Valentino… a master creator and also an inspiration

Last week I visited the Valentino exhibition at Somerset House in London.  Whilst I’m nowhere near the league of Valentino and his master craftsmanship, I always find it an inspiration looking at real couture.

Whilst its not  a huge exhibition, what it lacks in grandeur of scale it more than makes up in grandeur of style.  The first room displays various sketches, and media cuttings outlining Valentino’s illustrious career, then it’s upstairs to the main exhibition.

The exhibits are displayed down a long corridor with the spectators walking down the centre catwalk style.  The intimacy of the exhibition space allows the spectator an up close experience.  It is possible, if you’re the curious type (like me) to lean across to get a better look. In fact on several items, I was able to see the tacking stitches holding the pleats and gathers in place, I was literally that close.  So close to touch, not that I would, but it was awfully temping so scrumptiously luxurious were the fabrics;  softest cashmeres, the silkiest satins, and delicate georgette pleating, oh yes and the beading…

These outfits – which consisted of mostly “gowns” (certainly grand enough to be a gown rather than merely a dress) but also included many day-wear type outfits too – were, are and will always remain timeless classics.  Bar a couple of 1987/88 creations, which so typified the 1980s, pretty much every outfit wouldn’t look out of place on today’s red carpet. In fact, I got a shock on more than one occasion when I thought an outfit was merely a couple of seasons old, only to discover it was from 1968!   What Mr Valentino knows all too well is that real style and elegance transcends the fickleness of fashion.  A lady at the side of me commented on the same thing saying the styles were so simple, yet so elegant.  I said yes, and could be easily replicated.  She said she wouldn’t know where to start.  I commented that I could quiet easily recreate a style or two…

The final costume exhibit is, naturally, as with all catwalk shows, the wedding dress.  And Mr Valentino had certainly saved the best until last.  The lace, the silk, the appliqué… I’m not eloquent enough.

Finally we encountered a large table with samples of the artwork displayed on the clothes – organza flowers, satin piped tubing, turn-back pleats and tulle rosettes to name a selection.  Alongside the samples was a “how to create” video which showed how the many talented artisans within the atelier complete the work.  Carefully edited (you’d need to have a reasonable knowledge of couture to be able to figure out how to recreate) each short film showed the tricks of the trade. It was lovely to see a few of my own personal shortcuts being applied (I thought I was simply being sloppy but clearly others do the same!) and gave me a few ideas for creations which have been ruminating in my brain for a year or two without creative output.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I can do it.  Thursday morning, bright and breezy, there I was going through the half-finished, almost but not quite, didn’t quite make the grade, end of the Eliza Wyke rail to see how I can apply some of my new-found creativity.

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