Ulster Museum explores links between fashion and feminism

Curator Charlotte McReynolds at the Fashion and Feminism exhibition
Curator Charlotte McReynolds at the Fashion and Feminism exhibition

Designs from top names in fashion including Missoni and Dior are among pieces which have just gone on display at the Ulster Museum as part of a new exhibition entitled Fashion and Feminism.

From runways to picket lines, the pieces in the exhibition tell the story of women who have made confident feminist statements through their sartorial choices.

Fashion and Feminism examines the attitudes of feminists, from as far back as the 1800s right up to today, as they use clothes to express their belief in the social, political and economic equality of men and women.

Items on display include an elegant walking suit perfect for a suffragette ‘dressed to protest’ (1910), a Missoni ‘Pussy Hat’ (2017), based on the worldwide ‘Women’s March’ of January 2017, and the iconic ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ T-shirt designed by Dior (2017), inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay and the TEDx talk of the same name. 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.

A key highlight is a piece on loan from London-based designers Teatum Jones’ current AW18 collection which has the theme of ‘Global Womanhood’.

Art curator Charlotte McReynolds from National Museums NI said: “From couture to casual wear, fashion has managed to make statements of how women want to be represented. This exhibition provides an opportunity for visitors to the Ulster Museum to explore the correlation between self-expression and fashion over the centuries.”

She added: “This exhibition celebrates some of the most extraordinary female fashion designers of the modern era, including Madeleine Vionnet, Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood. From suffragettes using fashion as part of their campaign to win the vote, to contemporary designers shedding light on social injustices, this exhibition has a lot to say about feminist culture.”

A selection of talks and workshops will also accompany the exhibition, providing a more in-depth exploration of these themes.

Events include a lecture by fashion historian, author and lecturer Cally Blackman on The Sartorial Strategy of the Suffragette Sisterhood on September 27 while fashion writer and social justice campaigner Tansy Hoskins will answer the question ‘can fashion be feminist?’ on October 25 when she speaks about labour rights in the fashion industry.

Fashion and Feminism is part of National Museums NI’s year-long thematic programme, Hear Her Voice, which highlights the female artists and designers in its collections through a series of exhibitions and events.

n Fashion and Feminism is now open at the Ulster Museum and continues until June 2, 2019. For further details visit www.nmni.com/
hearhervoice.