Friday 12 July 2013

Club to Catwalk - London Fashion in the 1980s at the V&A

On Tuesday I popped along to the new exhibition at the V&A and as it was clothing related I thought it was worth a little mention on here! The fashions exhibited are all at the more extreme exhibitionist end of 1980s fashion so there weren't many ideas to take away sewing wise (at least not unless I'm going to attempt something of a Vivienne Westwood level of construction, which let face it as much as I'd like to be that good, I''m not) but it was still a very interesting and worthwhile visit.

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The exhibition is in the centre and upstairs level of the fashion gallery (where the ball-gown exhibition was if any of you made it to that) and as always at the V&A is laid out in a logical and thoughtful manner. The only thing that irked me about the layout was the placement of the placards describing each item on the upstairs level. Here you could walk all the way around the mannequins as they weren't behind glass and positioned in the centre of the room (which is amazing, and a big thumbs from me. I think being able to see all angles of a design is important and the next thing I want is to be able to see inside too! Mmm construction!). However, the little placards were generally all down one side of the platform so if you were viewing mannequins from the other side, which was sometimes the front view where you'd expect the writing to be, you'd have to walk around to the other side if you were interested in knowing more.

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Anyway, back to the content of the exhibition. The lower level focuses on the catwalk part of the exhibition, with each case focused on a different designer or aspect of design from that decade, like knitwear for example. A big plus point for the exhibition for me is that men's wear was covered, especially as men's fashion was definitely as interesting and extravagant as the ladies during this decade. There were some amazing and quite iconic designs displayed from designers such as John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, and Katherine Hamnett. There was also some brilliant footage from fashion shows of that era (which was when London Fashion Week first happened) and some classic 80s tunes playing to help you get into the mindset! A little tip for you if you do get the chance to go, remember to look at the heads and feet of the mannequins as along with the clothing there are some great examples of footwear and accessories, including an incredible selection of Stephen Jones hats throughout.

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Upstairs you enter the realm of dressing for the clubs of 1980s London. I found this area more fascinating than the catwalk designs as quite a lot of these clothes were ideas that the wearers themselves had come up with, customised or even made. This part of the exhibition focuses on how popstars, night club owners and everyday people developed fashion by experimenting and creating their own alternative looks, the idea being that fashion allows you to express yourself. The space was roughly divided into areas for the different key looks of the decade, many of which, I learned, developed in association with a particular club of the time such as the goth looks in 'Hell' and the high camp looks of 'Heaven' and 'Taboo'. Traditional punk, new romantic, rave and body con looks are also displayed. One of my favourite parts of the exhibition is upstairs too, a room with various screens displaying fascinating bits of footage from the clubs mentioned.

I thought the exhibition does a great job of conjuring up an overall insight and look into that kind of culture of dress in a specific time. All in all well worth a trip, if just to see some of these extreme creations in reality.


  1. woah, looks like a fun exhibit! VERY 80's! Some of those shapes...I'm still not too keen on. :)

    1. It was fun yes! Especially because it was showcasing some of the extreme fashions but yet they are still very recognisable! Don't think some of those trends will be coming around again any time soon!

    2. it was amazing :D so many different ideas to focus on... i felt like a kid in a candy store!


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