Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Material Girl: A fashionable end to the First World War

Inspired by the stunning garments currently brightening up our Arcade which were designed and handmade by students at the Hull College of Art and Design in response to their own research findings regarding trench warfare in the First World War, transposition fashion and British standard dress in 1918 and the rise of the Suffragette movement, I thought I’d delve into our collections to discover what fashionable delights can be found here at the History Centre.

After a quick search of our online catalogue and a speedy rifle through our information card index held in the library I discovered a variety of documents relating to clothing, dressmakers, and fashion. An article in the Hull Daily Mail (20th March 1965, p.4) highlights that in the not so distant past Hull was acknowledged as an important fashion centre. This was primarily due to Madam Clapham’s residence in the city. A world renowned dress-maker with a salon located in Kingston Square, now home to the Kingston Theatre Hotel, Madam Clapham took on apprentices and provided women with constant work during and after the First World War.

Indenture apprenticing Elsie Berry to Madam Clapham, 1929 [C DMC/5/79/1100]

At the end of the war new fashions were becoming popular, and long black cloaks for women were highly fashionable at the time. You can see some of the items in the exhibition have clearly taken inspiration from this trend. Although a few in Hull were seen to don the garment the fashion didn’t really take off. However, one Hull Daily Mail article (25th March 1965, p.6) notes an amusing episode in which a woman appeared in such a cloak at an East Riding resort and boasted that not only had it been made by Madam Clapham but that the material had been cut from the same roll as had been used for the making of a garment for the Queen of Norway - you can imagine her pride at such a claim.

The First World War greatly influenced women’s fashion. Just as women’s roles in society began to transform so did their clothing; restrictive corsets and hemlines were cast off and made way for a preference for loser fitted and more practical outfits as can be seen adverts and photographs from the time.

Advert for the latest fashions at Hammond's, Hull, c.1920 [C DIAL/2/2]
Philippa Burrell in new fashion bought by Virginia Taylor, Jun 1919 [U DBU/2/441]

Garments designed and handmade by students at the Hull College of Art and Design will remain on exhibition in the History Centre arcade until the end of July, why not pay us a visit and marvel at the interesting designs and quality garment-making on display.

Laura Wilson, Librarian/Archivist (Hull City Archives)

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