V&A; Museum Announces Major Exhibition on Ball Gowns

An exhibition of more than 60 ball gowns from 1950 to the present day will go on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London from May 2012. Curated by Oriole Cullen and Sonnet Stanfill, ‘Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950’ will be the first exhibition in the newly renovated V&A Fashion Galleries and will feature notable ball gowns, red carpet evening gowns and catwalk showstoppers.

The exhibition intends to cover more than 60 years of a strong British design tradition of creating sumptuous ball gowns that gathered strength after the end of World War II. This has been evident throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries in the work of designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

Displayed over two floors, the exhibition will show designs made especially for social events such as private parties, royal state occasions, debutante balls, opening nights and red carpet events. Impressive eveningwear from the V&A’s vast collection by designers such as Norman Hartnell, Victor Stiebel, Zandra Rhodes, Catherine Walker, Jonathan Saunders and Hussein Chalayan will be on show, as well as dresses fresh from the catwalk shows of Alexander McQueen, Giles, Erdem, Roksanda Illincic, Mark Fast and Jenny Packham. Designer Gareth Pugh has even created a metallic leather dress especially for the exhibition.

A selection of royal ball gowns will be displayed, including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Diana’s ‘Elvis Dress’ designed by Catherine Walker, and gowns worn by today’s royals. Dresses worn by actresses and celebrities including Sandra Bullock, Daphne Guinness, Elizabeth Hurley and Bianca Jagger will also be shown.

The ground floor of the exhibition will feature over 30 ball gowns from the Museum’s permanent collection. Designs from 1950 to the early 2000s will be shown, including gowns by Hardy Amies, Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Belleville Sassoon, Murray Arbeid, Bruce Oldfield and Julien MacDonald. The space will be designed and styled to evoke the excitement of preparing for a ball in a grand country house. The display will include film as well as contextual images and accessories such as evening bags, gloves and shoes.

The exhibition will continue from the ground floor onto the mezzanine, which will feature a stylised ‘ballroom’ space, with around 30 evening gowns designed by contemporary UK-based makers on open display. This display area intends to evoke the glamour of the red carpet or a couture presentation.