New exhibition attracts a fashionable turnout

AN exhibition of fashionable clothing spanning more than a century opened at Newcastle Borough Museum at the weekend.

The exhibition - entitled 'Out of the Wardrobe - Fashioning a Life' is a tribute to  fashion lecturer and historian Betty Smithers who donated her extensive collection to Staffordshire University before her death in 2008.

In recognition of the gesture, the University's entire design collection, was renamed the Betty Smithers Design Study Collection.

Betty won a scholarship to study design at the Royal College of Art before her family moved to North Staffordshire. Well known for her ‘distinctive style’, she continued to teach locally until her retirement at the age of 70.

Liz Allen, keeper of the Betty Smithers Design Study Collection, said: "It's wonderful that some of Betty's 'living archive' will now be on show to the wider public and we're grateful to The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) who've been working to repair the objects, giving them TLC, and who have helped to set up the exhibition."

In addition to Betty's costumes and original designs, the exhibition includes work by the Midlands Textile Forum which has been inspired by the Collection.

The exhibition opening was attended by Newcastle Borough Mayor councillor Trevor Hambleton, together with old friends, family members and professional contacts of Betty's.

Betty's daughter Rebecca, a Guardian journalist, said she was overwhelmed with the turnout to the exhibition’s opening and she hoped more of the collection could be given an airing in future.

Costumes on display include a maternity dress designed and worn by Betty and a Victorian formal dress which had belonged to Betty's grandmother.

'Out of the Wardrobe - Fashioning a Life' runs at Newcastle Borough Museum and Art Gallery until March 4.