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Spectres & Queen Maud’s wardrobe at the V&A


The Victoria & Albert museum has become a regular hang-out for those in need of a fashion fix. From Westwood to Versace, year after year the V&A regularly delivers a feast of fashion and frocks.


Silhouettes by Ruben Toledo


Now on at the museum is an exhibition curated by Judith Clark, entitled Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back. Spectres examines the relationship between past and recent fashions and illustrates how historical design often influences the contemporary creations of today. It’s this ‘fashion ghost’ if you like, that continues to live on and evolve in the work of some of our most cutting-edge designers.

Playing on this haunting experimental theme the exhibition is set up as a labyrinth of traditional fairground attractions. You are invited to peer through peepholes, check out the fashion merry-go-round and remix the past with the present courtesy of Ruben Toledo’s graphic illustrations and some secondhand finds.

Set up aside, the exhibition features historic pieces from the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli, Madame Gres and Christian Dior, with conceptual designs by Hamish Morrow, Helmut Lang, Viktor & Rolf and many others from the V&A fashion collection and ModeMuseum archive. From distressed fabrics to reworked silhouettes Spectres offers food for thought coupled with quotations from fashion theorist Caroline Evans.

Spectres Merry-Go-Round


Remixing It: The Past in Pieces

Quote from Caroline Evans, Fashion at the Edge:

“And in the same way that musical history lost its linearity when mixed by the DJ so too did fashion and cultural history lose its linearity when remixed by late twentieth century designers folding one historical reference back on another.

Rather than recreating one period, the historical borrowings were multi-layered rummaging through the historical wardrobe to produce clothes with a strictly modern resonance.”

Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back is on until the 8th May 2005

Admission is free.


Spectres - evening dress by Christian Dior              Photo-print dress by Dirk Van Saene 1995-6 


Style & Splendour Queen Maud of Norway’s wardrobe 1896 – 1938

If Spectres leaves you in the mood for yet more fashion inspiration then you are in luck, as the V&A also offers a taster of the late Queen Maud of Norway’s wardrobe. Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria was a British Princess who became Queen Consort of the newly independent Norway in 1905. The display shows 52 of her spectacular outfits, taking you on a historical trip through the decorative Victorian period to the pared down chic of the 1930s.

Alongside her sumptuous royal gowns and evening dresses you’ll find outfits from Maud’s off-duty life; smart tailored suits, simple silk dresses and her traditional riding attire. Queen Maud’s wardrobe was filled with creations from ladies tailors, court dressmakers and a variety of designers, including the likes of Laferriere, John Blancquaert and Charles Frederick Worth. Couturier Worth created an exquisite beaded dress for Queen Maud; the piece is the earliest surviving dress from the highly influential designer. 

Check out Queen Maud’s Coronation dress made from gold lame and embroidered in gilt metal thread for a taste of opulent royal attire. As well as her extensive range of accessories; hats, handbags, shoes, gloves and corsages – all of which she would need to complete her on-duty look. The wardrobe spans from her marriage in 1896 to her death in 1938. It provides a glimpse into a time of dramatic change from the heavy complicated layers of the Victorian era to the boyish silhouettes of the 1930’s.

Queen Maud’s wardrobe is on loan from the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. 

Style & Splendour Queen Maud of Norway’s wardrobe 1896 – 1938 runs until 8th January 2006.


Coronation Dress 1906                  Riding outfit 1920s


Website: www.vam.ac.uk

By JoJo Iles

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