Objects Of Desire

A Fusion of Vintage and Contemporary Fashion

Vintage Shoes
Vintage Shoes

Fashion is one of the great living arts of civilization and self-decoration one of the fundamental human urges. Professor Janey Ironside.

When I first heard this title for the latest fashion exhibition at Killerton House I was intrigued.  What could make an object desirable? Is it a desire to possess an object or to be captivated by it, to adorn it?

How do you describe an ‘object’ in relation to fashion? A dress bought to wear, a hat given as a gift, a hand-me-down top or bag woven with memories?

Thinking about desire and fashion where do we begin? Is it that must have feeling?  A longing to buy that dress you cannot afford or just an Audrey Hepburn moment, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

How would fashion be displayed to engage an audience of spectators? Hidden from view, behind a glass bubble? Perhaps, a spectacle of fashion not used in everyday life?

Display Of Shoes
Display Of Shoes

In order to reveal the mystery I indulged myself, I became a spectator. My visit was made extra special by knowing the Costume Curator, Shelley Tobin. They do say it’s not what you know, but who! In fact, I was lucky enough to grab some of Shelley’s time for a personal tour of the exhibition.

A group of evening and cocktail gowns from the Killerton collection includes designs by Hartnell and Molyneux.

When I asked Shelley, why ‘Objects of Desire’? This was her response:

The exhibition took that aspirational passion for fashion as a starting point, the excitement and inspiration you might get from flicking through a glossy magazine or pressing your nose up against an expensive shop window-you know you can’t afford it, it’s maybe just out of reach, but it is the ultimate object of desire-something to aim for.  We also wanted to mix up the period clothing with something new, showing how both ideas and silhouetted could be ‘recycled’ in the design, as well as the upcycling of fabrics and old garments. These days, with the wearing of actual vintage garments having become so popular, people can imagine wearing some of the pieces in the collection themselves.

The exhibition explores the timeless desirability of luxurious vintage fashion and accessories from the 20th century and highlights the ultimate in designer and couture dress. Designed and guest curated by renowned interior designer Russell Sage.

Jacket created from a flag, designed by Russell Sage. Shelley’s thoughts on working with Russell Sage:

Russell’s vision has brought together some of the most luxurious ‘vintage’ couture and ready to wear pieces from the collection with a selection of high fashion clothes from the recent archives of contemporary designers. Here upmarket fashion of the 1920s to the 1970s collides with fashion’s new direction as represented by young cutting edge designers working in Britain today. As well as bringing a sense of the London catwalks to Killerton, Russell has chosen a series of films illustrating the close links between contemporary art, fashion and film-making.  The exhibition has also given us the chance to work with the University of Falmouth. The display has evolved as seven pairs of second-year students from the Fashion and Sports Performance Wear courses have created new garments from vintage furnishing textiles, echoing Russell’s own work incorporating furnishing fabrics in the early 2000s, and the late eighteenth century gown from our own collections remade from embroidered bed-hangings of about 1700.

Late Eighteenth Century Costume
Late Eighteenth Century Costume

Student Volunteer, Julia, with her favourite exhibit, the ‘up cycled’ late eighteenth Century costume which has been made from an early eighteenth century bed-hanging.

A catwalk of new designs made from furnishings by Falmouth students and contemporary fashion.

Make sure you find the time to ‘desire’ to see it!

There’s a chance to see more at the monthly Focus on Fashion events hosted by Shelley. Killerton recently ran a very popular vintage weekend which they hope will be repeated in 2014.

The exhibition runs until November 3 2013; re-opening again from November 23 until January 6 with a Christmas display (closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Admission to the exhibition is included in admission to the house and garden; see the Killerton website for more details. You can also see more of Killerton’s  collection through the National Trust Collections online.

Forthcoming exhibitions at Killerton:

Members of the Costume Society will be able to see the new exhibition for 2014: The Nature of Fashion as Killerton will be one of the venues for the Costume Society Symposium in July, details to be announced shortly.

This blog was written in collaboration with Shelley Tobin, Costume Curator, at Killeton.

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