Flashing lights, pumping music and extreme fashion. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum may seem like a strange setting for a rave, but with its summer exhibit Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980’s, opening today, the V&A explores how high fashion was influenced and reinvented by the bold, edgy styles that dominated underground club culture in the ’80s. Taking over two floors of the museum, the exhibit features more than 90 outfits from 70+ designers, including John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Wendy Dagworthy, paired with accessories from the likes of Stephen Jones, Mulberry and Judy Blame.
The ground floor showcases designers whose experimental ’80s looks propelled them to international renown, such as Betty Jackson, a pioneer for the iconic loose-shirts-and-bold-prints combination, and Katharine Hamnett, who made headlines while wearing her “58% Don’t Want Pershing” T-shirt to meet Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Upstairs, the mezzanine gallery spotlights the era’s distinct styles: Goth, Rave, Fetish, High Camp and New Romantic.
Joseph jumper, courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Collectively, the curation shows how fashion morphed through the decade with pieces directly reflective of the era’s music, from the loose-fitting, distressed looks spurred by the early ’80s rockabilly revival to the day-glo, ecstasy-inspired designs that emerged later in the decade as Ibiza-infused dance music became prevalent in the club scene. Visitors will see the creative relationship between the two industries in items like a John Galliano pink muslin dress, a Lycra jersey from Bodymap, the glamorous eveningwear by Bruce Oldfield and Anthony Price and fetishwear by Vivienne Westwood, among many others.
In celebration of London nightclubs that influenced the sartorial choices of the decade—including famed venues Blitz and Taboo—an area of the exhibit replicates an ’80s nightclub and plays music and video footage of club regulars like Boy George and Leigh Bowery, compiled by DJ Jeffrey Hinton, to give museum goers a real feel for the high-energy club atmosphere.
“Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s” is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum through February 2014.