The disappearance of Agatha Christie is a mystery that out-mystifies even her finest novels, not least because it was never solved. Christie was 36 and already the Queen of Crime when, on December 3, 1926, she went missing from her home in Surrey, her car found hanging precariously over a cliff later that day.
For 11 days, the country was baffled and aghast – where was Agatha? More than 1,000 police officers were deployed in the search for her, which saw the first UK use of aeroplanes in a manhunt.
Then, on December 14, she was found, quite safe and well, in Harrogate’s Swan Hydro (now The Old Swan Hotel), having checked in with almost no luggage under the name of her husband’s mistress, Theresa Neele. It appeared that she had travelled first to London where she had seen an advert for the fashionable Yorkshire spa resort, took a train there and had a fine old time, dancing and going to balls until she was recognised by the hotel band banjo player, who alerted the police. When Colonel Christie, her husband, came to collect her, she kept him waiting while she dressed for dinner. They divorced two years later, but Christie never spoke about those 11 missing days.
This intriguing story has provided the inspiration for a fashion project that will be unveiled at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show, following a design challenge issued by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society to students at Hull College of Art and Design: Create an evening gown collection referencing the Christie mystery.
The result is a range of stunning silk satin 1930s-style evening dresses in rich, muted tones. They will make their debut on the catwalk at this year’s show in the Skipton Building Society Fashion Pavilion, alongside High Street favourites Hobbs (whose fans include the Duchess of Cambridge) and Phase Eight, Leeds- based couturier James Steward, Keighley-based menswear tailoring company Brook Taverner and Yorkshire designer Charlotte Lucy.
Guided by Hull College tutor Lynn Benson, the BA (Hons) fashion students worked in pairs to design the dresses, with Yorkshire Agricultural Society judges picking the winners to appear on the catwalk. Katie Dowson, who celebrates her 20th birthday the day before the Great Yorkshire Show opens this year and lives on a farm at Driffield, worked with Milli Davison, 21, from Hull. The pair were inspired by 1930s architecture for their pale green evening gown, made from heavy satin with a hand-beaded lace overlay.
Meanwhile, making their debut at the Great Yorkshire Show are students from Batley College of Art and Design, whose work is also featured here, and Sheffield Hallam University. The Batley students all study the BA (Hons) Fashion Design Production, Styling and Promotion course and the designs represent the students’ end-of-year work. Course tutor Karen Outram said: “They are delighted their collections will be viewed by a wider professional audience, as well as family and friends.”
• The 157th annual Great Yorkshire Show show runs from July 14 to 16, www.greatyorkshireshow.co.uk. The Skipton Building Society Pavilion stages four catwalk shows each day.
Photography: Doug Jackson Photography
Fashion shoot venue: Pickering Station courtesy of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Models & fashion show co-ordination: Morton Gledhill, The Fashion Team
Hair & Make-up: Bradford College.