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Fashion & Freedom: fashion inspired by women in the First World War

Four students from the BA (Hons) Fashion Design course at Westminster will see their designs included in a major new exhibition that opens at Manchester Art Gallery on 13 May.

Second-year students Morgan Davies, William Howell-Jackson, Wendy Leong and Charlotte Malyon each created an outfit inspired by the working on the theme of “Restriction & Release”. William Howell-Jackson’s outfit was chosen as the main image of the exhibition publicity and features an elongated tailored jacket over a net dress.

Fashion & Freedom at Manchester Art Gallery (13 May – 27 November 2016) 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 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.

The next generation of fashion designers were inspired by the two physical extremes women faced within fashion, from the pre-war tight fitted corsets (Restriction) to the soft free-flowing silhouette post-war (Release). Restriction & Release will also explore the social and political barriers women endured at this time, including fighting for the right to vote. The pieces will be showcased as part of Fashion & Freedom at Manchester Art Gallery.

Course Director Andrew Groves said “So much that happened during the First World War, and its impact on the lives of women still resonates with us today, and this made the project an extremely inspiring project for the students to work on. It's fantastic that four of our students have been chosen to exhibit their responses to this project next to the work of such established British fashion designers in such a wonderful space.

The onset of war in 1914 changed British society. As men left to fight in Europe, over a million women went to work for the first time. New responsibility gave women new freedom and led to new ways of dressing, as silhouettes and social codes changed.

Fashion & Freedom presents original designs by Holly Fulton, Roksanda, J JS Lee, Vivienne Westwood, Emilia Wickstead and Sadie Williams; new film from SHOWstudio and Luke Snellin, and works by the next generation of fashion talent – all influenced by the new fashions and freedoms worn and won by women in 1914-18.

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