Tailored: A Very British Fashion comes to the Leeds City Museum

Henson-Brickley wedding. The bridegroom is wearing a Teddy Boy jacket which played with the idea of

Henson-Brickley wedding. The bridegroom is wearing a Teddy Boy jacket which played with the idea of a traditional tailored jacket Photo Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd - Credit: Archant

Ringo Starr and the Duke of Windsor are not the most obvious bedfellows, but when it comes to fashion they both have an eye for great British tailoring.

Key items from their wardrobes will be on display at Leeds City Museum from July 17th as part of a new exhibition – Tailored: A Very British Fashion – which celebrates the art and heritage of tailoring from the 18th century to today, bringing together a wide range of examples of British tailoring and revealing the legacy these skills and styles reflected in contemporary fashion.

The display explores the development of tailoring as a renowned British skill from Savile Row in London to the once dominant Leeds industry. As part of a major loan from London’s V&A, it includes Ringo Starr’s jacket, made by Leeds-trained tailor to the stars Dougie Millings, and a bespoke suit commissioned as part of the exhibition by acclaimed Leeds-born and London-based tailor Kathryn Sargent, who was the first woman in the history of Savile Row to hold the position of head cutter.

Now the first woman to run her own Savile Row tailoring house, the suit she’s provided is made from handwoven wool cloth, finished in a Yorkshire mill.

This landmark fashion exhibition features a diverse selection of garments for men and women, charting major changes in tailoring and fashion history. It draws on the nationally important Leeds Museums & Galleries’ collection, which includes many of the big names of Leeds tailoring such as Montague Burton and Hepworths.

It also celebrates Leeds-based tailors’ contribution to men’s high street fashion with the inclusion of a Hardy Amies’ suit for Hepworth’s centenary collection and a 1920s Burtons dress suit.

Part of the exhibition’s wide-ranging narrative explores the impact of tailoring on style from country wear to formal attire, for the aristocracy to the working class, and includes exquisite examples across the centuries including a 19th century ladies’ riding habit, made by Leeds’ Legg and Millard, and tailored jackets for working men and women from the 1800s to the 1930s.

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The sheer diversity of wearers and uses is further enhanced with displayed items like a child’s silk coat from the 1700s, an intricately embroidered Privy Council uniform jacket and a Blades of Savile Row 1960s velvet evening suit.

Leeds City Museum’s flagship summer display also gives an appreciative nod to some of the major British players who have contributed to sartorial style in more recent years; designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Roger Saul for Mulberry.

‘We have worked hard to ensure this exhibition has a nationally historical context within which Leeds plays a major hand,’ said curator Ruth Leach. ‘Combining items from our own collection with loans from the V&A, we are staging a unique exhibition that showcases the best of British, throughout which Yorkshire’s legacy is woven.

‘Leeds is rapidly gaining a reputation for staging cutting-edge fashion exhibitions – a reputation we look forward to enhancing with Tailored.’

The exhibition is divided into six main themes: an overview of British tailoring from the 18th century to today; comparing ready to wear, made to measure and bespoke; the different concepts of tailoring work; the heritage of tailoring from traditional country to ladies wear; formal wear; and contemporary fashion. w

Tailored: A Very British Fashion runs from July 17th to January 3rd at Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH and is open every day except Monday (open bank holidays). Entry is free. See leeds.gov.uk/tailored for details.

Fashion forward

To coincide with its Tailored exhibition, Leeds City Museum is running a programme of events and activities for those with an interest in fashion, textiles and design. This includes: curator tours on September 3rd and October 22nd from 1-1.30pm.

Make Friends With Your Sewing Machine, where you can learn how to make a drawstring bag, for £10 (lunch included) on September 15th from 12-3.30pm

A study day will be held on October 20th from 10am-5pm for £30pp (including lunch and refreshments) during which you can explore the history of British tailoring and the Leeds industry with talks from Timothy Long, curator of fashion at the Museum of London, and Professor Laura Ugolini of the University of Wolverhampton.

Learn to Weave on November 6th from 11am-3.30pm for £10 (including lunch), an introductory session for beginners using a peg loom..

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