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.
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.