The shiftWorks Project

A celebration of 50 years of the shift dress

The shiftWorks project was a celebration of 50 years since the mainstream adoption of the shift dress in 1965. Twelve seam Collective artists each took one shift dress pattern to create a dress showcasing contemporary textile design. The seam artists also ran a series of textile workshops with local Somerset schools, paid workshops to coincide with various exhibitions and free drop-in sessions within some gallery spaces.

“Every one of these dresses made me smile!”

The shiftWorks exhibition toured to eight locations:

  1. Momentum Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2015, Yeovil – 3-18 October 2015
  2. Select Showcase, Cheltenham – 23-25 October 2015
  3. Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey – 4 March-28 April 2016
  4. SELECT Festival, Stroud – 30 April-22 May 2016
  5. Casespace at Bruton Museum, Bruton – 3 September-29 October 2016
  6. The National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford – 12 November 2016-8 January 2017
  7. Bath School of Art & Design, Bath – 24 April-5 May 2017
  8. Columbia College, Chicago, October 2017

“Great fun – especially to add to a dress!”

A big part of the shiftWorks exhibition was audience involvement:

  • Favourite Shift Dress: Members of the public sent us digital images of themselves in their favourite shift dress. Displayed in our shiftWorks gallery and at the exhibitions, the images show how the shift dress has progressed from a revolutionary garment in 1965, to a mainstay of fashionable dress over the 50 years.
  • Graffiti Shift Dress: We estimate that over 500 visitors to our exhibition made their mark on one of our Graffiti Shift Dresses. Embroidering and embellishing a plain black linen shift dress with sequins, buttons, ribbons, threads and fabric scraps, until they were full of colour and texture.
  • Collaborative Shift Dresses: A group of first year textile students from Bath Spa University, and a group of fashion students from Columbia College, Chicago, each created very different collaborative shift dresses.

The seam Collective artists, past and present, who took part were: Kate Bond, Anna Glasbrook, Anna Gravelle, Julie Heaton, Gill Hewitt, Desiree Jeans (Goodall), Joy Merron, Angie Parker, Linda Row, Tabitha Stewart, Penny Wheeler, and Samon Yechi.

seam conceived and realised this project as a team, with the help of funding awarded by Arts Council England, South Somerset District Council, Somerset Art Works and Global Academy for Liberal Arts (GALA) Outreach Fund and support from Somerset Art Works, SIT Select, Bath Spa University and Columbia College, Chicago.

More detail about shiftWorks’ success, with figures from near the end of the project, can be found in shiftWorks success in figures.

Read more on our blog.

“I really enjoyed hosting the exhibition and found it really striking, well organised and well laid out with lots to look at, do and enjoy.”

Flora Pearson,
Devon Guild of Craftsmen

“An inspiring collection – can’t wait to feedback to the students!”

Fashion Foundation tutor

“Inspirational and original garments. Great to see so many different textiles used. Will have to get the sewing machine out! Thank you.”

More work on same graffiti dress at Trowbridge Arts

“We loved having it! People are still mentioning the dresses regularly so it obviously stuck in memories.”

Fiona Cassidy, Trowbridge Arts

“Great exhibition showing how diverse textiles can be. Very enjoyable and thought-provoking. Thank you – truly inspiring”