Speaking of my shirtwaister dress on Sunday, this photo here shows me wearing it for the first time to the Vivienne Westwood shoe exhibition in Durham. I was actually very ill that day and spent the entire journey drugged up in the back of the car, hobbled around the exhibition, then crawled back into the car. This was also the day before I started on the steroids hence why I look so unbloated, I can’t wait until the course is finished. Anyway you know me I just slap a smile on things and there was no way I was missing out on this. So I made like Dame Viv herself and tarted up my knee strap with a flying penis.
The exhibition was displayed in the beautiful Bowes Museum, there were plenty of other wonderful things to see but I wasn’t up to seeing them, it would be lovely to visit again.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and the grounds too were picture perfect. The shoe gallery was fairly small but large enough to have a display through the years of Westwood’s career. I was really frustrated that there was no fore warning that photography was not permitted or I would have applied ahead for permission, hence all the photo’s were sneakily taken via my BlackBerry and my mums iPhone. They are not great photo’s by any means but these are the best selection, I have uploaded the entire album onto my Facebook page.
The exhibition started in chronological (ish) order right up to the latest S/S runway show. Westwood is one of the only designers to have incorporated shoes an equal part of the design, with Vivienne you are presented with an entire look.
Hammerhead trainer ‘Pirate’ 1981, Brocade hammerhead boot ‘Savage’ 1982, Pirate boot ‘Pirate’ 1981 - I was really disappointed that this wasn’t an original Pirate boot from 1981 but a reproduction and yes I do realise I am probably the only person in the world to notice that!
Buffalo sack boot ‘Buffalo’ 1982, Anglophillia sack boot ‘Anglophillia’ 2002 – in some instances the shoes were not arranged chronologically but with the primary and secondary evolution of the design. Here the original 1982 Sack boot is presented with its contemporary design of ten years later. Almost another decade on this design is still available from Westwood and is worn by myself in the above image.
Apollo wing shoe ‘Pagan I’ 1988, Rocking Horse ballerina ‘Harris Tweed’ 1986 – as with the Sack boots the rocking horse wedge heel can be seen from two separate collections, the Greek influenced ‘Apollo’ winged shoe and the ballerina ribbon lace shoe.
Close up of the Apollo wing shoe
The exhibition will be traveling all over the world so keep your eye on the Vivienne Westwood Facebook page for updates, you wouldn’t want to miss it I assure you. Even if you are not a huge Westwood fan I think anyone with a remote interest in fashion and design would find such a retrospective of real value. Being able to watch the progression of design, experimentation with themes, textures and materials all emerge before your very eyes.
Perhaps because I have so much experience with galleries and curatorial matters I pick up on these things, but I always find modern exhibitions some what lacking in information. There were boards of text to read at the entrance to the exhibit but of course not many people have the time, inclination or ability to stop and read them all. Making exhibitions more interactive and user friendly is something I have been involved with for the past few years and am really passionate about, I always want everyone to know absolutely everything! Over hearing some peoples comments it really hammered home just how important education is, it isn’t all about wondering around looking at pretty things! I heard two ladies discussing how all the shoes looked differnt sizes, ‘but how can they all be Vivienne’s shoes?’ one exclaimed, they wouldn’t fit her. I think they were under the impression that they were all Vivienne’s personal shoes that she wore. Others I heard joking ‘are these the shoes she couldn’t sell’, ‘surely no one could actually wear this shoe’ and so on. Usually I would have offered my Dr Pearl words of wisdom but doing this in the past in museums has ended in me giving tours so I keep schtum!
The only other comment I would make is that the museum website was slightly misleading as it stated the exhibit was free – which it was, but only when paying to enter the main museum. There were a lot of people not expecting this and one family behind me decided they couldn’t afford to go in. I think this is a terrible shame and most museums are free so, I know that funding is scarce but fees are usually bulked up by gift shop and cafe takings on top of government funding and donations.
All in all it was a fantastic opportunity to see some Westwood outside my own closet, I can only wish one day an entire permanent Westwood museum will be opened – should they ever need a curator they know who to call.
Don’t forget to check out the full album on my Facebook page!