Yorkshire Fashion Archive

Yorkshire Fashion Archive

Based in the School of Design and underpinned by research excellence in textiles at the University of Leeds, the Yorkshire Fashion Archive is a publically accessible collection of haute couture, fashion garments and everyday clothing. It provides a unique historical and cultural record of Yorkshire life and documents clothing produced, purchased and worn by Yorkshire folk throughout the 20th Century. The collection reflects changing social attitudes and multi-cultural influences, economic prosperity, global trends and the regional technical excellence in textiles and clothing over a 100 year period.

Many of the garments have been donated with accompanying photographic images, information and anecdotes concerning the piece itself, the wearer or the situations in which they were worn. As we progress further into the 21st century, it is imperative that we continue to gather evidence of Yorkshire history from this new perspective before the voices are lost forever.

The Yorkshire Fashion Archive will provide a nationally significant resource for the development and support of education, research and the community. It will form a new direction in representing the past, helping visitors to think differently about their history, encouraging the local community to consider its past, to take pride in its multi -cultural heritage, and to reflect on the links between local culture and personal identity.


We are looking for donations of garments dating from 1900-2000 which will supplement those already in the collection, ideally accompanied by some background information on the wearer(s) and the occasions for which the garments were worn.  The collection is intended to reflect all ages and genders and as such we are always looking for special pieces to add to the collection, especially those which reflect the multi-cultural diversity of Yorkshire. If you wish to donate to the archive please contact us.


In 1999 fashion staff at the University of Leeds recognized that there was an opportunity to document and research clothing and accessories from the Yorkshire region. The original intention was to collect clothing from the 1950s to the year 2000; the objective being to build a dedicated resource of Yorkshire life as revealed through clothing during this period. However, as our research progressed it became apparent that there was scope to extend the study to include the entire twentieth century. Key to the study was the belief that a garment is more than just the threads of its construction. A collection of beautiful, important and informative pieces was envisaged but more importantly the opportunity to develop an understanding of the reasons why changes have taken place and being able to contextualise these changes.

Research Methodology

The policy of the archive is to ensure that clothing and accessories are not amassed in isolation but as part of a deliberate attempt to discover the  history of the clothes in relation to the wearer  and in so doing tell us something about the wearer. The clothes play their part in unfolding a Yorkshire narrative, adding a new dimension to historic research.

The twentieth century was a crucial period in the cultural, industrial and intellectual development of Yorkshire. The research identifies, expands upon and appraises these significant issues in Yorkshire’s history by exploring ways in which a society’s experiences, values and beliefs are communicated. This research has significant explanatory power because it captures something of the textures of real lives. The aim of the archive is to articulate class and gender identities in a new way, one which directly links with narrative and personal history. By researching a range of questions relating to apparel and socio-economic factors within the Yorkshire region in the  20th century it will attempt to discuss the many different associations relating to clothing and attire.