A Postcard from Abroad: Summertime in the UK

Hello!  It’s nice to be back, and be able to bring you a summery round up of fashion related events and exhibitions in the UK over the next few months.  My last Worn Through contribution was in early spring and I must say a massive thank you to our Managing Editor Brenna Barks for covering in my absence with some great videos; that last one certainly sets the seasonal tone!

To start, I would like to mention the Textile Society has a great overview of events, exhibitions and activities over the summer that cover both fashion and textiles interests.  I strongly recommend having a closer look because whereas I tend to focus more on London and fashion related events, they provide excellent UK coverage of textile related events.  With that in mind, there are a few things taking place in the capital that I want to highlight now!


The first one is the Institute of Historical Research’s (IHR) 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, 2-3 July, which focuses on the subject of fashion In collaboration with the V&A Museum, the IHR hopes to showcase the importance of fashion and how it brings together museums, graduate teaching programmes, learned societies and the fashion profession around a common set of interests and concerns.  This two day conference includes over 30 panel sessions, which encompass the history of fashion, tastes, design innovation, globalisation, museum display, consumption and retailing.  There will also be a special exhibition in the IHR,  in partnership with the Senate House Library, that looks like a rare opportunity to see fashion images from their catalogues.  Tickets are now available and a provisional programme can be viewed here.

Fine Cell Work, 2010, littleblackbookofart.com

The second display to catch my eye is the artist Cornelia Parker’s contemporary Magna Carta, on public view at the British Library until 24 JulyTo mark its 800th anniversary, the British Library commissioned Parker to create a new artwork and her response was to fabricate the entire Wikipedia entry on the Great Charter with only embroidered stitches.  While the work was produced in association with the Embroiderer’s Guild, the Royal School of Needlework and Hand & Lock, many hands contributed to the piece, including Fine Cell Work, who support prisoners by training them in needleworkHave a look at the video about the making of the piece – it’s fascinating. I am really looking forward to seeing this in person and great to see such a esteemed British artist drawing upon textiles as her medium of choice here.

The third event I want to mention is actually two, insomuch they are both shows based in universities.  At Goldsmiths University, the BA Fine Art/History of Art students have drawn upon the Goldsmiths Textiles Collection to create Reconstructing Textiles.  This exhibition, only open until 23 June, is an attempt to draw connections between contemporary practices and archival material. For me, any opportunity to see the Goldsmiths Textiles Collection is a golden one and it is great to see students engaging with previous students work in the archive.

Image taken from Fabric of the City website. Unknown source.

At The Cass, part of London Metropolitan University, staff and students have invited textile and fashion designers to celebrate the local history of Spitalfield’s 17th century silk weavers for an exhibition entitled Fabric of the City.  This is part of The Cass’ contribution to the festival ‘Huguenot Summer 2015’, organised by the Huguenots of Spitalfields in partnership with the City of London.  The Cass is where I teach so it is great to share what they are up to, especially as, due to health reasons, I have not been there these last couple of months.  The exhibition runs 10-25 July.

Morecambe and Wise presenting Miss Great Britain 1965. Photograph: Fashion and Textile Museum

Moving on, summer is that time when we panic about swimwear in the UK, especially because the opportunity to wear it, given our climate, is so very small.  However, this does not stop us fantasising about the ideal bikini or one-piece nor us purchasing something new each year in the hope that this time, it really will be perfect!  Seeking some kind of perspective then, it may be helpful to catch RIVIERA STYLE Resort & Swimwear since 1900at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London this summer.  On until 30 August, this exhibition, in association with Leicestershire County Council Museums, focuses not just on swimwear style but also technological developments in fabric and the role of retailing in making those design innovations popular.  I hope to review this later on in the month but be great to hear from anyone who has already visited in the comments below.

Camper advertising, SS 1977 and SS 1992 Source: Design Museum

While on the topic of summer sartorial concerns, shoes are also perhaps a major obsession as we dare to bare our pale pieds.  Last year, I was obsessed with clogs.  I thought they were the perfect summer shoe because, unlike most sandals, they kept my toes out of sight.  However, after realising I cannot walk in clogs – too many years wearing flats – I am now still on the lookout for my ideal summer shoe.  Along with my ideal swimming garment, come to think of it.  Perhaps then it comes as no surprise to see two major London design museums dedicating their summer exhibition space to what we put on our feet.  In east London, the Design Museum focuses on the Spanish footwear brand Camper in Life on Foot while in west London, the V&A Museum looks at the extremities footwear has gone to in Shoes: Pleasure and Painife on Foot, open now until 1 November, is the use of archival material from Camper to tell the design story of their products from the drawing board to the concept store.  Meanwhile, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, open 13 June until 31 January 2016, draws upon the V&A’s historic collection to present over 200 pairs of shoes in considering how technology often provides opportunities for extreme wearability

Detail from United States market advertisement, 1947. Courtesy of Jamie Mulherron.

Lastly, I noticed an exhibition about Pringle of Scotland knitwear at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh entitled Fully Fashioned and open until 16 August.  Marking the company’s 200th anniversary, the exhibition charts the history of what is now an international fashion brand with the use of archival material and knitwear garments. I would love to hear from anyone who has visited it or whether it might be travelling to other museums later in the year.

Happy holidays!

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