Club to Catwalk, London Fashion in the 80’s at the V & A.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I went to the Club to Catwalk exhibition at the Victoria and Albert. It was hugely inspiring and just beautiful to look at.

Firstly, I have to confess that I’m not one of those people who go weak at the knees for 80’s nostalgia. I mean, genetics has given me the super-power of unintentionally huge 80’s hair and I’d never turn down a chance to wear leg-warmers but I don’t really dig the 80’s the way some do (*cough* Joanna). This exhibition gave me a little more context to the 80’s and the art movements happening then. And it was super. If you’re able to and interested in this kind of thing, you should definitely get down there. Go twice! it’s only 6 quid!

It’s split over two levels and located within and above the permanent Fashion collection. Sounds huge. right? Not really. There are loads of garments on display but it’s not really that big a space. Avoid going at the weekend at all costs, it’d be a crowded nightmare of jostling and people. Luckily, when we went it was really quiet so we were able to take our time and get up close to all the lovely clothes.

The highlights? Definitely the Blitz Magazine denim jackets, in particular the Leigh Bowery creation. All that brass fringing is hundreds, thousands of hair grips and, by the looks of it up close, all attached by hand.  Leigh Bowery is on about 6 minutes in.

He’s incredible, that Leigh Bowery. I thought I knew about Bowery. Taboo, Boy George, dripping make-up, artistic genius, etc, etc. I didn’t know half of what he produced. So brave  and beautiful and with such a great sense of fun. I downloaded this book and discovered that he lived in Stepney, which is not too far from me in Bow. I like to imagine him in full costume on the 25 bus or popping into the off licence in full make-up. And why not? If it wasn’t so cold I’d like to swagger round in a unitard too.

The Antony Price Bird Wing Dress is a little obsession of mine. It’s so simple, just space out the button holes wider than the button placement. Perfect, no more doing your head in measuring things and less need for ironing. I love that design feature but what is it called? I actually have a shop-bought dress that has the same thing going on with the buttons and it’s something I’ve been meaning to recreate.

I need to mention the John Richmond shirt. I wish I was one of those people who can just ignore the “No Photos” signs but I’m a pussy, I cannot find any links and my drawing skills won’t do it justice so you’ll have to visualise it. A lovely white men’s shirt, nice cut, very smart. Printed down the torso is a sketch of a man’s torso done in an fairly abstract way so as to be not so obvious. This print continues all the way down so if it’s worn untucked, there is cock. Abstract and tasteful but most definitely without a doubt, cock. I thought this was quite funny and, given how many naked women are splashed on men’s clothing, I quite fancy this shirt for myself. But don’t get me started on assigning gender to clothing, that’s another post entirely.

I digress. The top floor is packed with recognisable outfits from Adam Ant to Boy George, there’s an animal-print Westwood and loads more. If you can’t make it, have a look at the V&A website, it’s pretty detailed and has links to videos and all sorts including this free pattern download for the Scarlett Dress.  (Special thanks to Rachel at House of Pinheiro for tweeting the link a few weeks back).  I had the misguided idea to make this in striped jersey and, for once, I wouldn’t recommend stripes. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

I’m planning on going to this exhibition again in January, it really was that much fun.


About Vanessa

Sewing and assorted nonsense. For reasons that escape me, I left the sunshine and beaches of Australia for the crisps and glitter of London in 2001. I now live in the middle of some kind of feline drop-in centre in East London battling for space to make costumes and clothes. Over on twitter and instagram as @smittenness Email over here ------>
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2 Responses to Club to Catwalk, London Fashion in the 80’s at the V & A.

  1. I really enjoyed that exhibition too. I think my favourites were the Adam Ant outfit and the amazing orange inflatable jacket that was just inside the entrance.

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