News & events – Fashion (Archive 2017)

Louise Dahl-Wolfe

Eight Fashionistas met at Leigh Station on Tuesday 27th November and caught the 10.12 train to London to visit the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street. After we stopped for coffee we went to see the Louise Dahl-Wolfe “A Style of Her Own” exhibition.

An American, Louise was born in 1895 and studied art, design and art history in San Francisco. In 1921 she was inspired by photographer Anne Brigman to take up photography. In 1930 she became a professional photographer and made a collection of photos of people living in poverty. One such photo appeared in an edition of Vanity Fair in 1933 and several in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937. She went on from there eventually to become staff photographer at Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition we visited was a collection of her amazing work for Harper’s Bazaar over the years. Fashion photos showing the elegance of a bygone age where the models were feminine and chic wearing beautiful outfits, which in many respects looked modern and could be worn today. There were a few outfits on display also. Such stunning work made for an excellent exhibition which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Afterwards we lunched at a delightful restaurant, Village East of Bermondsey, and had a delicious meal, then back to Leigh after a lovely day.


Warner Textile Archive

The day out for the members of the Fashion Group this month was to the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree. 13 ladies went in various cars meeting at the premises of the company and then enjoyed coffee and biscuits. This was followed by an extremely interesting and informative talk on the history of the weaving industry, why it evolved where it was and how it progressed through the industrial revolution and two world wars. We also learnt the history of Warners from 1712 up the present day.

This talk was then followed by an introduction to the archive itself. Warners have the second largest collection of fabrics, designs and paper prints in the country. We were shown a small sample of fabrics from the 1700s up to the 1970s, all of which are numbered and catalogued. An enormous task for anyone!!

We were then free to look at the various display cases which gave some of the history of the designs and drawers with fabrics in, including a drawer with the most fantastic material with gold embroidery that was produced for the coronation of Queen Mary.

Everything was beautifully displayed and I would highly recommend a trip to anyone.

This very interesting morning was followed by lunch at Freeport Outlet and then some “retail therapy” which was enjoyed by all (some more than others judging by the bags of shopping loaded into the cars at the end!!)

All in all a very enjoyable day.

Jane Young

Kensington Palace

On a beautiful autumnal morning on 26th September the Fashionistas headed out to see Diana’s Exhibition at Kensington Palace.

On arrival at Kensington Palace we had our usual morning coffee which was delicious and, fortunately, the queue was not too long before going to see the Exhibition. (Once again, not too long a wait before entering).

Most of the gowns and what we would call daytime outfits were designed by Catherine Walker, one of Diana’s favourite designers. In fact the majority of the gowns were on loan from Catherine Walker, who had bought the outfits back from HRH and were on loan to Kensington Palace for this exhibition. It was enlightening to see the gowns and outfits at first hand which, in all, totalled about 20.

After we had visited the exhibition we had the opportunity of looking around some of the Royal Staterooms which was very interesting.

A most enjoyable day, thank you to Mary for organising an enjoyable and worthwhile trip.

The World of Anna Sui

Tuesday 22nd August saw 14 of our fashion group ladies visiting the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey to see “The World of Anna Sui” exhibition.

Though possibly not quite a household name in the UK, in the fashion and design world this Detroit-born designer has been a celebrated and highly successful creator of fashion, textiles, perfume, accessories and interiors for almost 3 decades. From working for a number of fashion houses, with a desire to dress rock stars, and building a niche reputation, she was encouraged by her supermodel friends – Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington – to put on her first catwalk show in 1991 and her influence grew from then on, to be such that she is now the first American designer to be awarded her own retrospective exhibition in the UK.

Her style is very eclectic and much of the exhibition showed outfits very heavily influenced by rock and music culture – particularly of the 1960’s and 70’s, so our U3A fashion enthusiasts were delighted to get a close look at so many outfits reminiscent of their own fashion heyday. Hippie dresses, mod outfits and punk influenced pieces were very much in evidence. Much of Sui’s design is heavily decorated – and not just the dresses, but the boots, bags, hats and tights often highly embellished as well – using embroidery and multi-prints, though when she started out her look had been more influenced by simpler “swinging London” styles. Sui’s career really took off when Madonna was photographed at a Jean-Paul Gaultier show in one of her dresses. Her “trade-mark” look in her accessory lines is possibly the black lacquered make up cases decorated with a red rose – so very 90’s rock and roll.

Following our tour of the exhibition, we enjoyed a very agreeable lunch at the nearby Woolpack pub, followed by a stroll back to Fenchurch Street station via Tower Bridge. We were lucky enough to see the bridge open to allow through a Thames Barge, which was an added bonus to round off a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Written by Jenny Moore

Fashionista Hen Night

On 20th June, a hen night was organised by Ruth and Mary for Linda, who was tying the knot on 29th June. Twelve ladies attended and as a surprise for the bride-to-be, they all appeared in glamorous (to be expected of The Fashionistas!) little black dresses teamed with tiaras! The bride to be was an exception, as she had been instructed to wear something plain and colourful. This was presumably in order to show off the sparkling gems bestowed on her by the ladies!

Dinner was a great success as a private function room at the San Fairy Ann meant we were not disturbed and were free to enjoy ourselves in an unrestrained manner! Music and further entertainment was provided by a quiz -“How well do you know the bride?” Answers were in varying shades of politeness, but nothing too risqué! Unsurprisingly, the quiz was won by Linda’s sister Jill, who is still waiting for her prize! Our thanks go to Ruth and Mary for organising another successful Fashionista occasion.

Linda Keeling Beames

‘Shaping Fashion’ – Balenciaga

Nine members of the Fashion Group visited the V & A to view its recently opened exhibition celebrating the work of Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) – 100 years after the designer opened his first fashion house in San Sebastián and 80 years since launching his Paris salon.

Balenciaga was known as the Master of Shape. He did not allow himself to be constrained by the body and believed that the fabric should be allowed to show off the design. And there certainly were some fabulous colours and fabrics on display including intricate embroidery and beading, lace and ostrich feathers, and stunning shapes.

The exhibition spanned the 1950’s and 60’s when Balenciaga introduced the Baby Doll, Sack and Trapeze shapes which so shocked the fashion world, but which women embraced with the ‘shift’ becoming the comfortable dress of the 60’s. “Shaping Fashion” was a fascinating in-depth exhibition showing examples of pattern making in calico, cutting techniques and the tools of the trade as well as featuring x-ray images showing the underlying structure of some of the garments on show. One particular dress was cut so cleverly that it was made from one piece of material with only a back seam. A cape had weights placed in the hem to allow it to hang correctly.

The attention to detail was amazing and this was highlighted in the archive films showing alongside the 100 glamorous items on display. It was fascinating to watch behind the scenes footage of Balenciaga, both adjusting his designs on the catwalk models and fitting and making a suit jacket on a client. Another film showed the pleating, draping and sewing of the fabric of a particularly spectacular dress back. Some of us enjoyed trying on and examining a puffball skirt, another shape with which Balenciaga is credited.

There was also a display of some twenty hats featuring the pillbox style so favoured by Jackie Kennedy and invented by Balenciaga. Sadly, we were unable to try on any of these!

The work of the Fashion House continues and the second half of the exhibition showed us Balenciaga’s legacy and the influence he has had on latter day designers, whether it be the minimalism of Yohji Yamamoto and Calvin Klein, the pleats of Miyake, the shape around the body shown in Givenchy designs, or the puffball style of Sybilla. The exhibits, some fantastical, were wonderful and prompted much discussion as we made our way to a favourite restaurant. Sadly two of our number had to leave us, so seven of us enjoyed a leisurely lunch before making our way back to Leigh and Chalkwell.

The Fashionistas agreed, a most enjoyable day and, as always, our thanks go to Mary for arranging and organising the tickets for us.

Pat Lytheer

Fashionistas visit to the Royal Milliner Jane Taylor

The Fashionistas group outing to the young self-made milliner Jane Taylor was preceded by an excellent lunch in Sloane Square which was great, in good company! We then split into smaller groups to do some shopping in Peter Jones and along the Kings Road. Some sought out a recommended charity shop which turned out to be disappointing (far better in Leigh!). However, the time flew by and we were due at the milliners so some of us bussed and some walked to meet at the Town Hall. We then went to Jane Taylor’s studio at 253 Kings Road, a very smart premises it was, where Jane invited us in to sit in a semi-circle facing a dressing table and mirror, she then offered us a glass of Prosecco or soft drink before starting her lecture/demonstration.

Being situated in Chelsea, she was in an ideal position to garner the Chelsea Sloane set and in and around London, well placed for the summer social scene such as Ascot races and Henley Regatta. Jane has been producing many stunning ranges of bespoke, beguiling, beautiful hats and headpieces for her royal clientele since 2008 and worn exclusively by the Countess of Wessex since 2009. Other members of the royals also patronise her business, including the Duchess of Cambridge, Zara Tindall and Princess Eugenie for the many royal events and other engagements. The Duchess of Cambridge wore Jane’s millinery for the christenings of her two children and the Diamond Jubilee service at St Paul’s, Trooping the Colour and foreign tours. Her millinery has also been worn by stars of stage and screen such as Kate Winslet, Beyoncé and photo shoots by Kate Moss.

Jane produces three new collections every season, Bespoke, Ready-to-Wear and Bridal. Her work has featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Stella and in newspapers in UK and world-wide. Her wide ranges incorporate fabulous and often outrageous designs for the ladies with hand-crafted clutch bags and as with the hats all can be matched and dyed to requirement.

Her ranges are far-reaching from the extravagant to the Ready-to-Wear, offering eye-catching pillboxes, fedoras and wide-brimmed hats whilst the Bridal collection consists of intricate crystal headpieces and lace vintage veils. Stockists include Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Fenwicks. She was milliner for Ascot 2014 and as such Harrods provided a window dedicated to her creations.

We ladies had a great day and Jane was very willing to allow us all to try on any hat that took our fancy and there were many! She gave advice on what might suit each one of us better and some of us were more adventurous than others but a fun time was had by us all despite no purchases made! Prices ranged from just under £1,000 to several thousand, but it was nice to dream!

A big thank you to Ruth for arranging such an interesting visit and to Jane Taylor for hosting the evening. She has certainly achieved a remarkable business by her sheer incredible hard work.

Jill Britton

You Say You Want a Revolution – Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970

And Then There Were Four

It was such a shame that Mary was unwell on the day and unable to come so it was just Maggie, Pam, Pat and I who went on the trip today. After a quick coffee stop we arrived at the V & A in time for our 12.15pm slot to see their latest exhibition. It was extremely packed with men and women of all ages and was unlike any exhibition I had ever seen before. It was vast and the walls were full of album covers, posters, newsreels playing, photographs, men’s and women’s fashions, pop videos, lots of things to read as we walked round and all the while pop music being played through our earphones. Due to the number of people and the amount of things to look at, it was slow moving and in the end took almost two hours to complete. It would be impossible for me to do justice here to everything that was on display. It showed that the 60’s had a large impact on music, fashion, art and design.

The exhibition takes you through seven revolutions in five years from 1966 to 1970.

• Revolution in youth identity – London was dubbed ‘The Swinging City’ with its fashionable boutiques.
• Revolution in the head – with music, drugs, art and design.
• Revolution in the street – Student unrest, opposition to the Vietnam War, political activism, gay rights and women’s lib.
• Revolution in consuming – it was the birth of the credit card that fed the revolution, TV brought news into people’s homes.
• Revolution in living – Complete contrast to how people lived from the post war years – Listening to music at outdoor/hippy festivals like the 3 day Woodstock event.
• Revolution in communicating – with the invention of the computer.
• An on-going revolution – The 1960’s still generate heated debate. The roots of many of today’s concerns can be found in this era.

I can only say that this is the best exhibition I have seen and which brought many memories of that time flooding back. We four girls then decided we needed some rest and recuperation and found our usual restaurant round the corner and finished the day off with an excellent meal.

Barbara Abrams