Sunday, 29 September 2013

Paris Haute Couture @ Hotel de Ville, Paris

I have plenty that I am ready to share from my research and sketchbook work for my last unit project from Year 1 at London College of Fashion - a collaboration between the BA Hair, Make-Up and Prosthetics course and BA Costume for Performance. We worked on the text 'The Madwoman of Chaillot', designing and realising our characters in groups of 5/6.

You can see my finished costume here - Irma in 'The Madwoman of Chaillot' - but it's also great to share the design process and inspiration, and I had so much fun researching for this project! To kick start our term we spent a few art-packed days in Paris, full of fantastic exhibitions and visits, the highlight of which would have to be 'Paris Haute Couture', supported by Swarovski, at the beautiful Hotel de Ville.

Set against the incredible backdrop of the one of the most impressive Neo-Renaissance buildings in Paris, this exhibition was everything I could have wanted and much, much more! Every piece displayed was striking and engaging, and the range of dresses from the 19th to 21st century meant there was something for everyone; in fact funnily, after looking at the fantastic 19th Century dresses for the costume of the Madwoman in my project, my friend and I bumped into all four of our tutors, and proceeded to have an impromptu lesson on bias cut 1920s gowns and the draping of dramatically pleated 50s Dior dresses!

Entering the exhibition you were greeted by an introductory display of photos and drawings telling the story of Haute Couture in Paris, it's origins in the 19th Century with Worth's renowned gowns to the present day and the iconic Parisian fashion houses such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, and the behind-the-scenes process of making these fabulous garments.

Chanel is one of my most loved fashion brands - the collections have a beautiful historical theatricality (my favourite collection, the Marie-Antoinette themed Resort S/S12, was shown at Versailles). To begin the display of glamorous gowns, sponsored by Swarovski, with a shining jewel-encrusted Chanel S/S12 piece was, in my eyes, perfect!

The second and main part of the exhibition featured over 100 pieces from the late-1800s to the present day. I wasn't able to take any photos of these, but I did sketch those that stood out to me: two being the amazing pleated frill Worth cape and Christian Dior 1952 "Palmyre" dress with it's mind-boggling pleats and panels under beautiful jewel embellishment.

The pieces here were almost all from the Musée Galliera collection, used while the Musée was being refurbished. I'm sorry that I didn't share this earlier - it was such a fantastic exhibition that I found myself almost shouting at people that they had to go and see this! Sadly, it was only open March-June 2013, however the Musée Galliera reopened yesterday, and I am sure these fantastic fashion treasures will feature prominently in their future exhibitions and displays.

Monday, 23 September 2013

In Fine Style @ The Queen's Gallery

Back in the spring when I first learnt about the "In Fine Style" exhibition on Tudor and Stuart fashion at the Queen's Gallery, I was so excited that I proclaimed I would HAVE to visit opening week, if not the opening day. With a ticket that you can use unlimited times, I would probably end up spending my summer there - it's not every day there is an exhibition dedicated to the art of dress.

An endless list of things to do and five months later, I still had not been. Frankly, that's quite embarrassing.

I finally managed to get organised and visited the exhibition last week. The exhibition opens with an introduction to Tudor style through painted portraits, alongside illustrated diagrams of full costumes. It was very busy when I visited, which was a shame because it is a lot more pleasant to view portraits without loads of people in front of you, but I guess with such a popular exhibition this is difficult to avoid...
The exhibition also features sculptures and most impressively, real examples of Tudor and Stuart clothing. These are almost all in fantastic condition, which I was not expecting at all, although some pieces have been reconstructed. My favourite piece would have to be the 1620's man's doublet, drawn below. The whole surface of it was delicately embroidered in bold teal and brown.
Overall, the exhibition is a good overview of Stuart fashion, with a bit of Tudor in there too. I learnt a lot in my short visit, I'm sure any visitor would. I will definitely be buying the catalogue soon, as it is makes a good collection of reference material, excellently presented and explained.
"In Fine Style" is on at The Queen's Gallery, London until Sunday, 6th October 2013. Click here for more details and to book your tickets.
As a preview for those who haven't yet been, here are my notes and drawings from my visit:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Maria Grachvogel SS14 @ London Fashion Week

Yesterday was the last day of Fashion Week in London, and I attended the Maria Grachvogel Spring/Summer '14 show at the iconic Somerset House.

There had been many fantastic shows over the previous days (my favourites being Burberry, Mulberry and Alice Temperley so far, which I will post about later this week) so I was looking forward to seeing what Maria Grachvogel had to offer. Her show was the last at the BFC Courtyard Show Space, starting at 4PM, just in time for us to be in and seated before the rain started! This time last year, I was lucky enough to go to the Burberry SS13 show. I wasn't quite VIP enough for a seat there, but for this show we were on the third row with a very good view!

As the lights went down everyone fell silent, and a sweet bird twittering opened the show.

The collection is meant as an "expression of youthful innocence and creative freedom". Through soft flowing silks and abstract painted prints, Grachvogel "celebrates that sense of innocence and naivety." A feeling of girliness is conveyed through the skirts and flowing, rose-tinted, translucent silks, however masculine tailoring techniques hold back any idea of frivolous romanticism.

A "relaxed modern glamour is captured by wrapping the body". The soft drape of silk crepe and Egyptian cotton fabric is left uninterrupted by heavy embellishment; instead, abstract floral impressions are given centre stage. Some pieces featured light sequinning to "add a sense of rawness that is a perfect counterpart to the unembellished purity of the collection." In this sense, the collection is very balanced: there is minimal embellishment, but the drape and wrapping of the printed fabric provides shape and detail enough.

The floor length dresses were regal and strong, especially the closing 'Rose tint Artist Garden print' dress with it's billowing organza train. Throughout the collection were developing silhouettes, getting ever-more striking.

And finally, a photo of most of my favourite pieces from the collection together for the finale. I particularly liked the simple, shapely, draped sleeves and naturally subtle "aqua, plaster, putty and clay" colour scheme.
Thank you to Anoushka for inviting me to come along with her to this show. Quotes are from the show notes. Photos by me, Megan Doyle - please credit with a link back if you publish them elsewhere.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Coming to the End of Summer...

This weekend in London we experienced an overnight season switch. The lovely sunshine we (very surprisingly!) had throughout July and August has been replaced by annoyingly persistent light rain, grey clouds and puddles.

But it's not all bad! Minus the rain, autumn is actually my favourite season. The return of knitwear, coats, scarves and cosiness...nature's beautiful warm colours...everything to do with this season is comforting and inspiring. Autumn and September bring around a natural time for transition and growth. With the new academic year comes a time to reflect on the achievements of the previous twelve months (which we so easily overlook in the moment), a chance to re-evaluate direction and set new goals with a renewed sense of motivation.

This past year has been the most exciting so far for my career. Finally I am studying the course I have dreamed of being on since the age of 13, surrounded by the most inspiring and motivating tutors and fellow students. I have learnt so much there already, with my love for costume becoming stronger every day. Since last September I have worked on three musicals, made a full Tudor costume for a museum, worked at the Royal Ballet School and with a professional tutu-maker from the Royal Opera House. My design work for Showtime Stitches has been noticed by a number of local businesses: my handmade items were stocked in Love 13, a beautiful local shop, and I was commissioned by The N21 Festival to create a bespoke print for their Christmas Fair merchandise and advertising. I don't often take the time to sit and think about what HAS been, but I realise now that it is important to take in and acknowledge openly what you achieve. Congratulate yourself for your hard work and the amazing results that come from it, because it is you who put in the effort and took the necessary steps to make these things happen. Seeing your dreams come true is the most wonderful feeling, and to think that all of these projects happened in my first year of university, most when I was just 18 years old, makes me so excited for the opportunities my second and third years, and life in the big wide world as a graduate, will bring. On a personal note, after a frightening week involving a family member suffering potentially life-threatening illness, I am reminded of the value of life and the importance of thankfulness and gratitude. Embrace every minute of every day, every opportunity, every chance to share your passion and positive energy with others, because you have no idea where it could take you.

My second year at London College of Fashion is already set to be filled with engaging and challenging academic projects alongside many insightful and rewarding internships. I am currently working as an intern for Meg Andrews, Antique Costume and Textiles - I have only been there two days, yet I have learnt tonnes and developed my skills already.

I will continue to update my blog with the work I do and the inspiration I find. I have plenty of costume-related things to share from my fun-filled summer, including:

- 'La Rondine' at the Royal Opera House
- 'The Sound of Music' at the Open Air Theatre
- Shopping for antiquities in the French "brocantes"
- Treasure hunting in a Victorian haberdasher hoarder's house
- Visiting museums in London

...amongst many other things!

I very much look forward to sharing, in the meantime I hope you all have a fantastic end to the summer. Take the time to appreciate your achievements and work of the past year and choose your goals for the next.

In another 365 days, you could be anywhere you set your mind on.