As the forerunner in fashion advancement in Britain, the V&A is the London Victorian-red-brick institution that brings fashion admirers from all over the country (and beyond) to view its exhibitions. Set up in 1852 during the heights of Queen Victoria’s reign following the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year, it was meant to showcase British design and craftsmanship, as well as educating all the classes on the importance of art and design. The magnificent structure is enough in itself to bring art lovers and Instagrammers to its doors- the characteristic red-brick exterior was only added in 1899, and the rest of the V&A is a jumble of different styles of architecture and design, much like its eclectic exhibitions. The V&A has now housed many popular fashion exhibitions, rivaled only in popularity by the MET Gallery in New York, including the Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ that sold out so quickly they extended the exhibition by two months and the ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ most recently. It is currently featuring an exhibition entitled ‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’, bringing light to the underskirt pleasures of fine lingerie and impractical pieces like the corset that bound women just for the sake of a tiny waist. The V&A prides itself on finding rare, beautiful items to exhibit that bring the masses to its doors. It also features a permanent exhibition from fashion all over the world, (mainly from the eighteen hundreds) focusing on European and Asian fashion, and tying its links to the expansion of fashion trade and the fabric industry.
The other interesting aspect of the V&A is not in its exhibitions, but its endeavor to promote fashion education. The museum hosts talks, lunchtime lectures and workshops to invite the interest of the fashion-savvy and bring in younger generations interested in perusing the field. Together with Somerset House and the Condé Nast College it shows that London is at the top of its game in bringing together and educating the next fashion designers, stylists, and writers. It is just another reason why the V&A is such a great place to go if you are planning a trip!
It is also interesting to note its one connection to the North- together with the Bowes Museum in Newgate, it exhibits some of its most popular exhibitions in their fashion galleries, albeit with a little delay. Most recently, it housed the ‘Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal’ exhibition, co-authoring the last year’s Durham Book Week. However, as a key London location the V&A Museum should be seen by anyone relatively interested in British fashion, and is a must-see for anyone wishing to visit the most extraordinary museum in the UK. It’s grandeur and size shows just how important it is the national fashion scene, and its involvement with the Somerset House during Fashion Week proves it is not just a museum, but an integrated part of the fashion network in the UK and abroad.