What started out as a short blog hiatus, somehow managed to turn into a very long break. All of which I blame on work, other commitments and the fact that fashion in the last few months has left me slightly uninspired. But having dragged my friend T to the V&A Ballgowns exhibition last week, I thought it would be a nice way to revive Haute World for a bit (though bear with me - updates may still be somewhat sporadic).
Having first perused the reopened fashion galleries, which I'd highly recommend - especially considering it's free - T and I began our cultural journey on the ground floor of the exhibit. Split into two parts, this area showcased the ballgowns since 1950, while the upper level featured the more contemporary dresses. Throughout the visit, various dresses from the exhibit could be seen projected on the ceiling of the dome above.
Not surprisingly, the most striking gowns were the ones from past eras - back when formal attire was only the norm for private events and handmade for a particular client. Wearers ranged from royalty to debutantes with every outfit immaculately made and beautiful to behold. Through time, private functions evolved to the more public charity balls - and in recent years: red-carpet events.
Ballgowns since 1950
|Top: Mary Donan, Yuki, Matthew Williamson and Belville Sassoon, left: Victor Edelstein, Bruce Oldfield (made for Bianca Jagger) and Murray Arbeid worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, right: Hardy Amies.|
|Designed for the ball: David Emanuel, Worth of London, Norman Hartnell|
|Rayne Shoes. Gowns and accessories by Dior|
|Radical Robes 1990-2012, including gowns by Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and, Zandra Rhodes|
|Left: Alexander McQueen dress from his last collection. Right: 'Elvis Dress' by Catherin Walker created for Diane, Princess of Wales|
The biggest contrast, once you reached the upper level was that despite the beauty of the dresses, grouped together in three clusters, there seemed to be a personal touch missing. As everyone knows, these days evening dresses are worn on the red carpet for a mere few hours, chosen by a stylist and lent to a celebrity, who's body shape was never the intended target of the designer. Unlike the lower level, which featured gowns that were actually purchased by their wearers and lovingly stored for future generations, it seems an awful shame that most gowns these days are passed from one celeb to another before ending back in a designer's showroom.
|Overview of one of the upper level displays. Right: Alexander McQueen feathered gown as worn by Daphne Guinness.|
|Left: Craig Lawrence, Christopher Kane, Ralph & Russo (as worn by Beyonce). Right: Vivienne Westwood.|
|Craig Lawrence, Jenny Packham (as worn by Sandra Bullock) and Gareth Pugh's metallic gown made of leather.|
|Giles Deacon, Nicholas Oakwell|
|Amanda Wakely, Holly Fulton|
|Left: Marchesa. Right: Mark Fast, John Galliano, Felicity Brown|
|Erdem, Mary Katrantzou|
Nevertheless, the exhibition made a good point of showing that even contemporary British fashion houses like Alexander McQueen or Vivienne Westwood have successfully bridged the gap between the red carpet and traditional royal functions. With Britain being a focus of pretty much everything these days, this exhibition is definitely worth a visit and will thankfully be open for quite a while longer. If you're in London around this time, I'd definitley urge you to check it out - especially considering the images I took don't really do the gowns much justice...
Additional images shown above are the copyright of the V&A, Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images