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Ballgowns show to feature British glamour

17
May '12
A spectacular exhibition of more than 60 ballgowns from 1950 to the present day will go on display at The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) next May. Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 will be the first exhibition in the newly renovated V&A Fashion Galleries and will feature beautiful ballgowns, red carpet evening gowns and catwalk showstoppers.

There is a strong British design tradition of creating sumptuous ballgowns, one that has been upheld in the late 20th and 21st centuries through the work of designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. The exhibition will cover more than 60 years of a tradition that continues to flourish.

Displayed over two floors, Ballgowns will show specially made designs for social events such as private parties, royal state occasions, debutante balls, opening nights and red carpet events. Tour de force eveningwear from the V&A's vast collection by designers such as Norman Hartnell, Victor Stiebel, Zandra Rhodes, Catherine Walker, Jonathan Saunders and Hussein Chalayan will be on show, as well as dresses fresh from the catwalk shows of Alexander McQueen, Giles, Erdem, Roksanda Illincic, Mark Fast and Jenny Packham.

Innovative designer Gareth Pugh has created a stunning metallic leather dress especially for the exhibition.

Royal gowns, with their luxurious fabrics and exquisite embellishments, always make headlines. A selection of royal ballgowns will be displayed, including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Diana's 'Elvis Dress' designed by Catherine Walker and gowns worn by today's young royals. Dresses worn by actresses and celebrities including Sandra Bullock, Daphne Guinness, Elizabeth Hurley and Bianca Jagger will also be shown.

From Country House to red carpet
Since the 1950s, occasions for wearing formal attire have evolved from the private event to the public parade. In the post-war period, as Europe struggled toward recovery, extravagant, exclusive balls provided glittering backdrops for splendid couture gowns, so helping to stimulate sartorial consumption and aspiration in Britain. Coming out balls, where young women were formally introduced to society, were often the first occasion on which to wear a grand gown.

The emergence of the charity ball in the 1980s provided a new platform for a wider society to dress to impress. Couture influenced the high street and dressing up for events was no longer the prerogative of the wealthy.

More recently it is the red carpet that acts as the most important site of fashionable
splendour. From the 1990s, couturiers have competed to dress stars for red carpet events which garner worldwide press interest. Moreover what the stars of a film wear to a premiere can sometimes deliver as many column inches as the film itself.

Preparing for the ball
The ground floor of the exhibition will feature over 30 ballgowns from the Museum's permanent collection. Designs from 1950 to the early 2000s will be shown, including gowns by Hardy Amies, Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Belleville Sassoon, Murray Arbeid, Bruce Oldfield and Julien MacDonald.


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