Frock of ages hailed at War on Want fashion show
Northern Ireland’s longest-running local charity pulled out all the stops last night to celebrate its 50th year in style with a spectacular fashion show.
War on Want’s gala event in the newly-refurbished entrance hall of the Ulster Museum was hosted by homegrown broadcaster Colin Murray, and was attended by some of our most influential historians and fashionistas.
Charity workers and lifelong customers also sipped on bubbly as they watched a chic selection of styles sashay past them on a catwalk extending via a sweeping staircase across the imposing and dramatic plaza.
Every single garment and accessory on display was a “pre-loved” charity item, gifted and lifted from War on Want’s own shop rails over 50 glorious years. So, unlike the high street, where retro trends are mimicked season after season, these were the real deal — genuine articles from half-a-decade of design, each with its own story to tell and each reflecting the changing moods in the Northern Irish high streets from which they were originally bought.
When seen in chronological sequence with contemporary music on models styled in the popular hair and make-up trends of that era, the extraordinarily expansive collection really managed to portray how far fashions have changed over the past half century.
The programme kicked off with the immaculate tailoring and ladylike couture of the early Sixties, with a selection of chic silk brocade dresses and skirts worn with twin-set knitwear and pearls, soft faux-fur shrugs or full swing coats in astrakhan or mohair — all reminiscent of Grace Kelly, Hitchcock’s heroines and the office girls from Mad Men.
As the decade progressed, lots of modernist monochromes, checks, spots and geometric patterns replaced the luxurious fabrics as synthetic man-made fibres took over and hemlines shot sky high.
The Seventies were represented by floaty maxi dresses, kaftans, bishop sleeves and flares as hemlines plunged back to ground level and modernism was rejected in favour of natural fabrics such as velvets, Afghans, cheesecloths, suedes and corduroy by a generation of nature-loving hippies and disco chicks.
Latterly, as the punk era took over, anti-fashion became fashionable in the form of spiked leather, slashed T-shirts, drainpipe jeans, Doc Marten boots, micro-minis and extreme body piercing.
Then came the Eighties, where punks turned into Goths, New Romantics, Mods or Rockers and virtually anything was acceptable as long as it was brash, over the top, layered and top-heavy — with disproportionately large shoulder pads and very little taste.
The section of the show portraying the Nineties looked so last century and the rest, as they say, is history.
War on Want organiser Jackie Trainor — ably assisted by Tracey Hall from Style Academy — was delighted with the response of the public.
“This is a unique event for Belfast and a real celebration of fashion,” she said.