The exterior of Leeds City Museum showing the banner for Fast x Slow Fashion exhibition


Fast x Slow Fashion explores the relationship between clothes shopping and people in Leeds, from 1720 to the present day. The exhibit shows how clothes shops have changed, but also highlights how people have sought alternative ways to consume fashion.

This exhibition examines ready-to-wear clothing and bespoke garments. Most people today buy ‘fast’ mass produced clothing, which is widely available and not too expensive. In the past most clothes were made for an individual. This is a slower process and a more expensive way of making clothes.

As we face a global climate crisis, some are looking to the past for inspiration on ways to make fashion and shopping for clothes more sustainable.


Ready-to-wear garments have a long history. You could purchase ready-made shoes, petticoats and white shirts in the 1700s.

By the end of the 1800s shops that once sold bespoke garments diversified and started to sell ready-to-wear clothes, as the industry perfected techniques in making. They were cheaper to buy than a tailor-made outfit. Soon buying ready-to-wear became the fashionable way to shop.

Now our high streets are full of recognisable shops seen across the country, which are more affordable than ever before. Customers do not necessarily want a bespoke shopping experience, but a quick and convenient transaction.

Find out more

This exhibition is no longer on display at Leeds City Museum but we have plenty to see from our other museums and galleries, visit the online exhibitions page for more.

If you’d like to see a selection of our 1.3 million objects in one place, visit our Google Arts & Culture page where we add more stories and objects regularly.