Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 at the V&A by Emily Crutcher – ends 13 January 2013
‘What a delight!’
It was hard to think up an alterative way to begin this review. I thought I would try to avoid being the obvious enchanted female critic but, (apologies lads- and this does not mean you too will not enjoy the ball), its almost impossible. I arrived at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon and as I walked in to the circular exhibition space the noise of excited chattering ladies pleasantly greeted my ears. In twos and threes the girlies waltzed the floor. Sadly, I had gone alone hoping this would give me the chance to be the anonymous ‘flaneur’ strolling the social scene using the crowd as a veil.
Did I wish I was there with my best girl friends to gasp and groan with longing at these exquisite pieces? Absolutely. The exhibition is designed for pure pleasure, so just let the gowns speak for themselves in their most promiscuous tone and sweep you away…
A sense of the glamorous nostalgia for the 1950’s evades the first half of the exhibition. Eyes prized open and twinkling with glee drift from dress to dress, and you wandered between glassed displays grinning at the beauty of all these pieces. A strong desire to caress the velvety folds, to run your fingers across the delicate lace, the sumptuous silks and frothy chiffon is hard to keep at bay. The nostalgia returned as I personally couldn’t stop myself returning to my childhood dream of fashion design and whipped out my pencil to sketch my favourite dresses. To add to all this, the music that bounces in the background further encouraged the imagination to snatch up that ticket to the ball and float away.
Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 Sponsored by Coutts V&A images
So yes, although I have expressed that there is a distinct female perfume in the air of this show, this certainly does not mean that men are excluded from the party. The layout of the exhibition is genius and offers enjoyment to all. After ambulating around the first level you ascend a white staircase under the spotlight. Up here our contemporary designers take to the floor. The atmosphere has changed; the nostalgia has faded. The dresses are no longer placed behind glass cases, but three stands with a collection of dresses mounted on each.
S/S 2011 Alexander McQueen Christopher Moore, catwalking.com
They are exhibited at the centre of the space with benches placed around the perimeter. This is a space for harsh scrutiny of today’s most notable and expensive designers. The comments overheard in this arena; ‘didn’t Maggie Gyllenhaal look glowing in that!’ and ‘Oh dear, no, I’m not sure she’s got the figure… or complexion’.
This show will tantalise and tease all fashionistas and designers and the layout of the exhibition, curated by Join Sonnet Stanfill and Oriole Cullen, is a design in itself worthy of great marvel. Of course, I have not sneaked the secrets of who wore what to the party, so you will have to go and see for yourself which designers are on display. A word of warning though… as I made my exit gliding away down the white staircase I felt an urge to smash the glass of one of the cases and fall into the ‘narniaesque’ wardrobe and be transported to a 50’s ball. Fret not… I left unescorted and instead was satisfied with purchasing the beautiful V&A catalogue…. A little momento of this highly pleasurable day out.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Tel: 020 7942 2000
10.00 to 17.45 daily
10.00 to 22.00 Fridays (selected galleries remain open after 18.00 )
Closing commences 10 minutes before time stated