The Great War in Costume

I stopped in at the Assembly Rooms during a lunch hour to see the “Great War in Costume” exhibition.

The Assembly Rooms themselves are magnificent!  Grand buildings that you can really imagine full of people attending balls and tea dances.  Admittedly they are empty rooms now, but you still get the idea.

The exhibition wasn’t quite what I was expecting, although the clue was in the title! The garments on display were all WW1 costumes from TV shows, such as Downton Abbey, with only one genuine item (a wedding dress) in the exhibition.

The exhibition covered many aspects of WW1, focussing on fashions and the changing roles of women/those at home during war time and how this influenced both high fashion and functional, day-to-day clothing through the resources that were available to make clothes from, and the practical activities women were now doing . There were also references to the knitting and sewing groups set up to help the troops, and how this was beneficial to those making the items (as a distraction from worrying and to feel useful) as well as those who received the items (as practical items of clothing and reminders of home).  The items made for the troops also went through some reinvention due to the nature of the work they were doing, e.g. the rifle gloves that allowed the index finger independence from the rest of the hand, to pull the trigger of a rifle.

The information presented was interesting and I really liked the inclusion of local facts to make the exhibition more relevant to its setting.  Some items did seem a little out of place though, like they’d tried to include a short history of everything in the Great War e.g. how animals were involved. The creaking floorboards of the ballroom did detract from the exhibition a bit too.

Entry to the exhibition and the Assembly Rooms was free with a resident’s Discovery Card.


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