Last Friday I took a trip up to London with my glamorous chum Sarah. We wanted to see an exhibition and Sarah chose Fashion & Gardens at the Garden Museum next to Lambeth Palace on the south bank. I was delighted at the choice and hoped it would live up to its name as an earlier visit to the museum, when it was still known as the Museum of Garden History, was rather dull.
So what was it all about I hear you cry, Fashion? Gardens? Surely this cannot just be about wellies, boots, jeans and waterproofs? Perhaps images of Alan, Monty et al are coming to mind, or maybe it is about the types of gardens and plants in fashion? Nicola Shulman is guest curator of the exhibition and so I was hopeful as Nicola is the sister of Alexander Shulman, editor in chief of Vogue.
For me the story of the exhibition is largely about how gardens influenced pattern and the design of ladies fashion and how flora and fauna were used to decorate clothes. It is quite a small exhibition but if you enjoy pattern, colour and form, have an interest in clothes and gardens as well as an admiration for needlework and art, then this could be worth a visit for you. The story starts with a portrait by an unknown artist in circa 1606 of the aptly named, Lettice Newdigate, a young girl aged two. The sitter is wearing a dress and ruby jewels decorated with black stitching on the bodice which mirrors the pattern of a knot garden shown in the back ground of the picture. Copyright does not allow me to show you the image but look up her name and she will appear. It is a charming picture and I love her direct gaze and pleased expression. Please do take the time to look her up.
Knot gardens and parterres have a pleasing rhythm of scrolls and loops which copied well on to garments through embroidery. Beautiful examples were on display but photographs were not allowed so I cannot share them with you here. The exhibition moves forward through time, 18th Century pastoral and the English style, 19th Century and colour theory to Mary Quant daisies, Vivienne Westwood, Valentino, Philip Treacy, and Alexander McQueen. There are a few couture outfits on display including the most exquisite Evening cloak by Valentino.
Take a look at the Garden Museum website of the same name, click on exhibitions, and there is a link to a short BBC news article which will really help you see how lovely an exhibition this is.
the entrance to the gallery, a floral installation by Rebecca Louise Law who created a wonderful hanging garden in the nave. Worth the entrance fee of £7.50 to see just this.
Finally if I have interested you enough, and you are still reading, can I just add that the museum has a great little restaurant and if the weather is kind, it has a great knot garden which was created by dowager Marchioness of Salisbury who also created the gardens at Hatfield House. Take the time, go visit.