A spectacular exhibition is opening today at the V&A Museum in the newly redesigned Fashion Galleries of the museum: “Ballgowns – British Glamour since 1950“.
The show, spanning 60 years of British fashion, features more than 60 exclusive evening outfits from the most exquisite British designers of the second half of the 20th and the 21st centuries such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Hardy Amies, Zandra Rhodes as well as royal couturiers Norman Hartnell and Catherine Walker.
Ballgowns showcases tailored-made evening wear created for special occasions such as private parties, royal official balls and red carpet events; displayed over two levels, the show hosts the creations from the ’50s up to the turn of the 20th century on the ground floor of the renovated gallery 40, while the refurbished mezzanine features the “In the spotlight” section, dedicated to the latest fashion creations from contemporary British designers.
Downstairs a large section displays a selection of royal ballgowns, including Princess Diana’s “Elvis Dress” designed by Catherine Walker - though alas no Duchess of Cambridge dress is included, so many tourist will probably be disappointed at it - and a large number of extravagant posh formal wear, created for débutante balls – a tradition ended by the Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.
The display design for the ground floor is inspired by the country house dressing rooms and the mannequins are complemented by a set design made of retro vignette-style mirror and frames, armchairs, recreations of boiseries and giant accessories such as dressing table sets. The collection is displayed according to a colour-led order and presented in cases carpeted by a matching hue moquette.
The mezzanine level features 21th century British creations displayed in the brand new crinoline-like domes, modelled on the dramatic cupola ceiling of the gallery: I couldn’t help thinking of the recent display setting by Fabio Novembre for Steve McCurry’s photographic exhibition at Macro in Rome, where the Italian designer hung the picture in domed pavilions, recalling nomadic villages.
Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950
19 May 2012 – 6 January 2013
V&A Museum London