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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Exhibition Visit- Fashion and Gardens at The Garden Museum

The Garden Museum is on the South Bank of the Thames, next to Lambeth Palace and with a fine view of the Houses of Parliament, in an old church that has fascinating tombs and memorials within its grounds.


My description of the exhibition is purely from a dressmaking point of view but the stunning installation by  Rebecca Louise Law  of live flowers hanging over the entrance space must be mentioned.  It was installed at the start of the exhibition and the blooms will wilt and decay gradually during the run.

Before you enter the exhibition area there is a very interesting display of garments created by MA students at the London College of Fashion.  The photo shows me standing next to the display of outfits created by Lei Wang using two white silk fabrics, one an ethereal  transparent gauze and the other a delicate herringbone weave creating a textural variation.  The stitching was faultless, a lesson in exquisitely made collars, pockets, perfect seams and zip installation.  The left and right sides of the garment were not the same in one item, another way of introducing contrast.

Ana da Siva Rodriques display used very simple shapes and primary colours in unusual textured modern fabrics while Yunweit Jiang showed almost sculptural clothes featuring geometric shapes in double-sided felt-like fabric, each side a different colour.  A skirt hem graduated up in steps from front to back, an oblong cutout in a top allowed you to see what was underneath.
In the small exhibition itself, where photographs are not allowed, items from the 1600’s featured beautiful floral embroidery and paintings showing lace that mirrored the patterns in parterre gardens.  Flowers could also be seen worked on slippers and a “pocket”, not the sort we have today but a separate item attached under the skirt, probably the equivalent of today’s handbag.  I’ve often thought that a decorated “pocket” attached by loops to a skirt or dress belt would be so useful at work to carry pencils, notebooks etc. around.
I was disappointed in the rather tame designs for floral woven silk on display because I know of wonderful examples by English 18th century designers, especially Anna Maria Garthwaite, that they could have used.   Have a look at some of the items in this lovely blog post
Unfortunately the European Galleries are currently closed for building works but due to open in December 2014
There was a small section about artificial dyes and how attracted the Victorians were to these but I thought it might have been more relevant to gardening to discuss natural plant based dyes.
Some examples of current fashion garments inspired by gardening, sometimes very loosely inspired, were on display.  The most stunning of these was a Valentino evening cape inspired by wrought iron designs used in gates, obelisks etc..  One could easily create one’s own version, perhaps a loose transparent tunic, embellished with piping in toning or contrasting colour, to wear over a flesh-coloured camisole top. 
Generally considered I wasn’t crazy about this exhibition.   It was so small (one room) I feel I must go back again in case I missed some of it hidden up an alley- and to have some more amazing cake from the cafĂ©, which specialises in food from nature.  Thus I had courgette, ginger and lime cake with plump sultanas in it and a creamy topping – but I could have had a cake based on butternut squash, or a raspberry Brownie, or orange, rosemary and almond cake or …. Enough!  You can get a flavour  (I’m thinking food again!) of the exhibition here  Do watch the video interview to see some of the items that I could not photograph.
And a glimpse of one of those memorials with which to end-


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for a wonderful report on your visit there! I had never heard of the Garden Museum and even though I've been to Lambeth Palace I hadn't noticed it - I must check it out soon!
    The flower display looks and sounds really intriguing, such lovely flowers and what an interesting idea that they will wilt throughout the length of the exhibition. I also really like the display you were able to photograph, and I checked out the V&A images. It reminds me that I want to learn so much more about the history of clothes and fashion. Thanks so much for posting!


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