Cotton Couture, Manchester- England: Back in the 1940’s cotton was viewed primarily as a utilitarian fabric, hardwearing and washable hence cotton being used for making work-wear, underwear, children’s clothes, summer frocks and men’s everyday shirts. I went down to the Manchester City Art Gallery to learn a bit of fashion history and swoon over some lavish mid-century frocks…
Manchester was the international centre of cotton manufacture in the 19th century, so was chosen as the location for the Cotton Board headquarters back in the 1940’s, shortly afterwards the Colour, Design and Style Centre was established as a subsidiary to boost the marketing and design of cotton with the aim of improving sales of British made cotton to foreign and domestic markets.
The Cotton Board set about their mission to boost the sales of cotton by improving the designs, branching out into a variety of new styles, proving that cotton is the most versatile of fabrics. In their efforts to glamorize the fabric they enlisted the finest British fashion designers of the 1940’s.
The chosen designers were presented with Lancashire made cotton and asked to produce a true couture cotton creation to be paraded at prestigious venues for the fashionable crowds of the day.
The Cotton Board promoted cotton in fashion for nearly 30years before closing in 1969. Former Director of the Colour and Design Centre David Tomlinson donated over 50 of the catwalk dresses to the gallery of Costume in the late 1950’s. A few of these divine cotton creations are displayed at the Manchester City Art Gallery. I had such a lot of fun oogling the dresses and loved learning about Manchester’s fashion history.
Its difficult to imagine cotton being used solely for hardwearing utilitarian clothing, cotton has long been a staple of our modern day wardrobes being used to make everything from evening dresses to beach cover-ups.
The Fabulous Times