Talks at MIY Workshop – 20thC Fashion History

Monday evening was the first in a series of talks at MIY Workshop.  I’m planning to invite experts and professionals from a variety of areas connected with fashion, textiles and design to give short interactive talks about their work.


Suzanne Rowland got us off to a great start with her talk on 20th Century Fashion History.

Suzanne started with a fashion degree and had a brief stint as a designer for M&S, but since then has moved into costume and fashion history; she is a freelance costume maker, has an MA in Design History and is teaching costume design with BTEC students.  In between all this she is a regular contributor to Making magazine and pursues her own fashion history research attending conferences and delivering papers.

Suzanne’s talk was a whistle-stop tour of the highlights from a 10 week lecture course she has developed on 20th Century Fashion History that will be running at Worthing Museum from the end of September (for full details telephone the museum on 01903 221448, or email

Worthing Museum is a bit of a hidden gem as it has one of the largest collections of fashion and textiles in the country, numbering approximately 30 000!  It is also unique in that many of these artefacts are everyday items that belonged to ordinary people.  The collection’s particular strengths are in 19th century women’s dress, underwear, swimwear, accessories, smocks and quilts.  The collection also covers a comprehensive collection of ephemera and associated material including fashion plates, paper patterns, magazines and photographs.

It’s very tantalising to know that you have the opportunity to handle many of these items from Worthing’s archive as part of Suzanne’s 10 week course.  Whenever I go to exhibitions of textiles and clothing I almost have to hold onto my hands to stop myself from touching the pieces on display!

Suzanne had brought in pieces from her own collection for us to look at during her talk.


There was a beautiful vivid blue Victorian bodice/jacket which was admired by all for its inner construction as much as for how it looked on the outside (typical for an audience of makers!).


A gorgeous little beaded purse in perfect condition.


A beautiful bias cut, lace trimmed night dress from the 40′s.

We also ooohed and aaahhed over some bloomers, petticoats, a beaded motif from a flapper dress covered in glass beads and magazines from the 60′s and 70′s.  Something I found particularly interesting in a magazine from 1972 was an advert for M&S complete with prices of the clothes……they weren’t that dissimilar to the prices you pay today at many high street shops, over 40 years later.  I wonder how many other industries have seen the prices of their products remain static over 40 years?!

A few people in the audience were vintage addicts and wanted to know where to find good quality pieces for themselves.  Being a collector herself, Suzanne had a few tips:

  • an ebay shop called Advantage in Vintage
  • every Tuesday morning in Lewes Town Hall there is a good bric a brac market from 10am to 1pm.

If you don’t want to commit to the full 10 weeks of Suzanne’s course, you can pick and choose which lectures you want to go to.  Here’s a list of what will be covered each week:

  1. 28/9/13  1900-1910: Elegant Edwardians – Course introduction, starting with Charles Frederick Worth, the “Father of Couture”.
  2. 5/10/13  1920-1920: Troublesome Teens – Hardship and Luxury, from everyday wear to Poiret, Fortuny and Lucille.
  3. 12/10/13  1920-1930: Terrific Twenties, introducing Chanel and Vionnet.
  4. 19/10/13  1930-1940: Glamorous Thirties, art and Schiaparelli, British romance and Hollywood glamour.
  5. 26/10/13  1940-1950: From World War II to the New Look rationing, Make do and Mend and the shock of Dior’s New Look.
  6. 9/11/13  1950-1960: Fabulous Fifties, Balenciaga, beautiful dresses, Teddy boys and teenagers.
  7. 16/11/13  1960-1970: Swinging Sixties, Mary Quant, minis, maxis and more.
  8. 23/11/13  1970-1980: Spangled Seventies, Biba, Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, disco styles.
  9. 30/11/13  1980-1990: Eclectic Eighties, new fashion capitals – London, Tokyo, Milan and New York, Westwood, Miyake, Versace and much more.
  10. 7/12/13  1990 onwards: Past Present and Future, street culture, celebrity culture, the rise of Galliano and McQueen.

Maybe I’ll see you there!  I’ll definitely be booking up for a couple…..

I’m hoping to announce the next talk soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.