Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood – exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum

I recently enjoyed a long weekend of playing in my own city, London, when my sister came to stay.  I’m often guilty of not making time to enjoy the rich variety of what London has to offer.  Having a motivated visitor is a great reminder that there is so much going on and a great excuse to get out and enjoy it!

Over my sister’s four-day stay, we visited a different exhibition each day (for more details of the other exhibitions, see the end of this post).  One of the exhibitions we visited was the Fashion and Textile Museum’s current show, Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood.

The exhibition showcased developments in knitwear design from the 1920s to the 1990s. There was a stunning array of garments displayed, which are taken mainly from the private collection of knitwear enthusiasts Mark and Cleo Butterfield.  It was a very diverse range of garments, ranging from 1920s knitted swimwear to “novelty” pieces from the 1970s which were loudly embellished with embroidery, applique and crazy prints (including a Scottie dog jumper which reminded me of something I wore as a child!).  Some of the pieces were everyday wear, both commercially-made and in some cases handmade (such as in the WW2 “make do and mend” section, which featured some beautiful hand knitted sweaters using lots of scraps of different coloured yarns to great effect).  Other pieces were designed for evening wear, including a selection of 1950s embellished cocktail jumpers (which is definitely a concept that isn’t used enough now!) and a breathtaking 1920s beaded cape. The exhibition showed the impact on fashion designers of traditional techniques, such as fair isle, folk embellishments from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and also how innovations in construction and fibres inspired designers such as Mary Quant, Sonia Rykiel and Vivienne Westwood to create ever more experimental knitwear designs through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, ending with Julian Macdonald’s stunning and innovative knitwear from the 1990s.

Photography wasn’t allowed in the exhibition, so unfortunately I can’t give you a visual flavour of the exhibition to entice you to go.  Here are some of the postcards that I bought:

Chanel to Westwood

(Postcards L-R show 1980s Escada sweater, handcrafted 1940s cardigan and handknit Edwardian petticoat.  All pieces from the collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield.)

For a fascinating snapshot of how knitwear developed during the 20th century or even just to look at lots of lovely clothes, if you are in London before the exhibition closes on 18 January 2015, I recommend going along.  Details of opening times and ticket prices are available here.

Other things that my sister and I did over the weekend included visiting the Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition at the V&A (until 15 March 2015), the exhibition of Yoshitomo Nara artworks at the Dairy Art Centre (which finishes on 7 December 2014 – if you read this in time, go now! – it was brilliant) and the Art of the Brick lego art exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery (until 12 April 2015).  We also found some Paddingtons out and about on the streets of London, drank cocktails on the roof of Selfridges department store in a very Christmassy mock ski-chalet, walked a lot, and did a fair bit of our Christmas shopping.  Oh, and my sister met Take That, which was also very exciting!  It was a lovely few days, and reminded me that I really must take time more often to be a visitor to my own city.

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1 Response to Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood – exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum

  1. helenatho says:

    That flowery cardigan is fab! Glad had lovely sistery times.

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