Frock coats, cravats and top hats for gentlemen, full-skirted dresses, empire lines and bonnets for ladies… this was how stylish daywear looked back in 1838, the year of the very first Great Yorkshire Show.
That first county show took place not in Harrogate but in York, at the Barrack Yard of the 5th Dragoons at Fulford. It moved to a number of locations around Leeds, Northallerton and Hull before returning to York in 1842. It was cancelled in 1915–1919 during the First World War, and in 1940–1948 for the Second World War and its aftermath. Then, in 1950, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society bought a 200-acre site overlooking Rudding Park in Harrogate and the Great Yorkshire Show has been staged there since 1951, apart from in 2001 when it had to be cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, and in 2012, when it was called off due to unprecedented rainfall.
To celebrate the 160th anniversary, fashion designer Joanna Rishworth, from Keighley, researched what visitors would have worn to the first show in 1838, and recreated outfits to show at this year’s event. Joanna, who is from a farming family and a recent fashion graduate from Harrogate College, said: “It’s not been easy, as sadly there are no mobile phone photos available. In fact, there are no photographs of the first ever Great Yorkshire Show, so I’ve scoured the history books to find drawings and descriptions. There are some contradictions about what was acceptable countryside wear, but I’ve worked hard to make sure the costumes are as authentic as possible.”
In her search for suitable fabrics, Joanna found an Aladdin’s cave at Abraham Moon & Sons in Guiseley, founded in 1837, a year before the first Great Yorkshire Show. Abraham Moon’s Martin Aveyard said: “We get lots of unusual requests, especially from brides, but we had our work cut out when Joanna came in asking for fabrics that would have been popular in the early 1800s. We were delighted when she found something suitable.”
Tailoring work was by Brook Taverner of Keighley. Spokesman Roger Meeke said: “As bespoke tailors, we get very specific requests, but our company has been in business since 1912, so we’re always happy to rise to the challenge.”
This year’s Great Yorkshire Show’s Kuoni Fashion Pavilion also sees the launch of Drunk in Love Couture, a new bridal wear company offering alternative and individual wedding looks by Berenice Gilmour, from Wetherby. Berenice, 39, worked as a dancer and dance teacher until 2013, when a hip injury forced her to take a step back, and she began making dance costumes for her daughter. “I decided ‘I’m not going to go back to dancing, I’m going to take this further’.” She went to see Annabel Smith at Harrogate College, was accepted onto the fashion degree course, and chosen to exhibit at the 2017 Great Yorkshire Show.
Berenice, who works from a studio at Sicklinghall, said: “It helped give me the confidence to set up my own company. I can already see there is a gap in the market for women who want something a little bit different from the usual white wedding dress.”
The first collection is called Sui Generis – of its own kind, or unique – featuring nine bridal looks. Each is named after a strong Yorkshire woman, including the Beryl (for Beryl Burton, the racing cyclist), the Ryder (for charity founder Sue Ryder), and the Gertrude (for Gertrude Maretta Paul, first black headteacher in Leeds and founder of the West Indian Carnival). “Each style is different, because we are all different,” says Berenice. Everything is bespoke. “To me, when I look in bridal shops, everything is practically the same. I’m trying to make it more modern, so you can have what you want. It’s not all glitz and lace. Not everything has to be white. Design for the person.”
Berenice is a fan of Galliano’s designs, and says Leeds wedding designer Anita Massarella has also been a huge inspiration.
Meanwhile, also appearing on the Kuoni catwalk will be collections from Barnsley College, whose students were asked to design pieces with an Egyptian influence. And, alongside the Yorkshire Agricultural Society tweed clothing launched last year, there will be a new limited edition clothing of rugby tops, T-shirts, polos and caps, plus a T-shirt for children, all with embroidered crest featuring Celebrating Yorkshire, as well as the Yorkshire Born and Bred slogan. These will be on sale in Fodder and online.
The show will be co-ordinated by Bernadette Gledhill of Morton Gledhill, with hair and make-up by students from the White Rose Beauty Colleges and dressers from Harrogate College.
*All the action from the Great Yorkshire Show Kuoni Catwalk will be on Twitter @greatyorkshow #KuoniCatwalk #GYSfashion
*The 160th Great Yorkshire Show will be held on July 10-12 at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate with fashion shows at 11am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4pm. www.greatyorkshireshow.co.uk
*Drunk in Love Couture is on https://www.drunkinlovecouture.co.uk/
*Brook Taverner is on http://www.brooktaverner.co.uk/
*Abraham Moon & Sons is on https://www.moons.co.uk/