V&A Clothworkers: Conservation of Fashion

Blythe House, Olympia. London. The building somewhat resembling an old medical institution, is home to the most important collection of textiles and fashion in the world. The Blythe House, being part of the Victoria & Albert institution also archives textiles, paintings, architectural objects, glassware and photographs.

On one of its upper floors the House is home to the Clothworkers’ Centre for conservation of Textiles & Fashion. The place is quiet, few big tables stand with some fabric and garment laying on them. A woman catches my eye, she is taking a photograph of some fabric. What caught my attention was her attire. She was wearing a white lab coat and medical gloves. Our tour guide regains my attention when we reach what I decide to call “The cupboard hallway” – a long  hallway with closed black doors locked by bank like round padlocks on every door and  little notes with designer names, dates and countries. Having watched a lot of fashion movies and documentaries, I immediately understand that this is where the magical history of fashion sleeps.

Every cupboard contains tugged in garments protected from changing temperatures, light and exterior contamination such as moths and dust. The  collection holds an impressive range of garments going from  17th century gowns, the 19th century rare Mantua Gown to 1930s-40s evening wear all the way to post-war Haute Couture.

We next step into a room with two big tables. On each table lies dresses, suits and tops. The apparent colour fading indicates that those garments are vintage.

The following pictures show the wonders laying around the room, these images are archives on the V&A website that contains most of their collections.

Yves Saint Laurent cocktail dress, 1958. Paris, France. Given by the Duchess of Windsor
New Look coat, Christian Dior, 1948. Paris, France
Vivienne Westwood top, 1978. London, Great Britain
Courrèges, André dress, 1967. Paris, France
Prada dress, 2005. Italy
Vivienne Westwood man’s suit, about 1968. London, UK
Mary Quant, Ensemble (Dress, jumper, hat), 1965. London, UK


Link to the collection: https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/fashion








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