A Postcard from Abroad: London HighLights

This week, in the UK, most people have returned to school or work so, in respect, our weather looks very autumnal with grey skies and the occasional showers. But, all is not what it seems.  The temperature is ridiculously warm, humid in fact.  Everywhere you go, there are exposed limbs and sandalled toes.  I keep wanting to eat salads and ice-creams while sneaking suspicious glances at my sock pile, wondering how long it will be before they work out that it is September and make a run for my feet.

Warm weather, regardless of how it looks, often pushes us to varying states of undress from the total cover up to a full on bare all.  The two upcoming major fashion and textile exhibitions in London this autumn arguably represent either end of this spectrum.

Detail from an opus anglicanum, unknown origin

The first is Opus Anglicanum at the V&A Museum, opening on Saturday 1st October Meaning ‘English work’, the latin phrase ‘opus anglicanum’ is the title given to an exhibition that aims to celebrate three centuries of medieval embroidery trade in England.  In particular, the phrase refers to highly sought after hand embroidered pieces that were often designed and made in the City of London, the industrious centre of medieval England. These tended to be in the form of ceremonial capes worn by popes and bishops during church services but were also worn by kings and queens across Europe.  Highly expensive items, reflected in the use of gold and silver threads sewn into rich fabrics like velvet, they depict religious imagery that the exhibition hopes to connect with the wider context of medieval art in Europe.  It is said that the V&A holds the largest collection of these pieces in the world and this exhibition marks the first time they have been on display since the early 1960s.

John Galliano for Dior, late 1990s

At the other end of the spectrum, there is The Vulgar. Fashion Redefined, which opens on Wednesday 12th October at The Barbican Art Gallery. Based upon the premise that fashionable dress always comes with some element of bad taste, or vulgarity, whereby luxury is lost in ostentatious overkill, the curators invite us to consider tastes as infinite perspectives rather than concrete categories. It is perhaps no surprise that the curators are Judith Clark, a leading light in fashion curation and her partner, psychoanalytic writer Adam Phillips.  Together, they present around 100 objects that ‘trace the idea of vulgarity’ historically alongside contemporary couture examples.

Talking Textiles at Goldsmiths University, London

If you fancy getting more up close and personal with textiles and historical dress, take yourself along to Talking Textiles, a monthly meet up at the Constance Howard Gallery at Goldsmiths University.  Along with refreshments, participants have the opportunity to look at specific items from the Constance Howard collection. In addition, you can take along your own textile pieces to find out more from their curatorial staff.  If you need anymore convincing about this event, here’s a good review from a student studying fine art and history of art.

Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue

Lastly, I am pretty excited about  the BBC’s behind the scenes documentary on Vogue UK that starts tomorrow night, 8th September. Entitled Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue, this two parter is the first time a filmmaker has been given unlimited access to Britain’s most iconic fashion magazine. For the editor-in-chief Alexander Shulman, it is the perfect opportunity to publicise the centenary of British Vogue. I am certainly looking forward to this given how much I enjoyed the American feature film version The September Issue.


Top image credit: PARIS, FRANCE:  US top model Carolyn Murphy presents a leathery ensemble consisting of cut-out leggings and skirt under a fur-trimmed open-front jacket in brown by British designer John Galliano during the Christian Dior 1998/99 Fall/Winter haute collection 20 July in Paris. (Photo credit should read JOEL ROBINE/AFP/Getty Images)

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