Women Power Dressing – An Exhibition

A bitterly cold trek along the side of the River Thames to the Design Museum proved rewarding in the exhibition Women Power Dressing.

The exhibition starts with a look at the powerful women throughout the centuries (some would say the usual suspects of dominance): Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, our present Queen, Jackie Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama to name a few.  Each had (or have) their instantly recognisable style and were style influencers of their time.

Next we wander through a potted history of fashion throughout the 20th century highlighting the evolution, or should be that be liberation, of womenswear.

This exhibition charts the way power is conveyed in dress.  From the earliest rosettes and sashes demanding “votes for women” to the unstructured corset-less dresses of the flappers, to the bathing suits and the empowerment of the female form as she revealed more on the beach throughout the century (sadly I didn’t capture the swimwear on camera).  We see the mini dress and of course the trouser suit – both revolutions for women in their time.

Turn of the century and how powerful could we be trussed up in this?
Turn of the century and how powerful could we be trussed up in this?
Trussed in a corset wanting freedom... go figure?!
Trussed in a corset wanting freedom… go figure?!
Suffragette hat
Suffragette hat
Ditching the corsets - helped by Chanel (the suit on the right), the 1920s saw an unstructured look
Ditching the corsets – helped by Chanel (the suit on the right), the 1920s saw an unstructured look
Obsessed with Hollywood, then and now
Obsessed with Hollywood, then and now.

 

The 1950s... the start of the high street?  Street style fashion
The 1950s… M&S advertisements, could this be the start of the high street as we know it?
The comeback suit
Chanel: The comeback suit
The trouser suit
YSL: The trouser suit
Power dressing 1970s style - would a female politician wear something so bold today?
Power dressing 1970s style – would a female politician wear something so boldly feminine today?
Iconic of the 1980s
Iconic of the 1980s – Addicted to Love
Zandra Rhodes' punk wedding dress
Zandra Rhodes’ punk wedding dress
The iconic DvF dress - created in the 1970s, reinvented in the noughties
The iconic DvF dress – created in the 1970s, reinvented in the noughties
The Galaxy; another icon
The Galaxy; another icon for the new millennium

Indeed the exhibition bills itself as a “celebration of exceptional women”. The curator invited women in a range of professions who were deemed leaders in their field (politics, business, fashion) to show how they use clothes and their personal style, to communicate with the world.

These loaned outfits, in my mind, show the evolution of the “power” dressing and how women are engaging with the contemporary, to show their individuality, through dress. Beside each outfit the women say in their own words their approach to fashion, which I found fascinating.

Exhibition of women in business and the outfits they feel empower them
Exhibition of women in business and the outfits they feel empower them

A small exhibition, it is nonetheless a thoughtful exhibition, documenting not only the revolution in fashion which took place last century, but the revolutionary change in attitude which has taken place this.

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