Thumbs up! Victoria & Albert museum

5 12 2007

I went to see a fashion exhibition at the V&A museum in South Kensington. This glamorous exhibition focuses on Parisian and British couture between 1947-1957, a decade that Christian Dior described as the ‘Golden Age’ of fashion. On display are stunning gowns and exquisite tailoring from designers such as Balenciaga, Norman Hartnell, Balmain and Givenchy, and Dior.

Dior’s launch of the ‘New Look’ for his first collection in 1947 shocked and delighted the fashion world, creating a new style that symbolised femininity. The full skirts and hour-glass silhouettes were considered highly decadent, synonymous with luxury, opulence and prosperity, following the austerity of the war years.

The exhibition explores the creation of couture design from the post war era to the global success of the major fashion brands by the late 1950s, at which point fashion began to change, influenced by the ‘youth-quake’ of the early 60s. The skill and craftsmanship of haute couture is show, showing a glimpse of the lost world of the exclusive design houses, and the inspiration behind some of the most famous styles of all time.

I took my Hearing Dog and my friend Jane who’s a fashion designer. Jane is hard of hearing and told the V&A booking office this when purchasing the tickets, adding that she was bringing a friend who is deaf, with a Hearing Dog. They said it was fine to bring the dog (nice to have the reassurance!) and that as we were deaf, we didn’t have to pay the admission fee, saving us £18. Jane was shocked as she has been paying to get into all their exhibitions!

It was a fantastic exhibtion. We weren’t allowed to take photos so I can’t show you any here. The V&A are also running a shoe competition. If you are inspired to create your own shoe design then you can submit your shoe design into a competition judged by Jimmy Choo! The competition closes on 6 January 2008. They also have a competition to win a selection of goodies. You can create a couture inspired dress via this link to a downloadable dress pattern for UK sizes 10 12 and 14.

This was one of my favourite dresses in the exhibition, a chiffon evening dress by Jean Desses. Luckily, I’ve got one just like it! My least favourite dresses were those by John Galliano. Who would want to wear one of those?! Jane explained John Galliano’s skill was in his innovative ideas which refreshed the fashion industry. She used to work for Stephen Jones Millinery, and Stephen (and his milliners) made all the hats in the exhibition including the ones for John Galliano for Dior (which they used to do when she was there too!). Wow. Can I have a freebie hat please, Jane?!

The Golden Age of Couture exhibition runs 22 September 2007 – 6 January 2008 in Exhibition Room 39 and North Court.

We then went into the main exhibition which showed fashion from the 1700s to present day. It was fascinating to be able to compare and contrast the changing scene of British fashion. I took many photos, starting off with cute shoes from the 1700s which are so much smaller and narrower than shoes sold today …

I moved on to the clothes…

This is a wedding dress from 1830-33. In the 18th century most women had coloured wedding dresses which they continued to wear for special occasions. White muslin became fashionable in the 1790s as it was easier to wash than silk, and it became popular for wedding dresses.

This woman’s riding jacket dates from 1750-60, reflecting the influence of the fashionable Rococo style and accentuating the female shape.

This is a sack-back gown from 1774, the fabric hanging free from the shoulders and stacked in multiple deep pleats.

This is a court mantua from 1775, the most formal style of clothing, old fashioned in style with a long train and full petticoat. The mantua was once fashionable daywear, but after the 1740s it was worn only at Court.

This is a man’s Court waistcoat from the same period.

This is a day dress from 1818, recalling the clinging garments found on Greek and Roman statues.

This day dress from 1836 accentuates the slope of the shoulder and the tightness of the wrist.

This wedding dress from 1870 emulated the wedding dress worn by Queen Victoria in 1840.

Now here’s a stunner….

with close up detail….

This 1881 evening dress was created by Charles Frederick Worth, a couturier based in Paris who turned dressmaking into an art.

This opulent tea gown from 1900 has lavishings of embroidery, silk damask and lace. Under gas or candle light the jewelled bodice and skirt would have sparkled with tiny beads of light.

Underwear garments have changed drastically. By the late 19th century, the harmful effects of wearing corsets were now known, and more comfortable designs were produced, such as this ventilated corset from 1890 –

By the 1920s, corsets had given way to slips such as this one –

This day dress from 1924 reflects the boyish look that dominated women’s fashion during the 1920s, drop waisted with simpler shapes, and shorter hemlines exposing more leg.

This day dress comes from 1957, the full skirt epitomising the classic 1950s look.

The last dress shown in the collection is the dress worn by Princess Diana in 1989, an elegant touch to a beautiful collection.

It’s absolutely amazing how fashion has changed over the decades, isn’t it?

On the way out, we admired the modern glass chandelier hanging in the main entrance lobby. It was opulent in it’s own way, but a total contrast to what we had just seen. After wandering back through time, it was a shock to the system. It’s back to the real world!

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2 responses

6 12 2007
Tony B

Thanks for sharing your experience. It made me reflect back to my time in London when these kind of exhibitions was quite literally on my doorstep. That is one thing that I miss about London.

15 12 2007
Merrylin

Well done nice dress collection

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