[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he V&A museum reopens the doors to it’s grand domed Fashion Gallery on Saturday with Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, an exhibition of more than 60 ballgowns from the 1950’s to today.
Such spectacular creations, once worn by young maidens at their coming out balls, at post-war Britain’s lavish balls, and later in the 1980’s at fashionable charity balls, are today more popular for red carpets and cat walks. Providing much glossy magazine fodder for the rest of us making do with rentals or high street copy’s for our special occasions. Now V&A are inviting us to lust after such opulence in the flesh, with headline making pieces such as Princess Diana’s ‘Elvis Dress’ and gowns worn by Sandra Bullock, Elizabeth Hurley and Bianca Jagger. According to V&A, “There is a strong British design tradition of creating sumptuous ballgowns, one that has been upheld in the late 20th and 21st centuries through the work of designers such as Hardy Amies, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. The exhibition covers more than 60 years of a tradition that continues to flourish.”
Ballgowns is largely made up of pieces from the V&A’s collection, also designated as the UK’s National Collection, and has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of dress in the world. Covering two floors, the exhibition shows old and current designs for social events such as royal state occasions, debutante balls, opening nights, catwalk shows and red carpet events by a range of designers from Ossie Clark and Catherine Walker to Alexander McQueen and Mary Katrantzou. Innovative designer Gareth Pugh has created a stunning metallic leather dress especially for the exhibition. Expect some spectacular features such as a stylised ‘ballroom’ space with around 30 evening gowns on open display under spectacular pavilions surrounded by oversized pearls, and unusual interpretations such as a latex gown by Atsuko Kudo. It’s enough to make me want to repeat my freshers ball, but this time with a Vivienne Westwood on, and no puking.
You can own your own piece of Great British Fashion for just £6 by way of a Royal Mail stamp set. Commissioned by the V&A, it includes designs from Hardy Amies and Vivienne Westwood, see below.