By Hannah Moss | August 9, 2012
Ballgowns: 60 Years of British Glamour at the V&A
At SalesGossip we were very excited to hear about the V&A’s exhibition of ballgowns celebrating British glamour since 1950, timed to coincide with the reopening of the famous fashion galleries. Our editor Hannah went to take a look…
You know what they say, you should never meet you idols because they can never live up to your expectations – well often that goes for clothes too. Up close the fabric isn’t as lustrous, the stitching isn’t quite straight - flash bulbs having masked imperfections, adding an unperceivable veil of glamour. After eagerly anticipating the V&A’s ballgown exhibition I’m glad that there is no such disappointment to report here. It is well worth a visit to see such exquisite creations up close. Take the Erdem dress featured on many of the publicity shots – it’s only when you have this privileged view that you can see the craftsmanship involved in the embroidery and applique which build up the floral design around the skirt.
Set over two levels, you first enter the world of the debutante – where gowns from the 50s forward are displayed as if in boudoirs waiting for debs to come and get dressed before the ball. Many of the older designs still look strikingly modern. The Norman Hartnell silk gown with pink embellishment on the bodice could have come straight out of Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe. In fact a group of teenage schoolgirls looking around grimaced at the 70s chiffon, and gravitated towards the earlier gowns saying ‘look, these are more now’.
Where the glamorous age of the debutante may be over, the exhibition proves that the ballgown in still very much alive. Follow the staircase up to the central dome and you’ll find ballgowns from some of today’s most coveted designers, including Mary Katrantzou, Erdem, Alexander McQueen and Jenny Packham.
Aside from the specially commissioned dresses and catwalk creations, you’ll spot some famous gowns. Princess Diana’s heavily beaded Elvis dress, Daphne Guinness’s swan dress, and the Jenny Packham dress worn by Charlie impostor Ivy Dickens on Gossip Girl are all on display.
Once you’ve seen one ballgown you’ve definitely not seen them all. The expertly curated selection cuts across a diverse range of designers, eras, and inspirations – yet all capture the zeitgeist of a frozen point in time. The exhibition definitely leaves you wanting more.
I went for a wander around the reopened fashion galleries – the place the first piqued my interest in fashion as a little girl visiting the big city – where you can look in wonder at how women could have possibly squeezed into the tiny corsets or passed through doorways wearing the widest of mantuas.
The exhibition is set to run at the V&A until 6th January 2013. More good news is that there is that there is a Valentino couture retrospective at Somerset House to look forward to this November. Look out for more details soon.