Women in the Great War in Whitby

editorial image

On Tuesday March 24, Lucy Adlington and the History Wardrobe will present Women and the Great War, Stories of ordinary women in extraordinary times, told through their clothes.

Lucy has many years of experience running unique hands-on history workshops and presentations for museums, schools and heritage sites, specialising in costume history, with a passion for the early 20th Century.

Lucy collects 19th and 20th Century costume and will be bringing examples of the clothes women would be wearing during World War One as well as being dressed appropriately.

What touches Lucy most about history is the fact that the best stories are true.

World War One had a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions, both on the battlefield and on the Home Front too. It was also a time of tremendous social upheaval, bringing new opportunities and freedoms to many women, all of which had a dramatic impact on fashions.

Her enthusiasm for her subject matter is further brought to life through her historical performances.

“I love antique clothing and this is the best way to relive it. WW1 was the most remarkable period of history for women and saw huge wardrobe changes. It was radical and cutting edge the transformations they took themselves through.

Not every woman bobbed her hair but it was a huge emancipation from the constraints of the Edwardian era.”

Lucy said: “We bear witness to the lives of women during the war by showcasing their stories... and their clothes.” Her presentation is moving and amusing, with many anecdotes and a unique display of costumes and uniforms.

Lucy’s research has covered every aspect of what women wore and also unearthed images of the first land women wearing dungarees. Going further back she found rare pictures of women working in the fields long before war broke out.

“Eight hundred women died in the First World War and the centenary has helped us refocus on their contribution, along with other minorities. Their war efforts put in residency the concept of engagement for WW2, such as the land girls.

“It’s also worth remembering the legacy of women who actually engaged in combat. This was primarily in Serbia, Albania and Russia.”

Lucy describes how nearer to home the story of Flora Sand, from York, is worthy of a Vera Britain novel. Flora joined the Red Cross in Serbia and became seperated from her colleagues and nurses. So she joined the army and rose to the rank of Sergeant Major.

While engaged in hand-to-hand fighting, Flora was wounded by a grenade while helping to defend her position.

She was rescued by a lieutenant in her company who risked his life to crawl out under fire to drag her back to safety. These are stories that have quietly sat in the archives until the anniversary of WW1.

Lucy’s research is always ongoing and her costume collection is growing, so if you have any photographs or family stories from this era, she’d love to hear from you.

Her presentation will be fascinating for anyone who has an interest in history or fashion and compliments her costume history book Great War Fashion - Tales from the History Wardrobe and Fashion: Women in World War One.