Beautiful British Ballgowns at the V&A


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Posted by Kirstie

Ballgowns at the V&A Museum

During my recent girly weekend to London where I stayed at the luxurious Cavendish Hotel, I took time out to visit the newest exhibition at the V&A Museum, Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950. As it was the opening weekend I had to queue for tickets to get in but this only increased my sense of excitement. This was definitely a hot ticket to get hold of. This new exhibition, which runs until January 2013, has been launched in celebration of the museum’s recently renovated Fashion Galleries and features more than sixty breathtaking ball gowns by British designers created since 1950.

The exhibition was held in the centre of the circular Fashion Gallery and was split over two levels with the displays on the lower level of the more historic gowns. Lit with a dim glow, the gowns were set against pink and purple toned enlarged archival images of hand mirrors, powder puffs and jewellery that gave the setting a girly, boudoir atmosphere. Iconic quotes from the display text panels were transferred to the crisp white walls in a feminine scroll that gave tantalising insights into the gowns’ history.

Ballgowns Exhibition V&Av

These displays focused on the change in styles throughout the decades, with the occasions for wearing ball gowns changing from royal celebrations to the less formal charity balls. The demure petticoat style dress worn by The Queen Mother was juxtaposed by more seductive and glamorous gowns, such as the 1986 black and red backless satin dress designed by Victor Edelstein.

The stunning display on the mezzanine level had more of an emphasis on the fashion element to the design of ball gowns. One of my favourite features was the projections onto the alcoves of the rotunda of photographs of the gowns taken by David Hughes. These enlarged images really added to the sense of drama and decadence that the haute couture dresses demand. These dresses also reflected the current trend for ball gown style dresses to be worn by supermodels and pop singers, with one of Beyonce’s glittering numbers on display in all its dazzling glory. I was particularly impressed to see the range of new and innovative materials used in these more current gowns, from a printed latex dress by Atsuko Kudo, to a Gareth Pugh dress made from silvered leather that had the feel of a contemporary suit of armour.

I think this new exhibition would make the perfect addition to any girly London break as I certainly enjoyed taking time out to see it. In a Diamond Jubilee year it felt really special to be surrounded by the pinnacle of British design talent, held in an historic British institution.


Are you planning on seeing this latest exhibition from the V&A?

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