‘Fashioned from Nature’, a new fashion exhibition at the astoundingly beautiful Victoria & Albert Museum in the centre of London, takes over two floors.
Downstairs, dresses and accessories from the 18th & 19th centuries, explore different patterns inspired by nature (printed, woven, embroidered and beaded); types of natural fibres woven to make fabrics, including a wedding dress from 1828 made from pineapple fibres; the use of furs and feathers and even beetle wings on clothing and accessories; the history of colour - natural and synthetic; and other fascinating subjects that reflect nature’s powerful influence on what people wore and why.
Upstairs is a 20th & 21st century story with an important element focusing on sustainability with garments made by leading sustainable designers such as Stella McCartney.
There are many standout pieces on display, but my favourites are the 19thc white organza dress embellished with iridescent blue/green beetle wings; the Belle Epoch hummingbird earrings; and the ball gown designed by JeanPaul Gaultier that replicates leopard fur done entirely with tiny coloured glass beads (by hand).
The exhibition gives us an informative timeline of fashion history as well as a look at social history and how changing sensibilities alters what we wear, how we wear it and how it is made. This is an excellent exhibition, curated by Edwina Ehrman. A comprehensive exhibition catalogue is available to purchase.