A new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum traces the evolution of the ballgown from society-girl staple to red-carpet statement maker, with the aspirations of the wearers embedded in every stitch.
Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950 draws a line between some of the most storied garments from the past 60 years in British event dressing. Last night, the great, the good and the gown-wearers convened to celebrate this most storybook of exhibitions.
Ballgowns elevate the wearer, create an aura, enhance your personality and bring you into a fantasy worldthats what fashion should be about, Marios Schwab told us at the opening. More than diamonds, they are a girls best friend.
Historically significant designs, like Diana, Princess of Wales pearl-encrusted Catherine Walker gown and a Norman Hartnell design for the Queen Mother, sit alongside modern selections from the likes of Mary Katrantzou, Erdem and Giles Deacon. Because despite the ebbing-away of the debutante ball, today, its red-carpet events that provide designers with the ultimate forum to air their craft.
The wonderful thing about the ballgown is that its a celebratory garment, curator Oriole Cullen said. It is a fantasy piece, completely removed from everyday life. Its transportative, and its the epitome of a designers art in the sense of the fabrics, the finishes, the embellishment. Its a real moment for a designer to show what they can do.
But are they wearable?
I wear ballgowns all the time, sometimes even when Im home!, Roksanda Ilincic shared. Why not? You dont have to have an occasion.