1800s and throughout her life she was a lover of expensive clothes and a regular customer of exclusive Leeds dressmaker Miss Lumbs and luxury draper Radfords.

Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for Leeds Museums and Galleries, said: “Bringing this impressive collection together in the stunning setting of Lotherton’s Fashion Galleries paints a very clear picture of just how much life has changed for women in Yorkshire over the centuries.

“It’s clear that fashion is something which also gives a real insight into how women from very different backgrounds and eras have chosen to express themselves.”

Fashionable Yorkshire is in the Lotherton Fashion Galleries from tomorrow until Dec 31.

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