Rosetta and Michael on their wedding day. Rosetta holds a bouquet of flowers, wearing a two-piece suit and skirt with white shoes and pearls. Michael has glasses, and wears a suit and thick rimmed glasses.

“Rosetta grew up in Bradford and lived through the Second World War and its aftermath. She was part of a working-class family. Her clothes are simple yet stylish.”

If you didn’t know already, Rosetta Rowley is one of the ladies featured in the Fashionable Yorkshire Exhibition at Lotherton Hall. Thanks to a letter recently sent to us by Rosetta’s sister, Eileen Pugh, we now know more about the lovely Rosetta and the profound story of her life. Rosetta was born on the 29th of January 1929 in Bradford, West Yorkshire. After leaving school at 15, she did numerous jobs, showing her ambition to keep busy in a time of War and unease. The jobs she did ranged from a fruit picker in Kent, making costume jewellery, working in an ice cream parlour and finally as a cinema usherette. Rosetta also joined the Women’s Land Army after the war, when she hand-painted this headscarf. This sort of design was very popular during this period.

A square handkerchief, painted with daffodils, bluebells and the image of a woman's face, with red hair.

Silk handkerchief handpainted by Rosetta Rowley, c.1947

The dress seen below is currently on display at the Fashionable Yorkshire exhibition, and we believe it was handmade my Rosetta herself. As you can see, the dress is bang on the early 1950’s fashion trends, showing how Rosetta was fashionable even if she didn’t have the wealth of some of the other women that feature in the exhibition.

An image of a green ress, mounted on a mannequin. The dress comes below the knee, with a purple pattern, white sleeves and a white collar, with buttons down the middle and a tied bow waist.

Handmade dress in 1950s style by Rosetta Rowley, c.1952

Whilst working on Fashionable Yorkshire, I noticed how Rosetta’s story seemed to be one that everyone remembered and was touched by. In 1952 Rosetta married Michael Noble at the age of 23. This was the two-piece she wore on her wedding day, made by Harella. Now (thanks to Eileen!) we have a picture of Rosetta and Michael on their wedding day – with Rosetta wearing the very dress!

Now for the sad part of Rosetta’s story. A year after Rosetta and Michael were married, Rosetta fell pregnant – but at 4 months pregnant, she was taken into hospital with Pneumonia and sadly passed away.

Rosetta came from a working class background, but she displayed her love of fashion and crafts, by using what she had to create the latest trends. Her clothes have stood the test of time, and are still incredibly beautiful today.

By Kay Eggleston, Costumes and Textiles Placement

Fashionable Yorkshire is on display in the Fashion Galleries at Lotherton Hall until 31 December 2017.