Special Futures – Behind the Scenes at Manchester Gallery of Costume

IMG_7203

DIY punk outfit made by the donor in the 70’s

Every time you visit a museum you are seeing things picked out for collection and display by a series of curators and conservators, but have you ever stopped to consider why these specific things were chosen? Some might seem obviously beautiful, by a famous artist or designer, others shabby yet with a wonderful story attached. I was lucky enough to visit the Manchester Gallery of Costume archive this week and whilst chatting to curator Miles Lambert we mused how random it can be this collecting of things. Indeed what the hands of fate determine fit for such a ‘special future’ as Miles charmingly put it. Once in the museum collection, each item is cared for and respectfully kept, be it a Charles Worth gown or an H&M t-shirt. Monetary value isn’t important here but the value of knowledge and learning it can bring.

At the gallery you can request to see any item they have if they aren’t already on display, you just need to make an appointment. Anyone can do this, you don’t have to be a researcher, you can do it for pure pleasure. The collection is there for all of us. You can also view the collections online. I’ve wrote about the gallery numerous times, I could never get tired of visiting and if you are in Manchester be sure to pay a visit. The changing exhibition in currently Christian Dior which I reviewed for Style.Etc magazine and will tell you more about soon.

IMG_7216

Jacket with tails by Charles Worth

IMG_7245

Givenchy dress belonging to Audrey Hepburn

IMG_7256

Schiaparelli coat with gilt metal embroidery 

Continue reading

Dance Shoes, Shanks and Ferragamo

NMAG (4)

NMAG (3)

Late Victorian shoes made by Gooch London; Shoe Galleries, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery.

If you have ever looked at historical shoes they all have one thing in common. Take these two pairs from the 1890’s what do you notice? They are floppy right? There is no arch support, they are literally like a flat shoe with a heel stuck on. The part that is missing? The shank, a piece of metal which runs from heel and along the arch to support the foot, first pioneered by Mr Salvatore Ferragamo.

“‘I discovered’, he wrote,’ that the weight of the bodies
when we are standing erect drops straight down on
the arch of the foot. I constructed my revolutionary lasts,
which supporting the arch, make the foot act like an
inverted pendulum.’

-Salvatore Ferragamo

_48376529_p116374-foot_in_high-heel_shoe-spl-1

This X-Ray of a high heel shows the metal shank running along the arch, BBC.co.uk

Since the shank was invented, by paying attention to the anatomy of the foot, we have been able to enjoy wearing high heels – I’ve no idea how anyone every managed to walk in those antique shoes! But if you take a look at dance shoes you will notice they bear a resemblance to the historical shoes, why? Well dancers need their feet to be flexible so the last thing they want is a shank or hard sole. In fact you can usually bend most dance shoes in half! Dance shoes need soft soles which slide across the floor so suede is a popular material for ballet shoes and Latin dance shoes, where as Hip-Hop shoes require more bounce so rubber is used but with a break under the arch for flexibility.

capezio-fizzion-e capezio-rockit-dansneaker-exp

Dance trainer images from Dancmania

You don’t make Fame without flexible shoes!fama_el_remake

Fame image from Cinemarat

Being lucky enough to study footwear I am always pleasantly surprised with how shoes have developed, things which have changed, stayed the same and developed.

DSC_3951

Shoes from the past 100 years including those by Salvatore Ferragamo from 1955 and 1970, Shoe Galleries, NMAG

Untitled1

My column Fancy That! for STYLE.etc magazine delves into the history of the heelless shoe this month – hint it didn’t originate with Jeffery Campbell.

Gone Roman

roamn 3

 I admit I have a very cool job, but some days it seems even cooler than usual. Above you can see my Vivienne Westwood toe shoes, directly above is the leather sole from an archaeological Roman sandal- notice anything similar? Yes it too has a toe shape cut out, some of them just have the first toe and others have all five toes defined. These sandals would have had leather straps attached to the sole just the same as our sandals today. Fascinatingly both my shoes and the Roman shoes were made in London.

roamn 2

In fact the popular ‘Gladiator sandals’ are inspired by their original Roman counterpart. At the Museum of London they have recently included some modern items in the cases to illustrate their purpose. Personally I think this is a great idea, especially for children to help them gain perspective. We often forget that simple, every day items and steeped in history.

roamn

For the Love of Lilly

101_7406

(Wearing vintage Lilly Pulitzer dress, vintage necklace, Christian Louboutin Rondaldo Zipper Court Shoes)

I was met with the sad news that designer Lilly Pulitzer had passed away aged 81 yesterday morning.

Her facebook page read Early this morning, Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau passed away peacefully in Palm Beach, surrounded by family and loved ones. Lilly has been a true inspiration to us and we will miss her. In the days and weeks ahead we will celebrate all that Lilly meant to us. Lilly was a true original who has brought together generations through her bright and happy mark on the world.”

I wanted to add my own tribute to Lilly, a true creative and someone who just wanted to put fun into the world. I bought my first ‘Lilly’ two years ago, a chance finding in a vintage shop for just a few pounds. Which I am wearing above. The acid bright, cheerful print made me smile when I found it and makes me smile every time I pull it out. It is such a versatile dress, it can be dressed up or down. Here I have dressed it up with towering heels, but it also looks fab with my French Sole ballet shoes and sandals.Of course I had heard about Lilly before I found my dress, however it wasn’t until after falling in love with my dress that I wanted to discover more about the designer. You can read a short history of Lilly and her design journey on her website and blog, it is a fascinating story which all stated with a juice stand in Palm Beach – Lilly first created her prints to hide the bright stains on her dresses from the juice! When her old school friend Jackie Kennedy was┬á photographed wearing a ‘Lilly’ on holiday huge demand was created for the dresses. Lilly ended up selling more dresses than juice and so her business took off.

Screen-shot-2011-02-22-at-9.31.59-AM

 Jackie Kennedy wearing a Lilly Pulitzer dress

$(KGrHqFHJB8E7y)8tZ1LBPCwq92jIg~~60_57

 

Since buying my dress I have been on the look out for more ‘Lilly’s’, in a strange twist of fate I found this one yesterday. Thank you Lilly.┬á You were a fine example of how a lot of hard work and a little luck is all you need to follow your dreams.

 

51620ba14af4b.preview-620

Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau 1931 – 2013

(Images -Jackie via thefashionexaminer.com; Lilly via qctimes.com)

A Tale of Two Wedding Dresses

 DSC_3245

Something which I have always been interested in, and that now forms part of my new job (I know, I know will tell you all about that soon enough), are the different ways museums and galleries choose to display exhibits. These two dresses might be the last things you would expect to find in an art gallery, but here they are in Manchester Art Gallery, Mosely Street. The small exhibition illustrates how the designer Vivienne Westwood took inspiration from the 18th Century by showing one of her dresses in a room full of period paintings and of course a dress from 1765. Designers often state times and places of inspiration, yet it is difficult to get inside their mindset without having prior knowledge of what they are quoting. This exhibit lets the viewer envelope themselves in the art work of the time, whilst also having the rare opportunity to compare an 18th C dress with a Westwood design it inspired.
I am particularly interested in peoples history, so was delighted to read that the Westwood dress was in fact the wedding dress of the museum director. How wonderful to see your wedding dress everyday in your place of work, than have it hidden in the back of your closet!

 Raiding History: Vivienne Westwood and the 18th Century

‘..it’s so important to look at the past. Because people did have taste, and they did have ideas of excellence, and those things are not going to come unless people look at the past.’ Vivienne Westwood

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is famous for her re-interpretations of historic dress and textiles. Here we have displayed one of her couture gowns with a dress and portraits from the 1700s to show how the art inspires her.

Wedding dress 2010 designed by Vivienne Westwood (1941-)

Evening gown in printed blue and silver chine silk. The delicate fabric, pastel colours, full skirts and corseting of this gown recall the open and sack back  dresses of the 1700s. Typically of Westwood however, the dress is not a copy or pastiche. The past is combined with her own ideas to create new and original clothes for our time. This dress was worn as her wedding dress by Maria Balshaw, Director of the Manchester City Galleries. Dress on loan from Maria Balshaw to Manchester City Galleries.

Wedding dress (Open robe) 1765

(Sack back) gown or ‘robe a la francaise’ in pale blue and silver figured silk. The ‘Sack back’ gown was the most formal type of women’s dress in the late 1700s. It was reserved for official occasions such as receptions, weddings and appearances at court. Like many silk dresses from the period this example has been altered a great deal. The dress is said to have been worn as her wedding dress by Sarah Gamson from Gringly-super-Montem in Nottinghamshire. Sarah was born in 1750 and married age 15 in 1765. Manchester City Galleries 1947.137.

DSC_3267DSC_3257DSC_3270DSC_3266DSC_3274DSC_3259DSC_3254DSC_3261DSC_3247DSC_3262

Funnily enough, the day I saw this exhibition my friend Chris gave me these two books on historical fashion one including dresses from the 1700s!

downloadnnn

Kobi Levi Shoe Exhibition

DSC_4520 DSC_4531DSC_4527DSC_4525DSC_4523

From top: Flamingo, Cheerleader, Coffee, Market Trolly, Slide

Kobi Levi is most famously know for his quirky, often cartoon-like footwear designs. The Israeli designer pushes boundaries by taking every day objects and interpreting them into shoes. Most of the designs are fun (‘Blond Ambition’ and Banana’) however some are sexual (‘Blow’ and ‘XXX’) others somewhat disturbing (‘Mother & Daughter’ and ‘Double Boots‘). From court shoes to mules, wedges to boots Levi’s imagination has no limits.

“In my artistic footwear design the shoe is my canvas. The trigger to create a new piece comes when an idea, a concept and/or an image comes to mind. The combination of the image and footwear creates a new hybrid and the design/concept comes to life. The piece is a wearable sculpture. It is “alive” with/out the foot/body. Most of the inspirations are out of the “shoe-world”, and give the footwear an extreme transformation. The result is usually humoristic with a unique point of view about footwear. Another aspect of the creation is the realization.” Kobi Levi

You can see more Kobi Lev designs on his blog or visit the exhibition and other displays of shoes, at the Northampton Shoe Museum.

Kitty & the Bulldog: Lolita Fashion Exhibition V&A

 DSC_3616

Kitty, as in Hello Kitty and the Bulldog, as in the British Bulldog, representing the juxtaposition of Japanese and British fashions. The exhibition examines how British fashion influenced the Japanese street-style know as Lolita fashion. On thing to be clear is that Japanese Lolita has nothing to do with the novel of the same name. In fact the two are at opposing ends of the spectrum, as Lolita fashion is every thing to do with cuteness (kawaii) and innocence. The clothing is modest, skirts below the knee and prim blouses buttoned to the neck. In a way it is a rebellion against the overtly sexualised way women are represented, killing it with cuteness. Taking pretty and feminine to the extreme.

Lolita fashion arose in Japan sometime during the 1980’s, the aim to dress in such a modest and elegant way, living a pure, untainted life. Original inspiration comes from Victorian and Rococo eras, the most iconic of Lolita outfits somewhat resembling a Victorian doll. As Lolita became more popular different sub-cultures grew, many incorporating elements of Western fashion.

“A striking feature of Lolita fashion is the extent to which it is influenced by British culture: Alice in Wonderland, Glam Rock, the New Romantics, Gothic, Punk and Vivienne Westwood. Although the attitude and aggression of Punk and Gothic have no place in the world of the Lolita, the movement represents a similarly powerful rebellion against the conventions of contemporary society.”

An interesting aspect of Lolita fashion is how the sub-cultures arise. It is a very much brand lead market, with each sub-culture having one or more main brands who produce the clothing. Though wearing a brand doesn’t immediately put the wearer into a specific sub-culture it is still very much dependent on the full co-ordinate (outfit), some brands can be interpreted into many sub-cultures and others more static. It turn this mainstreamed the fashion and made it assessable outside Japan. The V&A exhibition focuses on the brands and the sub-cultures which they promote.

DSC_3602

Classic Lolita

Classic Lolita is represented by an Innocent Word outfit, the focal point is the Rococo influenced dress which has a red putti (cherub) and rabbit print. The simple colour pallet and softening aspects such as the lace wristlets, shawl and parasol mark out the style. Adding to the look are the sweet little knitted bunnies carried in the basket, reenforcing the innocence being portrayed. Innocent World was founded by Yumi Fujiwara and produces both Classic and Sweet Lolita styles.

DSC_3571

Sweet Lolita (left) and Alice and the Pirates (right)

Sweet Lolita is the oldest of the Lolita styles, originating in the 1980s with brands such as Shirley Temple and Pink House. It is also one of the most popular styles outside Japan. Easily recognisable, the look is all about pastel colours such as pink, blue, purple and green. The pastels are further sweetened with the addition of candy themed prints such as sweets, cupcakes, macarons and ice cream however there are many other prints, anything goes so long as it is cute. Huge hair bows and pastel coloured wigs are also popular. The Sweet Lolita outfit show here is by the mega brand Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (BTSSB or Baby for short). The Tokyo brand was established in 1988 by Akinori and Fumiyo Isobe, however it was in 2004 when the company was launched to fame by the film Shimotsuma Monogatari ‘Shimtosuma story‘ (re-released in 2006 as Kamikaze Girls with English subtitles). In the film the main character Momoko is a Lolita who wears BTSSB exclusively through out the film. The film, based on the 2002 novella by Novala Takemoto, tell the story of a young girl and her trials and tribulations to have her dream wardrobe, but is essentially a story about friendship something at the heart of the Lolita community.

The second outfit shown above is from Alice and the Pirates a sub-brand of BTSSB, created to meet the needs of the growing popularity for more Gothic styles. Whilst still sweet it has slightly darker undertones, influenced by Alice in Wonderland and Pirates (as in the Vivienne Westwood 1981 ‘Pirate’ collection, more romantic than pillaging the high seas). In this ensemble the striped tights and clock handbag hit at aspects from Alice in Wonderland, along with the black ribbons marking it out from it’s Sweet counterpart.

DSC_3575  DSC_3555DSC_3560

Elegant Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita is another popular branch of Lolita fashion, most recognisable by the use of black and white. The Lolita Gothic style relates back to Victorian Gothic and though uses dark colours it is still very much related to sweetness and innocence. One of the main Gothic Lolita brands is Moi-m├¬me-Moiti├® created by Mana of the band Malice Mizer in 1999 to define his own style. This sub-brance of Gothic Lolita is know as Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL). for girls and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA) for guys. The vivid blue in the above outfit is often used by the brand.

GDSC_3526DSC_3542DSC_3528

Gothic Lolita

The above outfit is also Gothic Lolita, this design is by Alice Auaa who established the brand in 1995. This brand is somewhat set apart from other Lolita styles due to the interest in S&M, bondage and Gothic horror. The couture-like designs are now show in runway fashion shows and at price points beyond reach of many, yet the workmanship is exquisite.

DSC_3494DSC_3503

Punk Lolita

Punk Lolita is perhaps the most surprising evolution of the Lolita sub-styles. As a Brit the anarchic ways of British Punk are well know, yet Punk Lolita takes bad-ass and makes it cuddly! Zippers, safty pins, tartan, studs and chains are all combined with the pretty, girly Lolita silhouette. The above outfit is by Putumayo, who opened their first store in Harajuku in 1990. They stock punk items including things suitable or Punk Lolita but are not an exclusively Lolita brand.

DSC_3478

Punk Lolita

This Punk Lolita outfit is quite detached from the frilly, full skirts of the Lolita styles we have already looked at. The outfit is actually unisex and is a real hybrid of cultural styles. The clothing here is from the brands Sixh. and MINT Neko both belonging to the umbrella company KINCS clothing group. It is a much more casual style and something which is very similar to what is seen worn in the UK if you replaced the sandals with Converse.

 DSC_3460DSC_3473DSC_3469

Japanese Lolita

Japanese Lolita is a strikingly different look to the Sweet and Classic styles, the most obvious features are that the clothes have traditional Japanese influence rather than European. The first outfit is by Takuya Angel, established in 1995 by self taught designer Takuya Sawada, who hand-makes all of his designs. He recycles old kimono material which is a trademark of his brand. Along with taking influence from Japanese culture the brand has elements of Cyber-Goth.

  DSC_3447DSC_3457DSC_3449

Japanese Lolita

The most traditional of Japanese clothing is this outfit by Mamechiyo Modern. The designer who had been a vintage kimono dealer for many years set out to make kimono more wearable for everyday use with her own label. The designer experiments by introducing none traditional elements such as the headdress and lace collar, bringing appeal to the younger market.

DSC_3627

The exhibition was placed amongst historical Japanese displays, giving a wide perspective of the country past and present. I found it particularly intriguing to see in contrast to the Samurai armor and traditional kimono.

The exhibition is on until 24th Feb 2013, more information can be found on the V&A website.

2012fh9347-sweet-lolis-vanda_610x344

UK lolita’s visiting the exhibition, image (c) V&A

A Vivienne Westwood Country Gent

DSC_3672

Vivienne Westwood ‘Savile’ jacket in tartan tweed,┬á with wool trousers and waistcoat. Velvet smoking slipper ‘Rocking Horse’ shoes, 1996. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A striking ensemble in the V&A fashion gallery. Classic Westwood tailoring featuring a ‘drunken’ tailored waistcoat and ‘Teddy Boy’ structured jacket. The tartan and velvet slippers for a real country gent look -with a twist!

This outfit always reminds me of my fabulous friend Chris as I could just see him wearing it. I also like seeing continued use of traditional tartans in Westwood work, the dark green, blues and greys have been a firm favourite Even this season the Menswear featured a stunning selection of suiting in the Black Watch tartan. The Smoking Slipper Rocking Horse shoe is not longer produced however the slipper style has been back with a bang this past year thanks to Mr Louboutin’s ‘Rollerball’ studded slipper. Westwood have produced the most stunning Union Jack printed slipper which would be the perfect finish to a dark tartan suit. I admit if they had come in smaller sizes I would have bought myself a pair. Good job I have so many male friends I can play dress up with!

DSC_3678

Do you ever dress up your friends in your mind? Or imagine who might have worn the clothes on display?

Taking History Outside the Museum – Opinions Please!

8231_127368413730_3312462_npaul stone

Vivienne Westwood exhibit some of their vintage shoes in the Conduit Street store window for a Fashion Night Out event. Image courtesy Vivienne Westood Ltd.

What do you think about museums?

That might seem an odd question, I bet almost everyone reading this has been to a museum in their life time. Perhaps you frequent you local museum often, take a special trip for new exhibitions, appreciate their air-con when on holiday or remember seeing the dinosaurs on a school trip when you were young. But, what do you really think about them? Are they something you get excited about? Or a place which only enters your thoughts on a rainy day?

How about with regards to fashion? Do you imagine them full of dusty old clothes from the Victorian ere, irrelevant today? Recently there has been something of a shift in the way fashion and museums relate. There have been more current fashion exhibitions such as the Valentino exhibit on right now at Somerset House, the Ballgowns at the V&A and the Christian Louboutin exhibition at Design museum. The exhibition may seem a little more current but they are still being held in traditional museum contexts. In contrast to this there are some exhibitions which are bursting out of the box so to speak. The Chanel exhibition at Harrods, Vivienne Westwood shoes at Selfridges. Would you feel more inclined to visit an exhibition if it were in a more accessible location? Do you think it seems less formal holding an exhibition in a retail space? Would it seem more fun perusing displays as you would do on a clothes shopping trip rather than gazing at traditional museum cases?

I have included some photo’s here of some traditional and more edgy exhibition spaces. I would really like to know your thoughts.

IMG-20121024-00044

The Sneaking into Fashion temporary exhibition hosted by Javari.co.uk, displayed the shoes in cases along the main walk way in convent garden making it easy for people to view as they shopped

christianlouboutin exhibit london

The Louboutin exhibition displayed the shoes in innovative ways, no glass cases here! Image via ibtimes.com.

DSC_3628

The V&A recently acquired a set of Japanese Lolita fashion outfit to show the diverse trend in their ‘Kitty and the Bulldog’ exhibition, it is displayed amongst the traditional Japanese history collection.

DSC_4011

A traditional museum display at Northampton Shoes museum however this display has bright and colourful information boards behind the shoes to give them context and tell a story

northampton

Northampton Shoe museum show a blown-up photo of Naomi Campbell taking her famous runway tumble in the Vivienne Westwood ‘Super elevated Gille’ shoes. Do you like to see the background to the shoe illustrated rather than just lots of text?

If you have any other thoughts or opinions on museums at all I’d like to hear them. Is there anything that puts you off visiting? Do you think museums should be there for education or entertainment?

Which of the displays above is your favourite and why?

Cinderella Stories

Christian Louboutin

Versace

Two designers interpretation of the Cinderella fairy tale for the Harrods windows. Christian Louboutin used cream lace over tulle studded with sparkling Swarovski crystals and applique butterflies (top). Versace went for a modern pointed stiletto in clear PVC, accents of metallic pick used on the heel and the brand logo. Both houses choose court shoes in their design. Accompanying a shimmering full skirted strapless gown. On the street outside a huge clock face is projected, the hands almost at 12 midnight.

cinderella

Walt Disney (courtesy Disney)

The Cinderella story we are all most familiar with today is likely to be the Walt Disney version, where the handsome Prince rescues Cinderella from her cruel step-mother and awful step-sisters. The presence of the glass slipper is pivotal to the story, had the girl not lost her slipper, the Prince would have had no means of finding her again. The fact that the slippers are crafted from glass makes no sense, a real pair of glass shoes could never be worn, the material would be unmoulding preventing the foot from flexing and of course it would be dangerous, at risk of shattering. Why is the the slipper being made from glass important to the story? The material itself is not at all malleable and┬á prevents the anyone but the true owner from fitting into the shoe – securing the Prince finding it’s rightful owner. The unrealistic nature of the shoe also lends further magic to the fairytale. The tale itself however can be traced back for many years and across many countries. The main theme of the lost shoe is retained however the shoe comes in the form of leather sandals, fur shoes and even gold slippers.

Maison Martin Margiela (courtesy of MaisonMartinMargiela.com)

Throughout my childhood I often wondered what a real pair of glass slippers would look like. Maison Martin Margiela created a beautiful glass version, purely for show of course. For all practical purposes a material such as transparent perspex would work giving a similar illusion to glass. Only trouble is when you mention a perspex shoe most people will recall the traditional stripper shoe! High fashion has created many stylish variations such as my personal favourite Prada SS10 and the recent reinvention of the Maison Martin Margiela perspex wedge for H&M. So perhaps we can all be modern day Cinderella’s.

Pole dancing shoes (courtesy hotstrippershoes.com)