THE 1950s are described as the most glamorous of decades with new and inspirational designs emerging from the fashion capital of the world Paris — and right here in Bolton.
There were the fashion houses of Chanel and Dior — and a designer from Bolton was taking major cities by storm.
Constance Howarth’s designs attracted attention from the fashionistas of London, New York and Lancashire.
Now, in tribute to the “fabric designer, milliner, dressmaker, businesswoman and sometimes model”, an exhibition celebrating her work and her fashion legacy will be staged in her home town — at Bolton Museum — in tribute to her.
Bolton Council’s cabinet member for culture, Cllr Christopher Peacock, said: “We first heard about Constance Howarth while we were researching for our Diamond Jubilee exhibition last spring.
“We came across an interesting 1955 article in the Bolton Evening News, which documented her fascinating lifestyle.”
Miss Howarth, who died, aged 85, in March last year, attended Bolton School and went on to study art at the Manchester College of Art.
She became a freelance fabric designer, selling her designs to firms in Lancashire and London.
Her inspiration came from visits to art galleries in Europe and she developed her own style, using her own fabric designs to make dresses, which she would wear to visit customers — modelling her own wares to show them off to potential buyers.
Miss Howarth, from Lostock, visited the USA, particularly Miami and New York, and set about designing clothes for the American market made from the cloth she had designed herself, printed in Lancashire.
In the summer of 1955 she had designed and made a collection of 16 dresses, each with its own hat.
Hiring a suite in a New York hotel, Miss Howarth showed the designs to buyers from some of the city’s big stores. The gamble paid off and she returned home with orders for hundreds of dresses.
Despite her jet-setting lifestyle, Miss Howarth, who did not marry, continued to design and make her collections at her home in Lostock, saying: “Because it’s quiet up here.
I can get my work done”.
She later moved from Bolton to London where she continued to design and make clothes.
Cllr Peacock said: “We appealed for more information about her and her friend got in touch and loaned us some items.
“Sadly, Constance passed away a few weeks before the Jubilee exhibition but she was aware of our plans. Constance’s nephew also gave us access to a fabulous collection of photographs and designs she had collected and created over the years, so we thought it would be a fitting tribute to her and her wonderful achievements to organise a dedicated exhibition at the museum.”
This exhibition, which opens on January 26, is dedicated to her memory.
It features a selection of her sketches, notebooks, correspondence, patterns and outfits designed and worn by Miss Howarth from the 1950s to the 1980s.
There will be a hands-on session with some of the artefacts on February 2 and a lunchtime talk on February 22, both of which are free