Video special: WI women get their kit on at the Great Yorkshire Showground

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It’s the Women’s Institute, but not as we know it. Stephanie Smith meets the latest models to take to this year’s Great Yorkshire Show catwalk. Video by Peter McNerney.

Once upon a time, in a quiet Yorkshire village, there were three 30-something girls who shared a sense of humour, a desire for adventure … and a love of wine. Eager to meet new people, face new challenges and experience a little more glamour than the mothers of toddlers usually experience, they decided to strike out, break ground… and create the new Boston Spa Women’s Institute.

WI fashion at the Yorkshire Showground

WI fashion at the Yorkshire Showground

And so it was, in October last year, that Karen Slade (president), Louisa Garton (treasurer) and Zara Batty (secretary) opened the doors of the village hall to launch the first of their WI meetings.

“We try to be different, get away from the idea that it’s all about Victoria sponges,” said Karen, 36. “I knew Zara and Louisa from toddler group, but you get into that mind-set, so we thought it would be good fun to do something more for ourselves and get to know other women in the village.”

The WI can be different things to different people, she pointed out. “What makes it really interesting and flexible is that you can take all the things that we love about the WI, the strength of women working together, and then overlay it with a modern twist.”

Zara, 35, said: “I’ve lived in Boston Spa for about 10 years now and I felt that I knew nobody, and now, wherever I go, there’s a ‘hi, how are you, how are the kids?’”

Boston Spa WI now has more than 100 members, said Karen, with ages ranging from early 20s to 80-year-olds.

Their next challenge is taking to the catwalk at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show, modelling the newly launched Hobbs Invitation collection, with the help of Hobbs retail director Alana Mazza.

“Special occasion wear had previously done well in spring/summer but now people want it all year round,” said Alana. “Invitation is all about sophistication and glamour. Autumn/winter will be all about red carpet dressing.”

Putting the WI nine-strong team through their paces in preparation for the catwalk is Bernadette Gledhill, of model agency Morton-Gledhill The Fashion Team, based in Huddersfield.

The 154th Great Yorkshire Show takes place July 10-12 at the Harrogate Showground. There will be four catwalk shows each day in the Fashion Pavilion.