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Victoria & Albert Museum

There are few things as enjoyable as spending a day with my friend Teresa (artist, violinist and all round extraordinary person). And there are few places I like better than the V & A. So combining the two (not for the first time I might add) on Friday was a delight! Last time we did the ceramics galleries (wonderful) but this time it was back to my old favourite the fashion galleries. I’m sure the current exhibition on ball gowns is very good but to be honest I’m very happy just perusing the regular collection – where they are always ringing the changes anyway.

Dress with bustle Pink day dress

In this section there are always two things that strike me: How can women have ever dressed in such a ridiculous, body deforming and uncomfortable way? And secondly, how truly magnificent the fabrics, embroidery, workmanship and attention to detail were.

Silly wide dress

But let’s deal first with the former. It seems that for centuries women have been trussed up, like oven ready turkeys – the Western equivalent of bound feet. Waists cinched in to fainting point, hoops, bustles, stays a whole variety of paraphernalia to create an unreal and often bizarre body shape. It must have been the most wonderful relief when in the 1920s and 30s a lot of this gave way to more flowing, less constricted clothing. Women could finally take a deep breath and let it out without ending up face down on the carpet from the effort. The 50s were a bit of a retrograde step from the point of view of comfort (though the look was soooooo beautiful who could resist it?) with waists pinched in again – is it true Mitzi Gaynor had her floating ribs removed to achieve a smaller waist?

50s suit fan A very jolly hat

But leaving aside the discomfort . . . the fabrics from times gone by were gorgeous beyond belief. Gold thread embroidery, tiny perfect stitches and pleating, beautiful buttons, wonderful tailoring – we will never see the like of these again. Or perhaps if you are rich enough you do? But not in the likes of Jigsaw – shame!

Embroidered fabric velvet 30s skirt

And to top it all, early grey and a scone in what must surely be the most spectacular caf´┐Ż setting in London! The V&A – I just love it!

Teresa and the arse


Side wall

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