Fashion student inspired by grandparents' moving wartime letters

BA (Hons) Fashion Design student Chloe Bampton's final year project has been inspired by her grandparents' wartime love letters, creating a line of lingerie focused on nostalgia and romance.

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Chloe Bampton in the studio with her lingerie collection

BA (Hons) Fashion Design student Chloe Bampton's final year project has been inspired by her grandparents' wartime love letters, creating a line of lingerie focused on nostalgia and romance.

Chloe created her collection, Forget Me Not, as an alternative to modern day lingerie, which she says is too preoccupied with trying to shock. But behind the stylish range of silk pieces and flowing kimono-style robes is a story of separation, suffering and enduring love.

A chest of letters sent between her grandparents Dennis and Kathleen Algar, revealed an insight into the difficulties newlyweds faced during the Second World War and was at the heart of Chloe's new collection. Their letters reveal a couple deeply in love, with their notes including endearments such as Dennis's line that he's 'just dying to be back with you again.'

Chloe said in a recent interview with the Daily Mail: "When you read through their letters, you imagine yourself in a different way of life completely. They are so romantic. We've lost touch with the era of hand letter writing and courting and I wanted to design lingerie which provided an alternative to the modern day shock element. The designs are aimed at women looking for very feminine luxury lingerie with an old romance feel."

Chloe's grandparents married in October, 1941, only a matter of weeks before Dennis, a private in the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, was sent off to fight, but within months of his tour he was captured by the Japanese and held prisoner for nearly four years.

As a Japanese prisoner of war, Dennis laboured on the notorious Burma-Thailand railway, dubbed the 'death railway' after more than 12,000 Allied POWs died while being forced to build it.

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Chloe's grandparents' photos and letters

Some of the lingerie features straps which cross in reference to the railway tracks between Burma and Thailand. Chloe also researched Japanese traditional dress and incorporated it into her designs, while the fabrics used are intended to look slightly worn. Chloe said: "It was about taking something which is hard-hitting and turning it into something beautiful."

The labels for Chloe's Forget Me Not collection were inspired by the stamps on her grandparents wartime letters. She also incorporated their endearments on the garments' price tags and in her look books, using the couples' sign-offs and words of love including: 'All my love always darling' and 'for always my sweetheart'.

She said: "I think both my grandparents would have liked that something positive and beautiful had come from a time which for them was really hard. My grandma would have loved the colours as they were some of her favourites and the brand name was also based around her and the story as the forget-me-not was her favourite flower."

Chloe went on to say: "From my dissertation research I decided I wanted to do something different to most lingerie advertisements and make my collection all about romance and nostalgia instead of sex, which occupies most brands. I wanted to photograph my collection on a model with a small bust to challenge the stereotype of lingerie models. I also wanted the photoshoot and underwear itself to be aimed more at women rather than it needing to appeal to a man."

Gilly Staples, course leader in Fashion Design at NTU, said: "Chloe has taken the heart-warming, personal story of her grandparents and used it to re-imagine the way we see lingerie today. She has combined traditional Japanese dress and the themes of war to create something unique and romantic."

Fashion student inspired by grandparents' moving wartime letters

Published on 15 June 2015
  • Category: School of Art & Design

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