23 January 2016

Liberty in Fashion exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum

I had not heard of the Fashion and Textile Museum before, otherwise I might well have paid it a visit, and once again I had the Art Fund iOS app for alerting me to it. It remains my main source of information about exhibitions that are on and this time it told me about Liberty in Fashion. Anybody who knows me remotely well will know that is an exhibition that I wanted to see.

National Rail had other ideas and closed the main line from Richmond at Clapham Junction and so another popular app of mine, CityMapper, advised me to take the District Line to Monument and walk from there. So I did.

That walk took me over London Bridge, through the redeveloped area around More London and then under the grimy railway arches in upper Bermondsey. The area got markedly better as I moved south along Bermondsey Street with some trendy cafes and craft shops appearing.

I was expecting the museum to be easy to find as my limited research (on the day) told me that it was a bright orange building in the Morocco style but it played a trick on me. The building is set back slightly from the usual building line thus hiding the orange frontage. What I could see from some distance was the pink entrance but I was not expecting that so it was a nice surprise to suddenly find myself there.

A lesser surprise was to find a cafe there, it is just to the right of picture, which is where I had a late lunch of a vegetarian quiche and two salads from a choice of four. It was a tasty treat and I hope that it was not responsible for the severe tummy troubles the next day.

The Art Fund helped again when I bought my ticket, giving me a 50% discount, so I paid just £4.50.

The museum is an unusual space and the exhibition was strung along several rooms on two floors. The layout of the rooms meant that it was hard to see the full extend of the exhibition (perhaps I should have accepted one of the guides!) and that added to the delight as each new display was a surprise.

The exhibition was a broadly chronological display concentrating on the fashion themes of each period and the main creators working with them for Liberty at that time. It was like walking through the Liberty shop as it moved through history, a pleasure doubled.

The final room, at least on the route that I took through the exhibition, was the study room that had displays of the original fabrics rather than clothes made from them. It was in that room that I took the pictures of the Bauhaus curtains above and the fabric samples below.

My parents had Bauhaus curtains in the front room when I was a teenager though that was in a less brash colour-way with more brown and less yellow. I have a tie that matches it.

The clothes on display in the rest of the rooms and corridors were mostly top-end fashion items, which is understandable as even the basic Liberty items, like shirts and ties, are not the clothes of everyday wear for most people. As a long-time Liberty wearer I sometimes forget that.

Obviously a lot of the clothes looked painfully dated, just because of their age, but that was always down to the cut and not to the fabric. So while this dress very much is of its time it is still easy to appreciate the way that touches of Ianthe have been woven into it and how well the jacket compliments it.

There were dozens of outfits to look at lovingly,  mostly dresses with a few jackets for me. There were a couple of outfits that I would have loved to have, and would have worn today despite their age. I particularly liked one with a Nehru collar, I had looked for something like that in India but had failed to find anything close. Luckily enough I am quite happy with my generous collection of Liberty shirts and ties.

When I bought my ticket I asked the friendly woman on the desk how long it would take to get around the exhibition and she advised that it would take about half an hour. On my way out a full hour later I was able to tell her how much I had loved it.

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