New V and A Fashion Galleries

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.

Roses in December (nearly)

The visibility outside today is about 10 feet. It’s misty and grey, Winter’s arrived very suddenly, and I just found these photos I took at the Geffrye Museum garden in July. They remind me of sunshine, flowers, and the best garden in London to eat your lunch.

White rose

White and pink roses

Geffrye museum garden with Hoxton station behind

The petals look exactly like beautiful silk fabric

Plants on display

Fruit tree

Orchid close up

Rose heart

Geffrye museum

The garden doesn’t open again until April (it shuts in October) but as soon as it does, I’ll be down there looking for the first signs of spring.

But don’t wait until then to visit the museum, which has 11 rooms showing furniture and objects from different historical eras. At Christmas they deck out each room with the appropriate period decorations and it’s lovely. One of my favourite places in London.

V&A Museum of Childhood

Museum of childhood sign

I love this museum.

It has a big Victorian entrance hall, a lot like the one at the Museum of Scotland.

It’s so fun to wander round – compact, nicely laid out, and stuffed to the gills with old toys that will give you sudden nostalgic flashbacks.

We totally had one of these!

It’s not all 80s moulded plastic, though. They have some amazing dollhouses that date back hundreds of years, and plenty of creepy dolls to stock them.

Victorian dolls house

Dolls house living room

I liked this old flyer for a music hall show, part of their current ‘Magic Worlds’ exhibition.

Not quite so keen on this terrifying beardy man. This is a children’s museum, right?

There’s some interesting vintage sewing bits and pieces – including these toy sewing machines (also a tiny washing machine and mangle!) Get the domestic servitude started early, that’s the ticket.

My favourite bit was a small exhibition in the front entrance, called The Stuff of Nightmares. It’s based on The Brothers Grimm’s Fundevogel, which apparently is “a tale of abduction, fear, evil old women, revenge and ultimately, friendship”.

Just ignore that lame ‘friendship’ part, which has clearly been added by a overly PC curator, because this is a delightful reminder of how twisted, scary, and bizarre the Grimm folk tales are.

Sorry for the multitude of photos but I couldn’t resist. The baby stealing bird! The strange, glowing, big eyed dogs! The AGM of weird creatures on a toadstool! The Victorian pram!

I strongly urge you to go and see this exhibition before it ends in February next year (it’s already been there since Jan 2011). It’s small but exceedingly odd and I loved it.

Also, the museum has a pleasingly geometric floor, which (true fact), was made by Victorian women prisoners at Woking prison.