Past exhibitions

 Ossie Clarke, British Jouranl of Photography Annual, 1972

Ossie Clarke, Sunday Times 1968

Ossie Clark, a British fashion genius, 1967-1977

Thursday 30 January – Sunday 20 July 2014

A retrospective for one of the most influential of British designers of the later 1960s and 1970s. Renowned for his fluid lines and unsurpassed cut, Ossie Clark also used the creative and cutting edge prints of his wife, Celia Birtwell. The Gallery will showcase 25 outfits from the height of his career, many acquired very recently.

(B&W) British Journal of Photography Annual, 1972 © François Gillet (Bournemouth College of Art)
(Col) Sunday Times, 1968 © Peter Knapp for the Sunday Times


Christian Diorwith model Dorethy Emms, 1957

Christian Dior: Designer in focus

 Christian Dior: Designer in focus

Christian Dior: Designer in Focus

Wednesday 12 June 2013 - Sunday 12 January 2014

Christian Dior's brief but supremely influential career began with his iconic 'New Look' in 1947. He reigned supreme in Parisian fashion for ten years until his untimely death in 1957.

This unique exhibition features Paris and London couture, many outfits recently acquired by the Gallery of Costume. Stunning displays include day, cocktail and evening wear, and represent many of Dior's seminal collections.

Display highlights include a ‘New Look’ outfit from Dior’s first celebrated ‘Corolle’ collection (spring/summer 1947) and a 1949 black ribbed silk cocktail dress, commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Other significant items on display include the first Dior outfit donated to the Gallery of Costume in 1984. The dress, a 1956 black silk cocktail dress, was retailed by the famous Manchester fashion store, Samuels. (Samuels was one of the region’s most important high-end fashion shops until it closed in 1968.)

The show also features a printed lilac silk cocktail dress designed by the young Yves Saint Laurent, who joined the Dior fashion house in 1955 aged only 19, before replacing Christian Dior as Chief Designer after his untimely death in 1957. In addition, the exhibition provides the chance to see a green/silver ballgown on loan from the Harris Museum and Art Gallery and a slate blue cocktail dress, spotted in black, on loan from National Museums on Merseyside.


Christian Dior with model Dorothy Emms, 1957, (c) 2004 TopFoto


Woolen dress by BITTE KAI RAND Woolen dress by Hillfiger New Look woolen suit, 1954 Woolen dress by Sonia Rykiel

Knitted Elegance: Creative Fashion since the 1950s

Thursday 7 February 2013 - Sunday 2 June 2013

A range of avant-garde outfits from the gallery’s collections to illustrate that knitwear can be sophisticated as well as practical, beautiful as well as warm, chic as well as homely. Designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent, Sonia Rykiel, Missoni, Moschino, Alice Temperley and Maria Grachvogel will be represented, and because knitwear is frequently at the cutting edge of contemporary fashion, there will be four examples from last season’s collections.

Displayed around the staircase and dining room you can also see work made in response to Knitted Elegance by new community based artists working with artist Sarah Marsh.


Hillfiger Denim
New Look Suit, 1945
Sonia Rykiel


The First Cut Susan Stockwell, Money Dress Violese LunnSusan Cutts Susan Stockwell, Cartographic Dress Susan Stockwell, Highland Dress Violese Lunn

The First Cut

5 October 2012 – 27 January 2013

The First Cut is an exhibition that takes place at the Gallery of Costume and Manchester Art Gallery. It features work by 31 international contemporary artists who radically rethink the possibilities of working with paper and take it beyond its natural boundaries. At Manchester Art Gallery you can see a wide variety of artwork, from large-scale installations that explode from gallery walls to intricate, miniature worlds. At the Gallery of Costume three artists have created installations of dresses and shoes.

In this age of austerity, paper is cheap, available and ubiquitous. By transforming books and magazines, maps and currency, using silhouettes, creating dresses, animations, sculptures and installations, the artists in The First Cut demonstrate the huge potential and power of such a humble and fragile material.

Susan Cutts, Violise Lunn and Susan Stockwell have fashioned ‘unwearable’ dresses and shoes from handmade and recycled paper, maps and money. The delicacy and vulnerability of their sculptural form belies the gravity of the issues they confront, including ecology, geo-politics, mapping and trade, as well as identity, the body and memory.

Artist Talk with Susan Stockwell

Thursday 6 December 2-4pm Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall
(rescheduled from Thursday 25 October)

FREE - Book your place through Eventbrite

Susan Stockwell's sculptural dresses, fashioned from maps and paper currency, are on show at the Gallery of Costume and Manchester Art Gallery.

She will discuss her remarkable work, which takes many forms from small elaborate studies to large scale installations, all made from everyday, domestic and industrial disposable materials.

Born in Manchester, Susan now lives and works in London.

Don't forget, teas, coffees and cakes are now available in the new Gallery of Costume cafe.

Exhibition supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Also supported by The Japan Foundation, The Henry Moore Foundation, The Granada Foundation, DAC Beachcroft and Roger la Borde. The paper sponsor is GF Smith.

Event supported by TAG Fine Arts


Detail of Susan Stockwell, Money Dress, 2012
Violese Lunn, Little Cloud, 2000
Susan Cutts, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, 2012
Susan Stockwell, Cartographic Dress, © Susan Stockwell 2005
Susan Stockwell, Highland Dress, © Susan Stockwell 2010
View of Dining Room at Platt Hall with Violese Lunn installation

Manchester City Council    Arts Council England    The Henry Moore Foundation

Japan Foundation    The Granada Foundation    GF Smith

DAC Beachcroft    Roger la Borde

 Meshac Gaba, Ensemble

Photograph by Soungalo MaléDuro Olowu outfits

Duro Olowu outfits

Photograph by Malick Sidibé

We Face Forward: Art From West Africa Today

At the Gallery of Costume, photographs by Malick Sidibé, Abderramane Sakaly, Soungalo Malé and Hamidou Maiga are being shown alongside contemporary fashion pieces designed by British-Nigerian designer Duro Olowu.

Duro Olowu

‘I reinvented freedom and joie de vivre in an African way, a wearable way’.

Born in 1966 in Lagos, Olowu spent his childhood in Nigeria and England. Having studied law, he turned to fashion, launching his own label in London in October 2004. His entirely innovative approach was such an instant success that he won New Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2005. His profile became international after Michelle Obama chose his designs from 2008, and he opened his own boutique in Duke Street in London in 2009. Mrs Obama has remained a loyal client, as have Princess Caroline of Monaco and David Bowie’s wife, Iman.

Olowu’s fashion is an eclectic mix of African and European, often playfully selecting elements, which seem to clash, such as heavy tailored woollen coats and jackets with lightweight silk dresses. He references his African heritage in vibrant, bold, graphic prints, exotic colours and patchwork techniques. His style is distinct and immediately recognizable, popular with successful Western women who are intrigued by African designs, or with African women who want to experiment with cut and pattern. It has also been said that like Vivienne Westwood, his fashions are made ‘for the confidant woman’.

Olowu has been inspired by a wide range of music, including reggae, soul, funk and jazz. He is also particularly interested in fine art, naming artists such as Glenn Ligon, Cindy Sherman and David Hammons as his favourites. His Autumn/Winter 2012 collection centres round a self-portrait by Egon Schiele, which Olowu describes as creating the effect of a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. He has kindly lent the Gallery eight outfits, which are on view now.

Mali Photo Archives

Photography by Soungalo Malé, Abderramane Sakaly and Malick Sidibé and, for the Manchester presentation, including photographs by Hamidou Maiga.

Since the 1850s, Africans have assumed for themselves a position of power where they have placed themselves in the role of the photographer rather than the photographed. In Mali, this action found fruition in a mid-twentieth century explosion of studio portraiture and a re-envisioning of the European style of presenting the sitter, but this time with a West African inflection.

In this Manchester presentation of the exhibition Mali Photo Archives, we have placed digital examples from the exceptional bodies of work of Malick Sidibé, Abderramane Sakaly and Soungalo Malé alongside a selection of photographs, mostly nineteeth centurty ‘cartes-de-viste’ and ‘cabinets’, from the Gallery of Costume’s excellent collection of studio portraiture. In doing this we draw attention to the traditions of the posed portrait that were developed in Europe from painting, the ways in which these styles and motifs were adopted by West African photographers, and how the studio portrait was reinvigorated by these photographers who sought to present their own people and countries in the run up to and flowering of independence.

Mali Photo Archives has been curated by the Sokona Tounkara, National Museum of Mali, and Laura Serani from the archives of these important twentieth century photographers. The exhibition is part of a long-standing project in which photography in Mali is collected and conserved in partnership with photographers and representatives from their families. In this way, the history of West African photography is safeguarded, as is the cultural and social history that these images present.

Curated for Rencontres de Bamako, 9th Edition, 2011, by Sokona Tounkara and Laura Serani

Part of We Face Forward: Art From West Africa Today.
Visit the exhibition website


Cotton Exchange: Artists' Residency
28 September - 21 October

Gallery of Costume and A Fine Line bring you an Indian artists’ residency, featuring Shamji Vishram, an artisan/weaver, and LOkesh Ghai, a textile designer, both working in Gujarat, India.

The artists present their own work, plus new work by other Indian artists and artisans working in the cotton textiles and fashion industry.

A “pop up” studio will be in the display and events space featuring creative discussions, hands-on workshops and social events.

You can catch the pop up space and accompanying events programme at the Harris Museum in Preston now before it moves to us on 28 September.

Thursday Late Night

Thurs 27 Sept, 5pm-9pm at Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
Our young creatives share their trip to India with you. Get styled up in modern and traditional Indian clothing, have a go at Indian embroidery and hear the stories of their travels. Plus live music, poetry and film. All washed down with a nice cup of chai.

Friends and Family Drop In

Saturdays 6 and 13 October, 1 - 4pm at Gallery of Costume
Drop in on your own or with family and friends. Be inspired by the artists' hand made embroidery, printing and weaving to make your own print or weave to take home. You'll also get the chance to chat with the artists and handle the cotton textiles.

Free, all ages and abilities welcome.

Closing Party

Wed 17 Oct, 5pm-8pm at Gallery of Costume
Whether you've met the artists on their travels around Manchester, dropped into a workshop or come across the displays at Gallery of Costume, join us to celebrate an exchange of ideas, crafts and friendships.

About the project

The Cotton Exchange is part of a series of international exchange visits between England and India – specifically Lancashire, Manchester and Ahmedabad in Gujurat. A team of young people and staff from 5 North West Museums and Art Galleries, including Gallery of Costume, have been working together since their recent visit to Gujurat this year.

The team followed the journey of cotton from field to mill, factory to boutique, and would like to share their findings with you through a series of inspirational and thought provoking activities and events.

LOkesh Ghai, textile artist, and Shamji Vishram, weaver, will both be at Gallery of Costume from Gujurat for a limited period of three weeks, to bring The Cotton Exchange project alive.

The Cotton Exchange is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World which is led by Arts Council England in partnership with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

Twitter: @cotton_exchange

The Age of Elegance?

The Age of Elegance?

Thursday 16 February 2012-Saturday 19 May 2012

The Age of Elegance? is a creative interpretation of cotton stories that exist in Manchester and across the globe. The exhibition includes projections of spoken word poetry, film, installation, photography and material collected from the Gallery of Costume stores and on a research visit to Gujarat in India.

Formed in September 2011, More Than Fashion 2012 is a group of young creatives, aged 15-25, who have been meeting weekly at the Gallery of Costume. The group have developed a contemporary ‘remix’ of the traditional eighteenth century display at the Gallery of Costume as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s programme Stories of the World, and working in partnership on the shared theme of cotton with five other museums and galleries in the North West (Blackburn Museum, Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Lancashire Mills, and Whitworth Art Gallery)


To discover more about the project visit the More Than Fashion 2012 tumblr blog, an ongoing, interactive document of the group's research and inspirations.

Want to know more?

If you would like to get involved or find out more please contact Kate Day:
Tel: 0161 2457245

If you enjoyed this you might also want to visit Whitworth Art Gallery’s Cotton: Global Threads exhibition in Manchester until 13 May.

Find out more about Stories of the World in the North West


Enter our Global Style competition at:


© More Than Fashion 2012

Marilyn Rathbone, Pastimes

Interventions: The 62 Group, responses to the Gallery of Costume and its collections

13 January 19 May 2012

Interventions celebrates the 50th anniversary of The 62 Group of Textile Artists.

In 1962, a group of embroidery lecturers and recent graduates met to exchange ideas and exhibit together. They hoped to make a difference to attitudes about embroidery, which at that time was not viewed as a serious art form, but more as a female hobby. The 62 Group’s activities soon expanded beyond embroidery to include other disciplines, including art made with paper, metal and textiles.

The title Interventions has inspired the exhibiting artists to respond in an innovative and personal way to the costume collection at Platt Hall. This exhibition of new work displays the Group’s diversity of practice as well as the individual artists’ creative approaches.

The 62 Group has a total of 56 exhibiting members based mainly in the UK. University professors and lecturers, teachers and freelance professional textile artists make up the bulk of the membership, and many members have established international reputations.

The 62 Group is an artist-led organisation and it is a tribute to the members’ commitment and energy in helping to run the Group that, after 50 years, it is still recognised as a leader in contemporary textile art.

Marilyn Rathbone: Pastimes (The 62 Group)

Susie MacMurray, Widow

Susie MacMurray

From 10 January 2012

Constructed from black nappa leather and around 100,000 long silver adamantine pins, Widow is the fourth in a series of garment-type female form sculptures by acclaimed Manchester artist, Susie MacMurray.

 mini dress , 1980, Saint Laurent, Rive GaucheYves Saint Laurent, costume, detailYves Saint Laurent, portrait

Yves Saint Laurent: Designer in focus

14 Sept – 31 Dec 11

An exhibition looking at the most influential French fashion designer of the 1960s and 70s, Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008). Featuring 14 iconic outfits including examples of the Trapeze line, Mondrian look and Russian collection.

Yves Saint Laurent was a dominant force in French fashion from his appointment at House of Dior, following Christian Dior’s death in 1957. His influence on fashion was overwhelming throughout the 1960s and 70s. As Caroline Rennolds Milbank wrote in 1985 when he was at the height of his popularity;

"The most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five years, Yves Saint Laurent can be credited with both spurring the couture's rise from its sixties ashes and with finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable."

Saint Laurent introduced the tuxedo trouser suit for women and the safari look for both sexes. He became the first designer to use ethnic models in his runway shows, and referenced other non-European cultures in his work, specifically in his iconic African and Chinese collections. He was also deeply committed to fine art, producing collections inspired by the painters Picasso and Mondrian.

Running from 14 Sept – 31 Dec 2011, this temporary exhibition  showed 14 influential outfits, dating from 1958 to 2011.

Abi Lake Paper Dress

The Paper Dress and Elvis is my Mum. Abi Lake

27 June 2011 to 31 Dec 2011

Abi Lake is a Manchester based artist. Her work combines traditional dressmaking skills with contemporary performance practice to create sculptural garments.

‘Both these pieces are informed by an interest in the history and performativity of women’s dress – how we create environments and identities through what we wear and how we wear it.’

The Paper Dress 2003

‘A hand stitched and ever-growing garment, layered with leaves & stained with memory. Memories can disappear or disintegrate within seconds, days, years, or stay with us to the grave. We carry them. We wear them.’

Elvis is my Mum 2009

‘An exploration of notions of ‘family’, in all its many layers, colours and guises. The ribbons from the corset form a fluid rainbow of branches, connecting to different family members. The piece represents a family tree, which in performance serves as both costume and scenography.’

Adnan Bayyat

The Final Piece of the Jigsaw, Adnan Bayyat

Until 31 Dec 2011

Adnan Bayyat is a young Manchester designer with his own studio in the Triangle shopping centre.

He creates dresses as sculptured commissions, often from unusual materials. This dress is made of thousands of individual pieces from jigsaws found in Salford markets, with over 5,000 shoe laces, and it took over a year to make.

Joyce Ridings: A Retrospective

Joyce Ridings, a retrospective

11 May–3 September 2011

Joyce Ridings has designed in the fashion industry since graduating from Manchester Polytechnic in the late 1960s, and with her label, Qui, and her iconic shop, she regularly produces strikingly imaginative collections. This show presents a flavour of her 40 years of creative but eminently wearable designs.

For more information and a short biography of Joyce Ridings, please download the press pack.

Penelope Batley

Light Humour: Penelope Batley

From 18 September 2010

Penelope Batley graduated with a Design BA from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2007 and then won the Terence Conran Design Award on graduatingfrom the Royal College of Art in 2009.

Creating her giant escapist illuminated jewellery as playful public art commissions, she has recently made the entrance installation for London Jewellery Week.

Lubaina Himid, Tailor, Singer, Striker, DandyLubaina Himid, Tailor, Singer, Striker, Dandy

Tailor, Singer, Striker, Dandy: New work by Lubaina Himid

12 January–30 April 2011

Lubaina Himid’s work often investigates issues of black identity. In this exhibition at the Gallery of Costume, she has selected from the large West African textile collection at in the gallery’s stores and reinterpreted the materials to express contemporary and historic male identity through appearance and clothes.

Through the creation of five life-sized images of black men, the artist asks the questions: “Who do you want to be? Who is it possible to be? Can what you wear help you be who you want to be?”

The display consists of four themes, which Lubaina Himid describes in more detail:


This is the person who knows how to make the best of the human figure or to reveal a good one, to give elegance of line and to permit movement without disturbance to the actual look, style and fit of the costume. For me, the Tailor is like an architect for the body; how our clothes feel on the inside is as important as how they look on the outside. How we feel on the inside is what makes us act in a particular way in the world.


This is the person who goes for goal, the one who takes the risks, the one with responsibility for winning the match, winning the cup and winning the battle for survival. The Striker is the warrior, the leader, the fighter, the person who makes quick and precise decisions flamboyantly and with exceptional bravado.


This is the person who writes the poetry and songs, tells the stories, remembers the histories, makes sure that the truth is told; passed down from the elders to the young and then written down. Sometimes the Singer imitates the sounds of nature, the birds, the water, the rush of the wind and the dash of the rain in order to make sure the tale is told.


This is the person who is not afraid to be seen as elegant and bold, charming, eloquent and strategic. The Dandy understands how everything is structured and designed and is always aware of how everything looks.

Lubaina Himid is Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire and has been exhibiting internationally in Europe and the U.S.A. for the past 30 years. Her work is represented in several private and public collections including Tate, the V&A, The Arts Council, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston. She was awarded an MBE in 2010 and is currently a Finalist in the 2011 Northern Art Prize.

The exhibition is part of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

Spinning A Yarn

Until April 2011

Fabric produced for Spinning A YarnThe production and consumption of cotton is woven into the fabric of Manchester and Lancashire’s built environment. Cotton mills, factories and textile warehouses once dominated the landscape. After the Second World War, however, the cotton industry in North West England declined and in recent years former mill buildings and textile warehouses that escaped demolition have become upmarket homes. The layered identities of these places are the starting point for Spinning A Yarn.

Spinning A Yarn is an intervention by Tea (artists Peter Hatton, Val Murray and Lynn Pilling) in three Manchester buildings associated with cotton: Royal Mills, once a cotton spinning mill, has been converted into apartments; Platt Hall is a Georgian mansion that was once the home of a wealthy textile merchant but is now a museum of costume; and the Whitworth Art Gallery houses textile collections that include cotton from all over the world.

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