Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London


London has been in the spotlight a lot this year. Our sporting heroes have become household names and the royal family is as popular and as loved as they've ever been. But with all these wonderful celebrations going on, fashion has had to take a step back. Of course Stella McCartney did us proud designing the uniforms for the Olympics and Kate donned some undeniably British attire during the Queens jubilee, but overall fashion hasn't taken centre stage in London this year.

Thankfully the Victoria & Albert museum in South Kensington has paid tribute to British fashion design in the most fitting way. We've partied in frocks all summer, and we've seen princesses in evening gowns so it seems only right that the exhibition celebrates the very best of British glamour. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the exhibition but I've found some from the V&A website and from around the internet so you can see just how beautiful it is. 

The exhibition costs just £10 for adults and £7 for students but I couldn't resist treating myself to a year long V&A membership. The museum is practically my second home and I didn't mind paying the £48 to enjoy it all year. It gives me so much in the way of inspiration so it felt good to put something back into it. The membership entitles me to free entry into all the exhibitions as many times as I want, along with a guest of my choice. I also enjoy the benefit of membership only preview days, the V&A magazine and exclusive events- including talks from designers! There is even a members room to enjoy some lunch without getting caught up in the crowds. For just £48 I was able to take my sister and I into three exhibitions without any extra costs (It would have normally cost £7 each per exhibition) and I've still got the rest of the year left to use it! It also means I can go into the Ballgowns exhibition as many times as I want, to sketch, to admire, or to just sit and dream. I'd recommend the membership to anyone who lives in London as you save money in the long run and enjoy so many benefits - it would also make the most wonderful gift! Click here for more information on memberships. 

The exhibition itself is held in the newly restored fashion galleries that provides the most elegant backdrop for the gowns. The mezzanine floor houses a collection of modern dresses as where the downstairs exhibits gowns closer to the 1950's. I began the exhibition downstairs and I quickly became mesmerised by all the chic, glamorous evening wear that was on show. This included couture gowns commissioned for royal occasions and one notable dress that was worn by Princess Diana. The iconic 'Elvis dress' designed by Catherine Walker is adorned with white pearls and a turned up collar. It is just as splendid in person as it is in the famous pictures, although Princess Di made it sparkle in a way that no designer could ever replicate. David Emmanuelle, the designer of Princess Diana's wedding dress was also represented throughout the exhibition with several dresses including one very pretty pink taffeta dress that was designed for Joan Collins in 1983. The craftsmanship was outstanding, with fine embroidery, delicate lace and quality fabrics. 

The exhibition shows the changes in society, taste and class with couture becoming popular amongst celebrities and not confined to the debutantes who wished to display their wealth. Downstairs evening gloves, kitten heels and charming purses are displayed, expressing the formalities of the age. 

I made my way up the Hollywood inspired sweeping staircase to the more modern part of the exhibition. I was instantly immersed into the world of contemporary couture by the elegant chandeliers, revolving mannequins and stunning photos of the dresses projected onto the magnificent architecture surrounding the mezzanine. The sheer contrast between the contemporary numbers and the full-skirted 50's frocks shows just how much society has changed, how the industry has developed, and how much more freedom designers have to push boundaries. The upstairs level is a dazzling celebration of design, imagination and British intuition. The collection includes dresses by Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Zandra Rhodes, Gareth Pugh and Ralph & Russo. Whilst the majority of the downstairs gowns were commissioned for the likes of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother the dresses upstairs were designed and worn by celebrities including Elizabeth Hurley, Beyonce and Sandra Bullock. Here are some of my favourite gowns from the exhibition.
Giles Deacon's spring 2007 number, by Tim Walker
Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, winter 2011
Victor Edelstein, 1986
Erdem
Gareth Pugh
Nicholas Oakwell - Digitally printed silk
Elvis Dress - 1989
Roksanda Ilincic silk dress S/S 2009
Atsuko Kudo - lace print on latex

Here is a video for the exhibition featuring interviews with Bruce Oldfield, Nicholas Oakwell, David Sassoon, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Ilincic - definitely worth a watch!

The museum shop is selling an accompanying book that I hope to buy very soon. I'll post a review of it along with some scanned photos as soon as I do.

The exhibition is showing until the 6th of January 2013.
Thank you for reading!
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83 comments :

  1. amazing gowns! followed you, hope you can follow back! http://xxxloveisbeautyxxx.blogspot.ie/

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  2. I am so excited about seeing this! I got an Art Pass instead. I get half price entry, not free, but it applies to almost every museum/ art gallery in the UK so it was a better deal for me.

    Becky
    xx

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  3. these are so beautiful. the silver dress with the high neck is absolutely stunning. great photos

    www.sultanassanctuary.blogspot.com

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  4. great post! love all the photos. victoria and albert museum is one of my favs.

    thanks for the follow! now following you back :)

    http://www.counttofour.com

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  5. I can't wait to go see this, I've been planning for a while but it's open til January so I'll go when I can.
    I live in the outskirts of London so do go every so often, and I think when I graduate I'm gonna treat myself to an all year pass. I'd love to be able to take my boyfriend with me for free cos he always pays to come into them with me haha!
    Lovely post :)
    x

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  6. You're blog is super interesting!!! I'm following you, of course :)
    Kiss from: http://ladyscornerblog.blogspot.com.es/

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  7. What an amazing exibit ! Wonderful pics and blog :-)

    Fashion and Cookies
    If you want we could follow each other on gfc, bloglovin and facebook !
    Fashion and Cookies on Facebook
    Follow me on Bloglovin

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  8. Wow, another beautiful exhibition! I hope to go to this around Christmas time x

    http://sleeplesswithsienna.blogspot.com

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  9. Gorgeous gowns =) Thanks so much for sharing... I'm your newest follower via google! I'd love for you to come check out my blog and maybe follow as well?

    xoxo
    http://sensiblestylista.blogspot.com/

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  10. All of these garments are just incredible. I'd love to see this exhibit myself!

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  11. I wish someday I can visit London. London is one of my dreams!
    Nice review :D
    come to my blog anytime..

    Sincerely,
    BERTHA NATASHA

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  12. So inspiring ! Nice post btw (: Can we follow ? Stop by soon love .

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  13. Interesting gowns so unique!
    -Adriana
    Little Petite

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  14. Hi Thanks for visiting me. I am following you on GFC and bloglovin now. But I am sorry I cant see you on my follower list. Can you re-follow.
    Lovely collection. Wish I was able to visit this museum.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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  15. so much inspiration....now I'm following you.thanks.
    xoxo mini nuni

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  16. I love Giles Deacon and Roksanda Ilincic's dresses!xx

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  17. Hey :)
    Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment. ^^
    You have an amazing and beautiful blog, everything is so well done and your posts are so inspiring. Gladly followed through GFC, Bloglovin (for both of your blogs) and liked you page in Facebook.
    Have a great day, Jenna!

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  18. Hi Jenna,thanks for your comment.
    Your blog is realy nice!
    follow you :)
    http://secretsforfashion.blogspot.gr/

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  19. What a beautiful exhibit, I would've loved to be there! I hope you get that book sweetie =)
    - Che

    style-che.blogspot.com

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  20. Wow! Great:) I will often visit your blog;)

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  21. wow, the dresses are absolutely amazing! wish I could afford those *_*
    in btw thanks for your comments :) and to your question: I would say no!
    But I have to say that I often walk in heels so it's not a real challenge for me.
    Anyway they're comfortable because of the wedge and platform and you normally walk on the
    ball of your feet (like in normal heels).

    xoxo

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  22. These dresses are so beautiful! Great post!
    Thank you for comment and following my blog.
    I follow you too :))

    xoxo
    Nastia

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  23. yes, we've all been on such a British kick in the last year! very true. wow- this museum is breathtaking. I would LOVE to visit. How exquisite.

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  24. Thanks for your sweet comment. Totally following you now :)
    Hope to keep in touch!!

    http://everythingcanbefixed.com/

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  25. Thanks for following my blog
    I also follow your blog
    kisses

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  26. wow those photos are increadable..love your blog..following now..hope you can follow me back xx Ania
    http://loveeneeddesire.blogspot.ie/

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  27. Wow! I'd like to go to this museum!

    Thank you for the comment on my blog and of course I'd like to follow each other! ;)

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  28. What a beautiful exhibition! If I lived in London I would totally pay the annual fee such a bargain for all that you get! You have a lovely blog xx

    fashiontatt.blogspot.com

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  29. Those dresses are so creative...love how brave the designs are... but oh my, how did that lady get into the lace print on latex dress??!
    xxxxxxx

    http://segenswunsche.blogspot.co.uk/

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  30. wow! quality quality quality! gorgeous pictures! thank you for sharing :)
    xoxo Sol Sisters

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  31. I want to go to London this weekend and this looks like a great thing to go check out, but unfortunately I'm going with the wrong people to look at pretty dresses, but maybe some other time. Thanks for the info about tickets, and great photos!
    The Undercover Dress-Up Lover x

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    Replies
    1. Theres lots of other things to look at in the V&A though :) And right next to it is the science museum and the natural history museum. Theres definitely something for everyone x

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  32. beautiful blog! I follow you and I'll wait here for me http://modaealtririmedi.blogspot.it among my followers;)

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  33. Wow! I seriously wish I could check out that exhibit! Looks incredible!

    XO

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  34. I think to sum it up, fashion is art. Following you. I would really love it if you checked out my blog..( :

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  35. Just perfect!

    check out my blog,
    if you like, follow me =)
    and let me know to follow you back,

    xx

    http://blogagendafashion.blogspot.com.br

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  36. thank you for following. :) we are followin you back.

    nice blog

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  37. Oh thanks ! Great blog and amazing photos ! :) I follow you :) Kiss from Poland !

    ReplyDelete
  38. I love your blog! This post is awesome!
    Check out my blog, write your opinion and maybe...follow?
    Where are you from?

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thanks so much for following, I'm following back! This post is just beautiful and the V&A is probably my favourite place in the world, this exhibition was just amazing! x

    http://callmenames.blogspot.co.uk/

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  40. Hey, Following you from Blogger. U appear on my reading list. Thanks for the visit.

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  41. omg I absolutely love your blog! It's so amazing that you study at the London college of Fashion! Awesome:) I will follow for sure, follow me back? :)

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  42. These photos are stunning! Wearable pieces of art are always something to be appreciated :)

    Thanks for the kind words on my blog earlier- just started following you!

    -Jen

    www.vibrantbeauty.blogspot.com

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  43. omg, these pictures are amazing! i love your blog. very inspiring posts. stay awesome. :) following you now! i hope you follow back. :) xoxo



    love,ace
    http://aceduchua.blogspot.com

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  44. So many amazing dresses, as well as amazing photographs!! :D Thank you for sharing this with us!

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  45. Awesome blog, honey)))
    you have a new follower! I hope you'll do the same))
    Thank you!))

    http://myfiercefashion.blogspot.com

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  46. what an amazing exhibition!

    -Jessica
    http://www.jumpintopuddles.com/

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  47. Thank you for your comment on my blog! I am follow you too)

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  48. great blog and thank's for following :)
    i'm your new follower, too :*

    xo

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  49. Great pics!! Thank you for stopping by leaving a sweet comment and ofcourse following. I am following you back via GFC - 133!!!Let's stay in touch.
    Best Regards
    Miss Margaret Cruzemark
    http://margaretcruzemark.blogspot.com/

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  50. The photos and the clothes are spectacular! Thank you very much for your comment! Kisses! :)

    http://petiteadalid.blogspot.com.es/

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  51. Hi!! I love your blog!! I follow you for this moment, thanks for your comment :)
    The photos are incredible and the blog's is very cute!!

    xoxo
    Estela

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  52. Wow this looks amazing -great pictures.

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  53. Loveee your blog, great post!

    Check out mine?
    sophie-said.blogspot.co.uk

    xxx

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  54. I love british fashion! Thanks for sharing! :)

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  55. Looks amazing! :)
    I really like your blog, maybe we could follow each other?

    xxx
    http://dutch-beauty.blogspot.nl/

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  56. those pictures show and proove perfectly why I love (not only british, but especially this one) fashion. I just love that.
    check out www.madeleine-atelier.blogspot.com if you have time ♥

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  57. I just died and went to couture heaven. Great post and photos (especially that last photo!).

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  58. Thanks for the follow! You have a blog full of inspirations.

    Now following back :)

    xx Olivia

    http://0liviaschoice.blogspot.com

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  59. I'd love to pay a visit to this place, wow!

    Come to visit my blog and if you want let’s follow each other on Bloglovin, GFC and Facebook!
    xoxo
    Don't Call Me Fashion Blogger
    Bloglovin'
    Facebook

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  60. Hello dear
    thnks for your lovely comment
    your blog is great
    followed you on GFC
    kisses

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  61. the pictures are wonderful and very inspiring !!!
    like your blog ;)
    R.

    http://rougezo.blogspot.com/

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  62. These are all so stunning! Thank you for sharing :D

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  63. oh, sooo many beutiful things! <3
    & i falled in love in your header.

    xoxo
    im following.

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  64. Aw seems like you had a lovely day Jenna, we must meet soon!



    Models & Macaroons

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  65. everything is so gorgeous... omg i want to go to this exhibition!!
    can i just say as well that you are gorgeous and i love your blog... just followed! :)
    xxxx
    http://eleanorcos.blogspot.com/

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  66. Wow this post just made my heart melt !!! Lovely blog i am definetly following you!!

    Check my blog, and follow if you like it/feel inspired:
    http://thesedaysfashion.blogspot.com

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  67. o m g super super nice place and collections!

    i am following you, if you like my blog, you can follow me back ;)

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  68. Oh my gosh, Jenna, you're such a darling for sharing this in such detail. I would have loved to see this exhibition in person, but since I'm on the other side of the globe, you allowed me to not miss out entirely. Amazing. Thank you!

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  69. Thank you for following my blog!! This is huge for me =) I just started and I am always so grateful when there are some people who want to follow my blog!

    I lived in London in 2010 for six months and I couldn´t resist to go to the V&A Museum. I loved it! Would I live in London now, I would definitely get a year long membership. This post is great! And the pics are stunning.

    I hope one day, I can move to London or at least move to England, I love all about the country, the people, the history´and the like! In the beginning of the next year I have a 6months long internship and I do hope, I get a position in London! Best City EVER =) Sorry for talking so much about your country!

    Still, the post is great! I´m following back! And thanks again!!

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  70. Wow some of those dresses are absolutely beautiful! I would have loved to have seen these!
    Thank you for your comment on my blog by the way, and I'll definitely follow you back!:)

    www.elstylediaries.blogspot.co.uk
    Shan x

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  71. Wow these are some amazing shots,
    wish we had something like this over here!

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  72. thanks for passing by my blog!!
    nice pics hope i could have one of those!
    sure we can follow each other!i am already following u!
    xx
    www.themidniteblues.blogspot.com

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  73. It looks like a fantastic exhibition. I've just written a feature for a mag on the V&A's new one actually - the Hollywood film outfits one. Sounds amazing! x

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  74. This is such an outstanding look, love the bright color, and the looks so unique!
    womens summer dresses

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Thank you so much for commenting! :)
I appreciate every comment I receive and it makes me so happy that I know people are enjoying my blog!

Jenna Fifi x