Gown by Victor Edelstein, 1986. Worn and given by Lady Heseltine. Museum no. T.264-2001. Image © David Hughes 2011
Fashion is often accused of being frivolous, ephemeral and unnecessary. It is not essential to our survival as human beings. Perhaps it is a sign that times are peaceful, that we are able to create and express ourselves, precisely because our main focus in life isn’t day-to-day living. It is also hard to think of a time when we would chose to wear purely functional clothes, day in and day out – clothes that are essentially uniforms made from fabrics that are hard-wearing and stain resistant. Instead, when we can, we chose to look for clothes that express ourselves, that are a sign of our times and that sometimes are solely glamorous. The opening of the newly renovated Fashion Galleries at the V&A this week is a testament to the integral role that clothes and fashion plays in our lives and times. These galleries together with the exhibition Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 clearly demonstrates how beautiful fabrics, colour, surface, texture, shape, extravagance and glamour express our very human need for adornment and decoration. The exhibitions show how much beauty and pleasure we derive from fashion and being fashionable.