Yesterday I was in ballgown heaven as I was lucky enough to attend the press preview of the V&A’s new fashion exhibition – Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, which is the first exhibition in its newly renovated V&A Fashion Galleries. The exhibit charts the evolution of the ballgown from society-girl to red carpet glamour, and features British gowns from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, Erdem, as well as London Fashion Week favourites Mary Katrantzou, Holly Fulton, Mark Fast, and even a specially created metallic leather dress designed by Gareth Pugh for the exhibition.
I have to be honest, the Fashion Galleries themselves downstairs didn’t look too much different to me, they’ve added some cool illustrations and a few new commissions, but generally speaking there isn’t a drastic change; however upstairs is a different story, they’ve restored the gallery to its original architecture with its domed ceilings and added a mezzanine gallery, which really does open up the space.
Downstairs you wander around more traditional gowns, think ballgowns fit for royals, there were pieces designed by Hardy Aimes and Norman Hartnell, and Princess Diana’s ‘Elvis Dress’ designed by Catherine Walker has been taken out of storage. But it was upstairs that blew me away, the impact of the three domes filled with contemporary ballgowns was just incredible, my eyes were instantly drawn to Giles Deacon taking flight, then onto an Amanda Wakely design intertwined with a wooden chandelier prop, and then I settled on Vivienne Westwood’s dramatic gown. The first impression at the top of the stairs is intense, I kind of wish that was the start of the exhibit.
Giles Deacon - spring/summer 2007
There were a lot of gowns I liked, from the bright floral Erdem beauty to the exquisite feathered Alexander McQueen gown that Daphne Guinness wore to the Met Gala last year, and it was nice to see the likes of Holly Fulton, Craig Lawrence, Roksanda Illincic, and Mark Fast being part of the display.
Roksanda Illincic - spring/summer 2009
Jenny Packham gown that Sandra Bullock wore
But my favourites had to be the gorgeous gowns that celebrities have worn on the red carpet: there was Sandra Bullock’s gorgeous Jenny Packham gown that she wore to the 2011 Golden Globes; Ralph & Russo have recreated a crystal-covered dress worn by Beyonce, especially for the display; and Burberry even lent the museum one of the gowns that Rosie has worn. The biggest surprise was seeing Shailene Woodley’s Met Gala dress, designed by Christopher Kane, considering it only took place last week.
I have to admit I loved the exhibition, anything that showcases gorgeous gowns embellished with sequins, feathers, crystals, and made of the most exquisite fabrics gets my vote, I just wasn’t wowed by it all. I loved the way the gowns were showcased upstairs, you could see them from all different angles, and some of the gowns were rotating, I also loved the quirky oversized pearls that were dotted around. The best bit though was that it was nice to see that they hadn’t shut everything away behind glass as you can’t always see all the details as clearly.
Craig Lawrence, Christopher Kane and Ralph & Russo
Roksanda Illincic stands out
Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen
Loved the chandeliers and the domes
Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 opens on May 19, and runs until January 6, 2013, so no need to rush to take it in, but I would recommend buying your tickets online before you go. Adult tickets cost £10 and entry for students is £7.
Are you excited to see the ballgowns?
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