Heritage Bengal Fashion

How villages and towns in Bengal dressed London ladies in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries

An exciting project by Stepney Community Trust

For more than three centuries textiles from Bengal were worn by fashionable London women creating a special link between the capital and the Indian sub-continent. Now, a dozen members of East London’s diverse communities will help bring that little-known Bengal-British connection to light with the aid of a £48,300 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Stepney Community Trust will recruit people, some of whom are likely to have traditional arts and craft skills, to carry out research and then recreate some of the dresses worn during the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries by London’s fashion-conscious ladies. They will also create some of their own designs inspired by the fashions and fabrics of the period that they have studied. The project will be supported by the National Maritime Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, the London College of Fashion and the Museum of London. Those taking part will visit the institutions and attend training and workshops there over the course of the next year. Also studied will be how individuals and companies in London decided on what would be fashionable for the coming season, the original design methods used, and how the textiles were ordered, manufactured in Bengal and imported into Britain. This project will help bring to light this deeply connected history in a unique and practical way.

As part of the project, funded separately by the Stepney Community Trust, research will be carried out in Bangladesh and West Bengal to develop a better understating of the nature of the textile manufacturing industry of the period. The project gets underway during the 40th anniversary year of the founding of Bangladesh. I

n addition to the two dozen finished costumes produced the project will also create a website, an exhibition and a full-colour book. It is hoped that some of the recreated historical dresses will be displayed in museums and galleries.

Sue Bowers Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “This project will help create a better understanding of the long historical links between Bengal and London. At the same time, it will enable some of those taking part to showcase their traditional skills and interest in the field while gaining new ones.”

Bodrul Alom, Secretary of Stepney Community Trust, said: “we are delighted that Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to support this unique project. Through this project will emerge new understanding of the links between Bengal and Britain and the role played in history by Muslin: the famous textile of Bengal.”

For further details please contact Stepney Community Trust by email: [email protected] or phone: 020 7377 5482 or 079306100529.

How Villages and Towns in Bengal Dressed London Ladies in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries