Started out in the V&A. Philosopher had wanted to see an exhibition of Russian theatre designs, but we started with the Wedding Dresses, which I had fancied seeing. Battleaxe would recommend it. No photographs were allowed, which is always annoying, but there are plenty on the internet. Here are a few:
|Cotton - 1841. Wedding dresses weren't always white, and were designed to be worn again.|
|Norman Hartnell, worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, 1933|
|Dita von Teese in her Vivienne Westwood wedding dress, loaned to the exhibition|
|Kate Moss - Galliano|
|Costume Design, Vladimir Tatlin 1915|
|Constructivist stage set, Alexander Exter|
|Beautiful V&A Jewellery Gallery|
Next day, we started off at the Jewish Museum, in Camden Town. Philosopher had wanted to see 'Designing the Twentieth Century', the Life and Work of Abram Games. Many people may not have heard of Games, but he designed some very familiar images, including the 1951 Festival of Britain logo. The exhibition was excellent.
|Wartime - this poster was withdrawn because the woman was 'too beautiful'/|
|Festival of Britain logo|
Lastly, we went down south again for my final choice, the 'Women, Fashion, Power' exhibition at the Design Museum. It was one of the most annoying and pointless exhibitions I have ever seen - just totally fatuous. It just seemed to be an opportunity for a load of luvvy women to present their favourite outfits, rather than any sort of reasoned examination of why women choose particular clothes in order to look/feel powerful. Is it about projecting femininity and sexuality? Is it about apeing men? Is it about clothes as armour? As disguise? About attracting attention?
For example, they had a display of corsets, with no narrative or interpretation - no mention of the paradox inherent in wearing such garments. On the one hand, the constriction makes the wearer faint - not powerful. On the other hand, the constriction makes the wearer feel stronger, more grounded. A corset projects a powerfully sexual image - dominatrices, burlesque dancers - and so on. When women left off their corsets in the 1920s, they were freer - but they bound their breasts to appear like young girls....
Another example, at the start, they had a parade of pictures of apparently powerful women. Hatshepsut in her male Pharoah's outfit - fine. Joan of Arc in her armour - fine. Then opposite, Maggie Thatcher, in her suit - fine, but next to Jackie Kennedy, the ultimate victim...
The exhibition was designed by Zaha Hadid, and one of her very distinctive outfits was on show. But why does she choose to dress as she does? What do her clothes do for her? We aren't told.
I felt really fired up with rage, and ranted unstoppably to Philosopher for about the next hour....
I'll finish with a woman dressing for power who was not even referred to in the exhibition - Elizabeth I. This is the 'Ermine Portrait' by Nicholas Hilliard. For scholars of symbolism, every aspect of her ensemble conveys meaning, and yet the black and white outfit was also one of her own personal favourites.
|Elizabeth I - The Ermine Portrait|