Back in Time with Textiles – Fashion Exhibit

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The Brampton Museum in Newcastle-under-Lyme is celebrating the rich history of popular fashion from the last two centuries with an exhibit of clothes from the local area.

Women’s fashion in the early 1800’s was originally inspired by classical Greek and Roman fashion. The big puffy sleeves we associate with the era didn’t come in until 1825 and were invented by Paris fashion makers.

Hats were the main fashion industry in Newcastle in the 1800’s. By the 1830’s there were 520 local hatters. The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’, which later inspired Lewis Carol’s the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, came from the fact workers were slowly being poisoned by mercury.

Victorian fashion was heavily inspired by Queen Victoria herself. Corsets were in and here to stay for many generations. Sarah Browning’s wedding dress from 1879 is a perfect example of posh dresses from the era. White was far too expensive so many ladies wore their ‘best dress’ for their wedding day.

Silk was also a booming business for Newcastle-under-Lyme residents, peaking in 1833 with five mills employing roughly 700 people. The below samples were made by Friarswood.

The end of the 19th century saw a boom in business for Enderley Mills as the Boer War created a demand for uniforms. The roaring 20’s beckoned in high waist lines, large hats and three-piece suits.

WW2 was the next big influence on fashion. Even clothes were rationed! All patterns and materials had to be stamped. Corsets were swapped out for blouses and underskirts for trousers. As the women took over the factory jobs, fashion adapted too, becoming more utility then looks. Famous ballroom dancer and Come Dancing judge Syd Perkin wore this suit.

Tony Griffith made this in 1974 from an old bedsheet, inspired by the miners’ strike.

The 1960’s and 1970’s was the societies last big change in fashion. High street shops were big business opening up the marker to more designs. Polyester was invented, as was the mini skirt. Men were no longer restricted to suits as tops and t-shirts came in. Flairs, mini dresses and cordial trousers made it an interesting two decades.

Modern day fashion takes inspiration from nearly all of our fashion history. We still wear suits, flairs and flapper dresses. The high street shops of modern day Newcastle-under-Lyme owe a thanks to the mills and factories of past decades who kept the town running and well dressed.

The exhibit is free and ends on the 13th November.

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