Just back from another fabric shopping trip to London. Thank God I didn’t bring bigger luggage or I would have been eating pasta for the rest of the month.
I might do a fabric shop round up for all you home sewers out there. What do you think?
Back to London, and there wasn’t enough hours in the day but ,while I’m there, I’ve got to fit in an exhibition when I can. And this time, it was The Glamour Of Bellville Sassoon at the Fashion & Textile museum.
I hadn’t heard of the name before but that’s why I love the Fashion & Textile Museum, it’s always an education in fashion history. You’ll never know everything about fashion, and I like that. It’s what keeps it interesting, for me at least.
Starting with a brief backround to each key person in the brand, first was Cecille Bellville who founded Bellville et Cie in 1953 producing youthful designs for debutantes in contrast to the staid Mayfair dressmaking. As demand increased, Bellville employed David Sassoon after seeing his collection as a student of the Royal College Of Art in 1958.
In contrast to the conservative styles of the time, Bellville Sassoon offered luxurious fabrics and workmanship.
They dressed royalty, society hostesses, jet set beauties and aristocrats.
After Bellville retired in 1981, Lorcan Mullany, an Irish graduate of Grafton Academy, (Ireland’s centre for Design, Pattern Drafting & Garment Assembly, estabished in 1938.) joined soon after. After nearly a decade of designing for the bale, Mullany became a partner and it was renamed Bellville Sassoon Lorcan Mullany.
As the demand for couture slowed down, a ready to wear line was launched in the 1980s allowing more women to wear the coveted line. The line ran right up unto recently but they still produce couture pieces in house. Also, cleverly, they allowed Vogue patterns to reprise their patterns for sale and to this day are the only British brand sold through Vogue patterns.
To the exhibition.
The first room exhibited design illustrations and fabric swatches for Princess Diana alongside photos of her wearing them. Photography was not allowed but I found one online of my favorite one. A gorgeous printed chiffon gown with a satin sash and a drop shoulder frill.
Entering the main room, it felt like I was entering a ballroom. Charcoal walls, full length mirrors, chandeliers (all made with trompe l’oeil wood panels) and orchestral music filled the room.
To the right was a collection of neutral maxi dresses. The middle dress was a wedding dress featuring broderie anglaise style embroidery and a beaded version of faggoting (a way of joining seams by an insertion stitch) at the sleeves.
And the dress to the left was filled with a machine embroidered design, the faggoting technique again and wooden bead trim. It’s great to see the detail up close. Especially when I would normally only see couture detail by zooming in on the Vogue website.
The left side of the room went more upscale with the colour and fabrics. The first dress that caught my eye was this glamorous boho dress with coin detail and gold threads woven through the fabric.
Then this a very ‘of the moment’ black off the shoulder gown that wouldn’t look amiss on the Saint Laurent catwalk today.
From flowy silks to silk taffeta. Two versions of a high neck, long sleeve and full length dress were next. In anyone else’s hands, this could be overkill but a deftness of hand and expert in technique makes it interesting.
If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ll know know I’m a fan of pink (as I write, I am wearing pink trousers, cardigan and scarf) and the corner was a candy coloured dream. A floral satin ruched bodice festooned in the back with a sculptural bow and silk flowers atop a tulle skirt.
Carrying on the Edwardian feel was the pink bussel back dress all tied up in a black bow.
And just before I headed upstairs a metallic number caught my eye. I could see Kate Moss in this bias cut devore gown.
Upstairs was a real showcase of craft. All of the surface textures and embroideries were done in house and I can’t imaging the man hours involved. An intricately detailed shift dress was truly impressive.
See how it goes from wooden beads, crochet and embroidery to foliage inspired beading to staggered strips of cotton seamlessly.
Follow this with a bridal version of a shift dress with floral stripes formed of ribbons and beading.
From short and sweet to bold and beautiful, a tulle full skirted dress overlaid with a fern embroidered tulle dress.
A striking array of scarlet dresses showed off the bias cutting technique (cutting fabric diagonally that clings to the body and is easier to drape).
And finally, let’s go out with a bang (or splash!) with this scale or shell looking pale blue fluted dress. And not a seam to see making it even more beautiful to look at.