The Fabric of Life

Gone were the buxom femininity of the Edwardian lady and the bluff machismo of the Edwardian gent. The new woman lopped off her hair, first bobbing it, then shingling it … and then cutting it all off into an Eton crop, the shortest of all. She wore cloche hats and sporty, androgynous-looking jumpers, her breasts bound beneath them. She wore scarlet lip-stick, she smoked and drank. And as the girls looked like boys, so the boys looked more like girls. They shaved their beards so that their faces were as smooth as their lacquered hair. Some wore make-up. This look of infantile androgyny both denied maturity and knowingly undermined the conventional distinction of sexual difference.

A Curious Friendship
The story of a bluestocking and a bright young thing
Anna Thomasson

The Fabric of Life is a Heritage Lottery Funded project which will see young people look at the history of fashion as a form of identity with particular focus on gender and sexuality. In July 1967 the Sexual Offences Act finally decriminalised gay relationships between men over 21 in England and Wales. It was a momentous, transformative moment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. On the 50th Anniversary we will look back at the history of LGBT communities through the lens of fashion. Along with our partners, the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre and local museums such as Trowbridge and Chippenham Museums we will give young people the opportunity to explore fashion and those who have influenced it.

The project began in January 2017 after nearly two years of planning and fundraising. We are currently in the early stages where we are recruiting young people and carrying out research which will involve a lot of trips.

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Fashion Museum Bath

 

So far we have taken a group of young people to the Fashion Museum, Bath and another group to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. More research trips are planned to include local museums as well as London’s V&A. Once the research has been completed we will be working with a range of artists from dancers to textile artists and photographers to theatre practitioners. With these artists the young people involved will be given the chance to explore their research and express how they feel. This will culminate in an event in November of this year.

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Fashion magazine from the archives at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

 

The third phase will be about creating an education resource for use in schools around gender and sexuality and LGBT issues.

As the project coordinator for the Fabric of Life I will be updating WYAPs blog with our progress through each stage and hope to give you an insight in to the project. I will have help along the way from artists, youth workers and the participants. I hope you will follow us on our journey.

Emily Malcolm
Project Coordinator Fabric of Life

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