Until the 1970s fashion history and curation privileged elite Parisian haute couture. Subsequently radical fashion, world dress and sub-cultural style have been fore-grounded. This project was commissioned by the V&A to redress this balance, focusing upon London couture, an area of British fashion which lacked academic and museological scrutiny. I case studied the work of leading couturier Catherine Walker.
My research questions in curating this exhibition were to compare this business with the Parisian industry (identical apart from not staging a show); to identify the couturiers signatures (influenced by 1930s bias cuts and flesh tones; lingerie; flowers and a preoccupation with flattering the feminine body) and reveal the commissioning and crafting of a couture garment. This evidence was not in the public domain. I contextualized Walker’s work within a continuum of London couture by examining the paper and clothing archives of historical couturiers at the V&A; and undertook research at Vogue House and LCF’s Special Collections.
Curatorial processes involved selecting and displaying garments, and writing exhibition texts, which engaged with the research themes. The accompanying book, (exhibition legacy and dissemination) forms the first academic scrutiny of a contemporary London couturier’s work and history of this previously overlooked area of London fashion.