Heritage Fashion - ditch the tweed!

When fashion editors and advertisers describe something as ‘heritage’ they seem to mean, ‘rather tweedy’ judging by a recent advert for Westfield shopping centre.

© Alice Kershaw - Heritage Fashion on show over Heritage Open Days

Tweed with silk scarves, lady of the manor looks, British brands with ‘berry’ at the end of them, Hunter wellies and 1940s hats have all been described as 'heritage' over the last month. It’s a trend that seems to come around every couple of years or so, and harks at a traditional image. According to ASOS online retailer heritage fashion is having a moment. This is an interesting concept, as fashion is after new trends, and by its very nature, heritage is a trend that has been established before. Fashion is always looking for new influences, and galleries and museums are often highlighted by designers as sparking a particular look.

Heritage sites can provide a stunning backdrop for fashion shoots, and many have, raising additional income for the organisations involved. The seemingly timeless nature of heritage is what makes it so appealing. In this time of austerity, people want a sense of constancy and stability, something the ‘heritage’ brand can provide. Heritage can also be a source of inspiration, with costume collections, fabrics, wall hangings and pottery forming the basis for collections.

Joking about this on Twitter, I discovered that the heritage style (i.e. tweed) is the one expected of Conservation Officers and those in the heritage sector more generally. This image was played up by an event going on for Heritage Open Days in Newcastle where the public was invited to find out if Conservation Officers all had massive beards and elbow patches and the dreaded tweed. From my experience, those in the sector go to work wearing everything from armour (ripe for a revival), suits (and not just the tweedy variety), dresses and high heels to steel toe boots and jumpers. Some don’t even have beards…

However, the shorthand version of heritage fashion only seems to refer to a specific moment in British history. Tweed is cosy, and elbow patches are handy for stopping wear, but we are far from one size fits all. This image of what heritage stands for doesn’t represent this innovative, wide ranging and diverse sector, but an out-dated view. Ditch the tweed and bust the myth of heritage fashion!