Look At Those Clothes!

Musings on style and fashion

Power Up!

1930s fashion 1“Women Fashion Power,”  just recently opened at the Design Museum in London, looks like a bang-up show for you if you love clothes— or just find them fascinating for the big part they play in our personal identities and our cultural life. The museum’s website says that “Women Fashion Power” offers “an unprecedented look at how princesses, models, CEOs, Dames and designers have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world.”

Billed as “the most wide-ranging exhibition of modern fashion ever to be seen in the UK,” the exhibition has as its centerpiece two dozen or so variously accomplished women who use clothing as a means of both self-expression and empowerment. Each has provided one of her outfits and some words about her style philosophy.   Among the eclectic gathering:

  • Anne Hidalgo, recently elected mayor of Paris—the first woman ever to hold that position
  • Kristy Wark, Scottish journalist and television presenter recently described in a Telegraph interview as “incisive, exacting and, once she’s got a government minister between her teeth, as tenacious as a Border terrier”


    Photo by Michal Zacharzewski / RGBstock

  • Princess Charlene of Monaco, a former Olympic swimmer from South Africa (a poor little rich girl whose tough adjustment to royalty may turn out alright now that she’s about to present her prince’s tiny little country—half the size of Central Park—with twins)
  • Genevieve Bell, a PhD anthropologist and Director of User Interaction and Experience at Intel
  • Diane von Furstenberg, who refined the wrap dress (she didn’t create it in— that honor goes to Charles James)
  • Powerhouse architect Zaha Hadid, designer of the exhibition and Dame of the British Empire
  •  Skin (aka Debra Ann Dyer), vocalist with the British rock band Skunk Anansie, sometime model, and holder of an honorary degree in interior design from Teesside University, England

Besides ogling the outfits of these contemporary Super Women, you can learn about power dressing over the past 150 years through interviews, photos, films, multimedia presentations, and many more garments, from the corset to the power suit. You’ll see suit versions a la The Iron Lady (Margaret Thatcher, first woman to serve as prime minister of the United Kingdom) and late 1960s model Lesley Hornby Lawson, popularly  known as Twiggy (well, power comes in many forms).

From Diary of a Renaissance Seamstress website

But wait, the corset?!?  Seems more constricting (pun intended) than empowering, doesn’t it? Let’s face facts, though: Sometimes the power women want most is power over men. And the corset gave them that—while just possibly putting a few female rivals firmly in their place. (“Ha! Perhaps I am blue from lack of air, but my tiny waist bespeaks the quality of my person, which is obviously greater than the quality of your person.” [Not.])

So . . .  if you’ll be in London between now and April 26, 2015, head over to the Design Museum. And be sure to wear whatever makes you feel powerful—or, more to the point, whatever makes you feel most powerfully you.


“[This] isn’t a fashion exhibition, despite the fact that we use ‘fashion’ in the title. It’s about clothes and how women have used them to empower themselves, to intimidate people, and just to make them feel sexy.  . . .  it isn’t in fact entirely about all the great movements of fashion. It’s about how all intelligent women take what they need from fashion at any one particular moment — and get their look. The most interesting and successful people wearing clothes today are people who have made their own look from what they are offered.”

—”Women Fashion Power” co-curator Colin McDowell




Categories: Been to a Museum Lately?

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2 replies

  1. This looks like an exhibit well worth attending. Any plans to attend?


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