Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've always been more concerned with garments than fashion. A piece of clothing constructed by someone I've never heard of with a clear genesis and context is as of much interest to me as a Vionnet dress so the Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum was a must see. It's very difficult to put into words the response to so many robes, so beautifully woven, that are from a culture that is so at odds to the one I live in. That kind of couture is invaluable because we all encounter it so rarely in our day to day lives. Unless you're lucky enough to have a family member or close friend who can create such intricately detailed clothing this exhibition presents you with a craftsmanship that you might not have met before. Having researched weaving in the last 12 months it was quite compelling to be able to understand the method of creation. It's a shame that the robes could only be seen from the front (this is such an enduring pain for me- that clothes are displayed like paintings rather than as sculpture) particularly since the backs are no less detailed than the fronts but it's an exhibition I would consider visiting again because it was such a pleasure.


Alice Y. said...

Did you leave that comment about the display style as feedback to the exhibition? I hope they will pay attention.

Nina said...

The truth is that the V&A never have enough dedicated textile space to display garments in that way. The permanent gallery in which their clothing is displayed was originally a temporary exhibition space and that hasn't been addressed for many years (I assume there are funding issues). I hope that they're funding the refurbishment of the space and that the garments are going to be shown differently as a result of that but it's unlikely. Their approach is to treat clothes like artefacts rather than items that were worn and that fits with the general remit of the museum so it's appropriate, just not to my taste. It's rather like looking at one side of a coin or a ceramic pot.