You may not be surprised to hear that this exhibition was shown at the Design Museum. Note the words ‘WOMEN’, ‘FASHION’ and ‘POWER’ on the moving clock hands.
Elisabeth of Bavaria (1837-98) in Vanity Fair, 1884, in a smart riding habit. Given that this exhibition was about women and power, I’m not sure if I should include the bit from the card that explains that she was the ‘wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria’. I’d leave it out on principle, but perhaps marriage to an emperor was a key defining point in her identity.
Dramatic Aesthetic dress with simple folds, above.
A swimming suit from c.1900 – how did women move their limbs when swimming / not catch a cold?
Corsets galore – the one on the far left looks very much like a cage made out of wooden slats.
What exhibition about women, fashion and power would be complete without the epitome of that trio – suffragette memorabilia? Great micro-display within the exhibition that showed the role that fashion had to play in the suffragette movement.
A satirical handkerchief from 1891 forecasting the world as run by women in 1981.
Can you guess what the hat below was for?
It was a motoring hat. I wonder if the women’s ones were all frilly like this?
The exhibition also showed the passage of time for more modern underwear, from a hand-sewn broderie anglaise brassiere (c.1920)…
…to a cinch corset by Triumph International (1950-55), below. The lace was machine-made:
This was a Women’s League of Health and Beauty uniform, c.1930s. A primer on how to look stylish whilst exercising in the Flirty Thirties, if ever there was one.
The first tuxedo introduced by Yves Saint Laurent in its A/W 1966 collection. Dubbed Le Smoking, this was a radical way for women to assert their power at the time.
A trio of Philip Treacy hats.
There was also a fashion timeline of sorts on display:
Fashion is subjective. There were pieces on display at the exhibition that I liked, that I didn’t quite like, or that I didn’t quite like but still admired, on principle. What I really appreciated about these clusters of clothes were the textures and fabrics, close up. Here’s a selection:
I’m fascinated by textures and textiles, whether to the touch, or the way they fold or flow in paintings, sculpture, or other forms of art.
This exhibition certainty went to some length to discuss historical notions of fashion as it helped and/or hindered women’s expression of power.
There certainly is a power in clothes that helps us to feel in certain ways. I think that the specifics depend on the individual, though. For instance, someone might feel comfortable in a loose silhouette, whereas someone else might feel like a sloth. I always feel different when I’m walking in heels. What about you – how does fashion make you feel?
Photos taken on an iPhone
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