Monthly Archives: June 2012

Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 at V&A

Ballgowns at Harrods reflection

The word ‘ballgown’ conjures up many different notions of style. It makes me think of animated Disney princesses, Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina, Grace Kelly’s poise captured in black and white photos, and lavish charity events in grand, sweeping ballrooms. Regardless of your interpretation, the latest exhibition at the V&A will no doubt tap in to your own princess fantasies.

Housed in the newly renovated Fashion wing of the V&A, Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, showcases a collection exquisite dresses, dating from the 1950s to the modern day, and includes designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Elizabeth Emmanuel (on half of the design team that made Princess Diana’s epic wedding dress) and Bellville Sassoon.

The exhibition is split over two levels. Downstairs the gowns are grouped vaguely according to colour, ranging from cinched waists and endless layers of silk organza, to oversized bows and neat rows of hand-sewn pearls. Short films are projected onto one wall which show adverts and documentaries of fashion houses from the 50s and 60s unveiling new collections in grand country mansions, displayed on models with pristine make-up and permeant smiles.

Victor Stiebel dress on display at the V&A's Ballgowns exhibition
A Victor Stiebel dress on display at the V&A’s Ballgowns exhibition

A modern, sweeping double entrance staircase in crisp white leads visitors to the upper level, where the museum has chosen to showcase a more modern take on these fairytale gowns. White wooden imitation chandeliers hang from the ceiling and ballroom dancing steps have been painted onto the white floor. Giant, peralescent balls form large-scale pearl necklaces, draped around each of the three stands, which house half a dozen dresses each.

Photographs of ballgowns from the V&A’s permanent collection are projected onto each of the four alcoves of the dome ceiling. It’s up here that young British designers take centre stage, with creations from Jonathan Saunders, Alexander McQueen, and Nicolas Oakenwell. These gowns are far more modern, and aren’t necessarily how I would picture a ballgown, but they demonstrate how the dresses featured on the ground floor have influenced current designers.

I fell in love with a 1950s design by Victor Stiebel, above, made from silk tafita and organza. The simplicity of the faded teal gown over the striped underskirt is, to me, sublime – simple and understated, but beautiful all the same.

Marcel Fromenti drawing from the V&A archives

Marcel Fromenti drawing from the V&A archives

There was a strict no photography (or even drawing) policy at the exhibition, but fortunately Harrods have also collaborated with the V&A to showcase their own collection of gowns, which is where the photos (top and below) in this post were taken. While in London it felt like the whole city had Ballgowns fever – even Miss Selfridge on Oxford Street had filled their shop with decadently dresses mannequins.

Ballgowns window display at Harrods

Ballgowns window display at Harrods

I thought the exhibition was wonderful, with a brilliant mix of old and new (such as a Gareth Pugh mirrorball dress) and it opened my eyes to a whole wealth of designers I’d never heard of before. While there (on a Thursday afternoon) the exhibtion was swarming with women of all ages and I think it (and the rest of the V&A) would be a great destination to take your mum or grandma. There is also a programme of free events and talks running alongside the exhibition, which sounds incredible – definitely worth coming back to London for!

Have you been to see Ballgowns yet? What did you think of it and was there a stand-out dress you loved?

Tickets: £10, concessions available. This exhibition runs until January 2013 so there’s no excuse not to see it! For more information and a list of events and lectures, visit the V&A website.

Rock The Week

Fashion related (and totally non-fashion related) things that have made my world go round over the last seven days…

  • Girly dinners. On Wednesday I had dinner at my friend B’s flat (the dinner party I attempted to make peanut butter blondies for) and five of us spent the evening eating amazing food, gossiping and making Oreo milkshakes. I had a great night and it was only dampened (quite literally) by walking home in the rain with hole-ridden shoes.
  • High street/designer collaborations. This week I blogged about an article I penned for Running in Heels. The topic was all about the collaborations that appear in Topshop, H&M etc and how I’m getting a tad tired of them. I also featured a sparkly, ballerina-inspired outfit earlier this week, above.

  • Lists for life. This week I stumbled on Gala’s 100 Things To Do Instead Of Procrastinating On The Internet list (reposted via Charlotte’s Web). I love these kinds of lists – they’re like affirmations and I’m happy to say that I can tick a lot of these off on a regular basis, though sadly I don’t yet own the world’s funkiest blender….
  • Dancing to Def Leopard. Last night a house warming party in Cheltenham turned in to a random evening in a venue called 2 Pigs, where we spent the wee hours of this morning dancing to Def Leopard, Thin Lizzy and Guns n Roses – amazing!

What’s been rocking your world this week? Let me know by commenting below…

The Designer/High Street Collaboration

High street vs designer collaborations

Earlier this month I wrote all about high street/designer collaborations for Running In Heels. You can read the article in full here, but in a nutshell I have a ramble about how bored I am by these seemingly brilliant collections.

One factor that I didn’t mention in the article was that none of these limited edition collections find their way to Bristol, which is another irritation (but one that probably saves me a lot of money). I get it though, brands need to think carefully about where to distribute stock, and the whole point is that these collections have an exclusive feel. However, even if Anna Dello Russo for H&M did find it’s way to the Broadmead branch of H&M, you still wouldn’t find me queuing outside at 6am!

Having said this, I feel like eating my words as it was announced last week that Martin Margiela is teaming up with H&M for their next designer collaboration (the collection with go on sale on 15th November) and I’m seriously excited about this as I was inspired by Margaiela collections while at university.

Take a look at the article and let me know what you think. Do you regularly queue up to get your hands on these high street/designer collaborations? Is there a brand or designer that you’d love to see paired up with a high street retailer?

Leather, sparkles and ballerinas

Zara skirt and colour coded books

Tonight I’m staying in and playing the domestic goddess as I attempt to bake some peaunut butter blondies, but on Saturday I went out for some cocktails and thought I’d share the outfit I wore.

After hanging pictures, cleaning the house, mounting the TV on the wall (possibly Mr Ship-Shape’s proudest achievement of the weekend) we went into town for happy hour at Las Iguanas, which sparked a mini cocktail crawl around central Bristol.

For the occasion I decided to wear the sparkling ballerina-inspired skirt I found in the January sales at Zara, which I can’t believe I almost considered taking back! When I was younger, I had a similar skirt from H&M which was shorter, more like a rara skirt really, and this feels like its grown up replacement. I paired it with white vest top and black lace body (just showing) and the leather jacket is one I picked up when I went to Florida a couple of years ago. The belt is vintage, courtesy of Grandma Ship-Shape, and my silver tap shoes are from Peacocks. They are falling apart at the seams and hurt my feet if I wear them for too long, but I love them! Do you have a pair of shoes you just can’t part with?

Zara skirt and leather jacketTa-da! More booksZara skirt and leather jacket

Skirt, Zara / silver tap shoes, Peacocks / belt, vintage / leather jacket, American (possibly from Macy’s) / white vest top, H&M / black lace body, good old M&S

Rock The Week

Fashion related (and totally non-fashion related) things that have made my world go round over the last seven days…

Roses shot with Diana+ Dreamer and redscale film

  • New make-up. This week I’ve been a bit lax with the whole blogging thing, but I did manage to squeeze in a review of my new lipstick, Brighton Rock, from Topshop.
  • Getting my lomo shots developed. I took my new Diana+ Dreamer on holiday and got the first roll of film developed today. I went with redscale film which I had anticipated would give a warm, orange tint to my images. This is less sunny, more night-vision googles! If any of you reading this are lomography buffs then do let me know where I went wrong : )
Roast dinner at The Cadbury

Our roast dinner at The Cadbury pub

  • Cadbury Roast dinner. This afternoon we popped out to the Cadbury in Montpelier for a roast dinner. I’ve never eaten in there before but lunch was delicious, as was the cheeky apple and sultana crumble I had for dessert. We’re off to watch Prometheus at the cinema now – looking forward to it.
  • DIY. Mr Ship-Shape and I have had quite a productive weekend working on the house. Mirrors and picture frames have been hung, the TV is now on a wall mount thingy and the place has been given a good clean. Although I’m naturally untidy, I always feel so much better when the house is clean and vaguely neat : )

What’s been rocking your world this week? Let me know by commenting below…