From elegant eveningwear to practical day suits and dresses, a new exhibition of pre and post-WWII London couture opens today at the Fashion and Textile Museum, and I was one of the first to see it. (Originally published in AGI magazine)
Named “Hartnell to Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment”, the exhibition is a major retrospective of the ground-breaking designers Normal Hartnell, Hardy Amies, and Frederick Fox. Favourites of the Royal Family, these designers created timeless pieces that have become famous around the world, putting British couture on the world’s fashion map.
The Couture by Royal Appointment exhibition tells the stories of three influential designers with very distinct styles. The career expose of Norman Hartnell, famous for his beautiful evening and wedding dresses, begins with his launch into British high society in 1920s, establishing fashion house in 1930s, and goes onto war-time utility designs and post-war glitz and glamour. Unlike his colleague, Amies made his name with his tailored suits, which were in line with 1950’s Christian Dior’s New Look. Loved both by the Royals (Queen Elizabeth II and Prince of Wales were among the customers) and commoners thanks to their affordable style, these suits have become a fashion tradition that continues today.
Another British tradition – hat-making or millinery – is highlighted with a display of over 30 Frederick Fox’s hats. He too designed for the members of the Royal Family and celebrities around the world. Following the display of the actual garments, accessories and original design sketches, the Couture by Royal Appointment exhibit also features a collection of the Norman Parkinson’s photographs, commissioned by British Vogue, that showcases leading designers and their Spring collections in 1953.
Dennis Nothdruft, curator of the Fashion and Textile Museum sums up the whole exhibit, commenting,“The creativity and craftsmanship of these designers is breathtaking and deserving of contemporary attention. With over 50 examples from private lenders we will be featuring British couture rarely seen in public before.”
Exhibition Dates: 16 November 2012 – 23 February 2013
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 6pm