Women Fashion Power previewed at the Design Museum this morning.
It’s a very good show, with its best moments in quiet corners.
There’s much in the show – this is just a cherry pick.
A Suffragette’s hat from 1900.
A Suffragette sash.
A suit by Chanel from the 1920s.
Up a far corner is one of the most powerful garments in the whole exhibition.
A pair of beach pyjamas from the 1930s.
It speaks of quiet liberation.
This is what interested me going round the show – does power have to be something overt and show-off?
A CC41 blouse from the Second World War – clothing that met the goverment’s austerity measures, but which still allowed for print and flair.
A propaganda printed scarf, from 1942.
The return of Chanel – a suit from 1955.
It’s gratifying to see that a suit worn by Margaret Thatcher is not glorified, but just presented as a garment.
It’s from 1972.
Here’s Thatcher wearing it in 1975.
This is a huge paraphrasing of the show.
There’s much of worth in it to see.
It’s when it gets to present day that I find it loses authority.
It’s valid to present the extreme catwalk version of power suits – the one on the left by Thierry Mugler, the one on the right by Gianni Versace.
Critically, here there is no 1980s work from Jil Sander.
And so no sense of the emergence of quiet tailored female power.
The 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s are represented either by extreme or statement dressing.
Here’s a Roland Mouret Galaxy dress, a garment which works by holding the woman in.
An appearance of power rather than power itself.
A series of shoes by Christian Louboutin – a very shallow idea of power.
A parody of power.
I’m not sure how you dovetail from the Suffragette’s hat to these.
I’m not sure why, but one of the last garments in the exhibition is a pink Juicy Couture tracksuit.
I don’t see the women I know today reflected here.
My friends who runs their own companies.
The women I know who run galleries.
The women I deal with day to day for work.
Perhaps what’s needed is a section on Post-Power.
How women of power can dress in the 21st century without needing to convey that power.
Because of their status, because of the way they’ve crafted their own careers, and also because the internet age allows people to work in a more informal way.
In high fashion, it’s the world of Céline, a label sorely missing from the exhibition.
(I found a Céline necklace on one of the garments donated by notable female figures, but as far as I could see that was it).
In real life, it’s something like a grey marl sweatshirt, worn with a pair of jeans and some Converse.
A shame that it misses a true sense of the contemporary.
But this is only the very end.
80% of the show is super good.