The V&A have been and done a great big old refurbishment of their fashion galleries.
The old galleries were pretty standard for a museum, divided into different areas with plasterboard walls. Now they’ve been transformed to reveal the bones of the space: a huge white hall with a beautiful dome, which is absolutely breathtaking when you walk in.
There’s a special exhibition space in the middle to replace the older one, which was always a bit too cramped and circular. To be honest, it doesn’t feel that much bigger but they’ve got a mezzanine level now to display more clothes (although that could just be a temporary thing for the ballgowns exhibition).
The big arches around the hall have huge photos projected on to them:
They’ve re-shuffled the permanent collection too. I only recognised a few things, like this black suit which I think is Charles Worth:
And this Christian Dior ‘Zemire’ dress which was painstakingly restored for the Golden Age of Haute Couture exhibition a few years ago:
I fell in love with this 1930s green Lanvin number.
I don’t remember if this floral Balenciaga dress was here before, but I would like to take it home please. There must be some insane structure going on underneath to make that shape.
And talking of structure, how about this humongous Victorian puff sleeve.
I liked this Victorian bodice as well, which is displayed with a matching length of fabric.
I could be wrong, but it seems like there’s a lot less on display than previously. I know the prevailing trend is towards enormous architectural spaces with just a few objects (like Tate Modern, which is probably one of the most overrated museums in London), but personally I prefer the ‘pile em high’ method of curation. On the other hand, the Textiles space at the V&A is along those lines, and it’s extremely old-fashioned and dingy and could do with a massive overhaul. And there’s no denying that the fashion galleries look a lot more impressive now.
I also had a quick look round the new Ballgowns exhibition. It’s okay. Not sure if it’s worth 8 quid to get in (I’m a member so it was free, hooray). There’s some beauties on the lower floor, but the upstairs showcases modern gowns, which are as strangely dull to look at in person as they are in those Oscar red carpet round-ups. It would be nice to have more background on the dresses.
Hopefully they’re just gearing up for the Hollywood Costume exhibition this autumn, which I can’t wait for.