101 years today!

The Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed on 6 February 1918.

This act gave women over the age of 30 who met the specified property requirements the right to vote for the first time. (Women under 30, and who didn’t meet the criteria, had to wait another ten years for the privilege.)

To celebrate alongside all women, we are publishing today the pictures we took for Vivien Wilson, costume designer, who recently worked in an immersive theatre performance celebrating the 100th anniversary of the British suffragettes. The project wanted to emphasise not only the achievements of the suffragettes but also the struggles of all women throughout history and in different parts of the world.

Vivien then researched into significant and admirable women throughout history and found a lady called Seymour Fleming, also known as Lady Worsley. Her portrait hangs in Harewood House in West Yorkshire, and he life story was quite a scandalous one.

End of 18th century. Seymour Fleming was married to the respectable MP Sir Richard Worsley, who made her prostitute herself for his amusement and pleasure. However, she fell in love with and got pregnant from one of the men she had to sleep with. To cover the scandal, her husband tried to recognise the child as his. Nonetheless, she decided to leave him and be with her child and lover. Then Sir Worsley took her to trial, accusing Seymour of adultery and prostitution. However, she turned the trial to her favour by inviting each of the 27 men her husband had made her sleep with, to come and tell their story as witnesses. Soon, everyone realised what had happened, and began to laugh at Sir Worsley. He had filed for compensation of 20,000 Pounds against the lady and her lover, but after seeing all the evidence and hearing the real story, the jury awarded him one shilling of compensation instead…

You can find more about the life of Lady Worsley following this link.

The costume is based on her outfit in the portrait in Harewood House. What’s interesting is that it is an 18th-century riding/military uniform, but made to fit a woman.

The outfit is made of 3 main garments: A skirt of red suiting wool, a boned bodice made of ivory duchess satin (which could be called a corset), and a tailored riding jacket made of red and navy suiting wool. The hat is bought with added ostrich feathers by hand, and all the trimmings and buttons are sewn on Vivien's hand as well.

For our tribute to Seymour Fleming – and all the women who had to stand in front of a court to get their rights recognised – we have chosen a significant location, Chiswick House, a beautiful 18th century villa inspired by Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones, and a talented actress and dancer, Miranda Zis, able to interpret the feelings of pride and loneliness of the scandalous Lady W at best.

 

credits & acknowledgements

creative director & costume maker // Vivien Wilson

photography // Marco Joe Fazio

hair & make-up // Grace Meyer

assistant // Vihaa Dwivedi

model // Miranda Zis

a great thanks to the staff of Chiswick House & Gardens Trust for allowing us to use their premises