Ulster University welcomes Fashion & Freedom exhibition

Ulster University’s Belfast Campus on York Street will play host to an extraordinary international exhibition, Fashion & Freedom which runs from the 9th -28th October, as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival.

Ulster University’s Belfast Campus on York Street will play host to an extraordinary international exhibition, Fashion & Freedom which runs from the 9th -28th October, as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival.

Fashion & Freedom is part of 14-18 NOW, a five-year programme of arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. 14-18 NOW commission new work by leading contemporary artists across the spectrum of visual arts and design, theatre, film, dance, digital, music, poetry and mass participation events, inspired by the period 1914-1918.

One of the most significant evolutions at home during the First World War, was the huge change in women’s lives. More than one million women went to work for the first time. Some in munitions factories, driving buses and ambulances and inthe London Underground.

With new responsibilities women experienced new freedoms, including their clothing. Tight corsets and heavy skirts were replaced by more natural and fluid silhouettes.

A century later, this era has inspired “Fashion & Freedom”, an ambitious, multi-faceted exhibition which examines the First World War fashion legacy, for the 21st Century.

Richard Wakely, Festival Chief Executive says, much of this year’s Festival programme in one way or another touches upon the human and socio-political consequences of conflict and warfare from World War One through to the present day civil war in Syria. “Artists and events reflect on freedoms lost, freedoms gained and freedoms still to be won and none more so than the group exhibition, Fashion and Freedom, which is based on contemporary reflections of the costumes and clothing worn by women in the period 1914-18. The lives of Irish women during that period were impacted in many different ways. The campaign for female suffrage effectively ceased on the outbreak of the war but the contribution of women to the war effort was central to the extension of the franchise to women in 1918.”

“This local and all island context is reflected in new works specially contributed by students from the Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art which will sit alongside original and evocative designs by Holly Fulton, Roksanda, J JS Lee, Vivienne Westwood, Emilia Wickstead and Sadie Williams and several short new films from SHOWstudio and Luke Snellin. This is a terrific and thought provoking exhibition that is free to the public and not to be missed.”

180 students from the Textile Art, Design and Fashion andCeramics, Jewellery and Silversmithing courses worked with staff, artists and designers in residence in an intense workshop focused on producing artwork, products and accessories on the suffragette theme.Embracing the mantra “Deeds not Words” they created a range of outfits, badges, brooches, emblems, jewellery and accessories with a colour palette purple, white and green, reflecting the suffragette movement’s colours and the central role handicrafts played. Fabrics are embellished with beading and embroidery. Household items such as whisks and pastry cutters have been transformed into jewellery.

Alison Gault, Ulster University Lecturer in Textile Art, Design and Fashion, said: “Ulster University is delighted to host this prestigious exhibition in its Belfast campus. The show pays tribute to an era of radical change in women’s lives, which resulted in a huge shift in fashion, and will include pieces from leading female designers.

“It is the first time the exhibition has showcased in Northern Ireland and it’s a massive privilege for our students to be part of such a significant event. Ulster University staff worked in collaboration with our artists in residence and students to add new pieces with a local context to the display.

“I am also honoured to have my own design showcased in the exhibition. My work took inspiration from my grandmother, Lizzie Moore, who lived during this period and was a part of the suffragette movement. In homage, I created a knit apron dress made from linen to reflect a time when Belfast was the linen capital of the world.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “As Principal Funder of the Belfast International Arts Festival, the Arts Council is proud to support this impressive exhibition inspired by women, through National Lottery and public funding. By programming this high-quality, ambitious exhibition, featuring some of the biggest names in fashion, the Festival continues to bring the highest quality, top international work to Belfast; I would encourage everyone to go along.”

This is a large scale undertaking with an emotive theme. Visitors will enjoy equally, the talents of our future stars, alongside the impressive work from international icons of fashion.

The Ulster University’s Belfast Campus also plays host to a panel discussion on Saturday 14th October, “Women at Work”.

For more information on the 191 shows in this years’ Festival, visit