After months of anticipation, I recently ventured to the Victoria and Albert museum to see the new ‘Ballgowns’ exhibition. The fashion gallery is finally re-opened after its refurbishment and is much more spacious and open featuring new garments which they have added to the already stunning collection. A day devoted to admiring dresses “through the ages” – I couldn’t resist.
The Ballgowns exhibition itself was beautiful, situated in the middle of the fashion section within the V and A. To tie in with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations the exhibition celebrated 60 years of evening wear "from debutantes and royalty to charity balls and the red carpet". I loved the mix between older styles and modern designs as the exhibition featured designs from Bellville Sassoon, Michael Sherard and Bill Gibb mixed with contemporary designers such as Alexander McQueen, Mary katrantzou and Erdem.
The sheer craftsmanship behind some of the couture pieces was stunning as many of the dresses were hand made especially for clients. The exhibition also highlighted how much the typical "ball gown" dress has evolved over the years; contemporary design is more experimental and the choice of silhouettes is much broader. It was interesting to see how the traditions behind evening wear has been brought up to date and modernised. It seemed to me that especially with the dresses from the fifties women were not scared to dress overtly feminine with luxurious silky fabrics encrusted with jewels and sequins. It was a beautiful and thoughtfully considered exhibition and I hope to return again to stare longingly at some of the dresses and to sketch.
The exhibiton itself was displayed over two floors and a testament to the curators and designers behind the display was the focal staircase that was like something from a 60’s Audrey Hepburn film. It covers sixty years of British ballgown design and, to enhance the Royal Jubilee theme, a selection of royal ball gowns are also on display including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Diana’s ‘Elvis Dress’ designed by Catherine Walker and some present day gowns from contemporary, young royals.
To see some exquisite British design from both nostalgic days gone by and the modern take of ballgowns, the exhibition is running at the VandA until 13 January 2013.
Rachel Thom @ThomRachel