'Fashion & Feminism' Marching The Catwalk To The Ulster Museum
From runways to picket lines
Fashion & Feminism is part of the NI’s year-long thematic programme Hear Her Voice which highlights female artists, designers and iconic figures through a series of exhibitions and events across the museums.
FASHION & FEMINISM takes us on a chronological journey since the 1800s of womenswear and looks at moments in history that showcase confident women who made strong feminist statement through their sartorial choices.
Art Curator Charlotte McReynolds has put together a rich and inviting exhibition showcasing over 200 years of fashion.
From suffragettes using fashion as part of their campaign to win the vote, to contemporary fashion designers shedding light on social injustices; FASHION & FEMINISM has a lot to say about feminist culture.
WHEN IT COMES TO FEMINISM, IT HAS TO BE MAINSTREAM
‘We Should All Be Feminists’ T-Shirt Dior 2017
In 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first female designer for Dior in its seventy year history. Grazia Chiuri immediately caused a stir when her debut collection featured ‘We Should All Be Feminist’ T-Shirt, inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay and TEDx talk of the same name.
Chimamanda, who attended the runway show, recalled hearing a man say ‘I don’t see why that should be on a T-Shirt’ and being amused. ‘It made me think,’ she said ‘that’s why it’s on a T-Shirt. Because you tell there was hostility about it… When it comes to feminism, it has to be mainstream’
DRESSED TO PROTEST
Earliest piece includes a white Muslin gown with Train from the 1800s. This dress stands next to portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) one of Europe’s earliest feminist thinkers. Wollstonecraft, acknowledged the importance of dress when she devoted an entire chapter to the subject in her book, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters and favoured clothing that was ‘simply, elegant, and becoming’. She believed that the wearer should always feel natural and at ease. This relaxed yet graceful gown embodies her ideals.
The most recent piece of this exhibition is the ‘Alex’ ivory dress AW18 by British Designers Teatum Jones.
WHAT IS FASHION’S RESPONSIBILITY and ROLE IN THE PROTECTION, UNIFICATION, INCLUSION and EQUALITY OF WOMEN?
Teatum Jones is a contemporary brand that makes a socially conscious effort to create luxury clothes, inspired by human stories.
London based designers, Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones create fashionable clothes for and inspired by, smart, bold, confident, and creative women.
AW18 is inspired by a collective of 25 unique women who embody the Teatum Jones spirit – Bold, confident, creative and smart – including women such as models Munroe Bergdorf, Kelly Knox, singer Foxes, editor Sophia Neophitou and activist Caryn Franklin.
The beautiful ivory ‘ALEX’ dress represents hope.
Teatum Jones is a fine example of a socially conscious fashion brand making a positive change in today’s fashion industry.
‘Suffragettes must not be dowdy!’
From runways to picket lines
Fashion & Feminism accessories
Similar Colour to contemporary fashion accesories on display under Fashion & Femism, back in the day suffragettes were adept at using fashion to present a united front during their battle for the vote. Suffragettes accessorised with purple or green trimmings, as can be seen in the image above.
White represented purity the purple stood for loyalty, and the green for hope.
Ahead of marches, members were encouraged to wear colour these colour coded clothes.
Elegant walking suit perfect for a suffragette ‘dressed to protest’ (1910)
(From Left to right) :
“Hope” (2017) bright green clutch purse by designer Charlotte Olympia. Specifically made for the #SheInspiresMe project. All profits made from the sale this piece were donated to support women survivors of conflict through Women for Women International.
“Protest Cap” (2017 bright pink hat by Moschino. In February 2017, Moschino orchestrated its very own Women’s March, during Milan Fashion Week. Models marched the catwalk wearing the label’s own version of the famous “pussy hat” worn during the first Women’s March in January 2017.Proceeds from the sale of the hates went to the Italian branch of The Circle, an organisation founded by pop artist Annie Lennox to champion women’s rights.
“Elizabeth” (2017) acetate sunglasses A-Morir .These sunglasses were designed by Kerin Rose-Gold, founder of A-Morir. A line inspired by the feminist punk music of the 1970s. These glasses were named after the bassist Elizabeth David The Seven Year Bitch -
FASHION INNOVATORS & REFORMERS
FASHION & FEMINISM also looks at how fashion empowered women in the workforce.
As an industry, fashion enabled women to get steady jobs and ensure their quality of life.
One of the dresses on display is a ‘silk cream bias cut evening dress applique leather corsage’ by Madeleine Vionnet 1933. Vionnet was a fashion innovator and reformer.
More than any designer before her, she explored new tailoring and cuts but more importantly, Vionnet was also known for protecting her female workforce.
In the early 1900s, nearly 50% of working French women were employed in the fashion industry. Vionnet provided her seamstresses with access to healthcare, maternity leave and paid holiday.
Madeleine Chapsal, her god daughter, said “She was a feminist to the very depth of her soul”
Additional highlights of the exhibition include beautiful gowns designed in the early 1900s by the most powerful Parisian designers such as the Callot Sisters, Madeleine Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin and Madame Grès.
Curator Charlotte McReynolds Fashion and Feminism at the Ulster Museum is part of National Museums NI’s year-long thematic programme Hear Her Voice.
Fashion & Feminism runs until 2 June 2019 at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
A selection of talks and workshops will also accompany the exhibition, providing a more in-depth exploration of these themes.
This includes Fashion historian, author and lecturer at St Martin’s College of Fashion and Design Cally Blackman on ‘The Sartorial Strategy of the Suffragette Sisterhood’ to discuss how suffragettes used fashion to promote their cause.
Fashion writer and social justice campaigner Tansy Hoskins will answer the question ‘can fashion be feminist?’ as she raises the profile on labour rights in the fashion industry.
Special thank you to:
Curator Charlotte McReynolds for the interview.
National Museum of Northern Ireland / Ulster Museum