Back to the couture as online exhibition gives city a fashion flashback

A stylish online exhibition is giving fashionistas in Leeds a chance to go back in time and rediscover the history of some of the city’s top shopping hotspots.

Leeds City Museum’s Fast x Slow Fashion explores the evolution of retail and clothing over the past 300 years through a spectacular array of outfits, accessories and historic photos.

With the museum currently closed as part of city-wide efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, the exhibition has undergone a quick change and is now available to visit online, giving people a chance to find out more about how Leeds rose to become one of the country’s leading shopping destinations.

Historic images included as part of the exhibition show well-known locations like Burton’s arcade, which was demolished in 2008, East Parade and The Headrow as they appeared in the 1930s, 40s and 60s.

Also featured are pictures of the old Marks and Spencer penny bazaar from 1904, the former Schofield’s department store, regarded as the pinnacle of the Leeds retail scene through much of the 20th century, and the interior of the iconic Leeds Corn Exchange as it was in the early 1990s.


M&S Penny Bazaar

The exhibition also showcases some of the impressive examples of textiles and outfits from the Leeds Museums and Galleries collection along with memories and insights from local people illustrating the many ways they have consumed fashion over the decades.

Vanessa Jones, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ assistant curator of dress and textiles, brought the exhibition together.

She said: “The places where we shop for clothes and the different ways we consume fashion have changed dramatically over the years and that’s reflected in how much the high street and the urban landscape of Leeds have evolved.

“Through this exhibition, we’ve looked not only at how shopping trends have helped shape the city and its economy but also how fashion has been a way for people in Leeds to express themselves and their identity in different eras.

“The current pandemic has made us see the world in a different light too and we hope that by giving people a chance to visit this exhibition online, we can encourage them to reflect on subjects like sustainably and fast fashion in new ways.”

Other eye-catching exhibits which online visitors can learn more about include an 1881 dark red silk afternoon dress worn by Elinor Gertrude Lupton as well as contemporary examples from Maya Jagger, who collected a number of garments that had been left on the streets around Hyde Park when students moved out of rented accommodation last summer.

Fast x Slow Fashion: Shopping for clothes in Leeds, 1720-2020 is available to visit online at:

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