Inside the Victoria & Albert Museum

Zofia Zwieglinska reviews the iconic V&A, revealing its undeniable influence in fashion culture

9th May 2016

As the forerunner of fashion advancement in Britain, the V&A is the London Victorian institution that brings fashion admirers from all over the country (and beyond) to view its exhibitions. Set up in 1852 during the heights of Queen Victoria’s reign, following the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year, it intended to showcase British design and craftsmanship, as well as educating all classes on the importance of art and design.

The magnificent structure is enough in itself to bring art lovers and Instagrammers to its doors, the characteristic red-brick exterior only added in 1899, the rest of the V&A is a jumble of different styles of architecture and design, much like its eclectic exhibitions. The V&A has housed many popular fashion exhibitions, rivalled only in popularity by the MET Gallery in New York. Most recently, shows have included the Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ that sold out so quickly they extended the exhibition by two months and the phenomenal ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’.

“The V&A prides itself on finding rare, beautiful items to exhibit that bring the masses to its doors”

It is currently featuring an exhibition entitled ‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’, bringing light to the underskirt pleasures of fine lingerie and impractical pieces like the corset that bound women just for the sake of a tiny waist. The V&A prides itself on finding rare, beautiful items to exhibit that bring the masses to its doors. It also features a permanent exhibition of fashion from all over the world, (mainly from the eighteen hundreds) focusing on European and Asian fashion, and tying its links to the expansion of fashion trade and the fabric industry.

The other interesting aspect of the V&A is not in its exhibitions, but its endeavour to promote fashion education for the masses. The museum hosts talks, lunchtime lectures and workshops to invite the interest of the fashion-savvy and bring in younger generations interested in perusing the field. Together with Somerset House and the Condé Nast College it shows that London is at the top of its game in bringing together and educating the next fashion designers, stylists, and writers. It is just another reason why the V&A is such a great place to go if you are planning a trip!

It is also interesting to note the establishment’s one connection to the North, together with the Bowes Museum in Newgate, it exhibits some of its most popular exhibitions in their fashion galleries, albeit with a little delay. Most recently, it housed the ‘Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal’ exhibition, co-authoring the last year’s Durham Book Week. However, as a key London location the V&A Museum should be seen by anyone relatively interested in British fashion, and is a must-see for anyone wishing to visit the most extraordinary museum in the UK. It’s grandeur and size shows just how important it is the national fashion scene, and its involvement with the Somerset House during Fashion Week proves it is not just a museum, but an integrated part of the fashion network in the UK and abroad.

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