Fashion & Freedom

Manchester Art Gallery

13 May – 27 November 2016

The liberation women experienced during the First World War is explored through items of clothing.

A group of female workers at the flour mills of Rank and Sons, Birkenhead, Lancashire, 1917

The First World War transformed the lives of British women irrevocably. More than one million were deployed into work, taking up jobs in munitions factories and on the buses, driving ambulances and ‘manning’ the London Underground. Not only did these new responsibilities give women new freedoms, they also prompted a dramatic change in style; tight corsets and heavy skirts were no longer practical, and a more natural approach to clothing design emerged.

This exhibition brings together wartime fashion from Manchester Art Gallery’s renowned costume collection with new pieces created by contemporary stars Vivienne Westwood and Roksanda Ilincic that pay homage to women’s dress during this landmark era.

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Also on display is a series of specially commissioned original short films that complement the garments on display. Writer and director Luke Snellin for example, reimagines a young woman’s first day at work as a bus conductor, with uniforms designed by Manchester fashion label Private White V.C. 

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5pm (Thu until 9pm)

Closed 24, 25 Dec, Good Friday

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)