Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world so we would have been crazy not to take the young people working on the Fabric of Life to London for a visit. The building its self is beautiful and with six floors of design history there was so much for our groups to see. With the research trip, plus taking two groups I have now visited the museum three times already in the past couple of months and could go back for more!
We paid particular attention to the fashion collection which is very handily laid out in historical order. Walking around you get a sense of how desirable body shapes have changed and the idea that we have cared about fashion and what people think about us for centuries. There is a real sense of generations forming their identity through the latest fashion.
At first glance, the playful print on this evening gown looks like a collection of disembodied faces, tumbling over the fabric in the Surrealist style popular in 1930s couture. In fact, the faces are portraits of the French writer and artist Jean Cocteau and his lover and muse Jean Marais.
Some of our participants loved the idea that this dress held a little secret.
These costumes were created for a performance of Because we Must – their design based on one of Bowery’s own clubbing outfits. Bowery’s distinctive, androgynous style had an important impact on the development of post-modern drag
These shirts from the 60s/70s were a great talking point for our participants. With bright, bold patterns there isn’t much to distinguish which has been made for men and which was made for women, only the buttons. We have had lots of discussions about buttons and why men’s shirts and women’s shirts button up on different sides (trousers are the same). There are lots of theories if you ask the internet but the most poplar is that it dates back to when women were dressed by a ladies maid. If this is true we keep asking ourselves, why do designers, shops, etc continue this?
Now that all of our groups have visited the V&A, their local museums and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we are ready to look at working with artists so the participants can explore what they have seen and learnt.
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