Women Fashion Power at The Design Museum

I have a dress that I keep almost exclusively for days when I have big meetings; it's from Dorothy Perkins and it's a blue and brown snake print, with a knee-length skirt and three-quarter sleeves. I call it my 'Kate Middleton dress' because it looks like something she'd wear to an event, and whenever I wear it I feel polished and put-together. That idea that certain clothes make us feel powerful is something I find really intriguing, and as it's the subject of the Design Museum's latest exhibition Women Fashion Power.

I'm going to warn you now: there are a lot of pictures in this post. You might want to get a cup of tea and a biscuit before you start reading...



The exhibition goes through the last 150 years of fashion and how this links with women's changing position in the world. This display at the beginning sums it up brilliantly: a wall of photographs and paintings of powerful women, from Cleopatra to Hillary Clinton, showing that power for women exists in a hundred different forms.




You're then taken on a journey through history exploring how women's opportunities to exert influence and show personality through what they wear has changed over time. This for me was the most fascinating part of the exhibition and I found it really interesting to see how things moved on.



The obligatory corsets - some of these actually made me physically wince to see how small they went.


Love this red dress with built-in bloomers and the black riding habit.



The suffragette section was utterly fascinating - I loved the mixture of turning any old thing into a fashionable item whilst reinforcing your political message alongside the pretty feminity of the black lace top with suffragette colours in the sleeves.


Love this advert for the Selfridges Rest Room!


Moving on into the 1920s and the age of the flapper. I love the gold Egyptian motif on the black dress on the right - just absolutely stunning and so much attention to detail.


I love the rope detail on the shoulders of this Elsa Schiaparelli dress.


Because you can't go wrong with a pair of bright blue sunglasses, am I right?



I love this Chanel suit; it's so beautiful and timeless.


As well as the gorgeous clothes, the exhibition is peppered with photos and video of various women - some famous, some not - looking ridiculously cool in their various outfits. I took loads of pictures of them (quite glad I did as the shop didn't seem forthcoming with postcards - sort it out Design Museum!) but this one is my favourite.




Aren't the prints on these circle skirts just amazing? I really want that Beatles one on the right...




I love the sense of playfulness these 1960s dresses have about them; they just ooze cool to me.



This jumpsuit is a great example of how clothes were being used in the 1960s and 1970s as a means of communicating political messages - believe it or not, the print is actually a photograph from the Woodstock festival. I found that incredibly powerful.



This is the suit Margaret Thatcher wore when she was voted Conservative leader. Say what you like about her politics but having a piece of history like that in front of you is really quite incredible, especially considering how much female politicians' appearance is still scrutinised today.






As well as iconic pieces like the Vivienne Westwood T-shirt, YSL tuxedo and Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, there was also a selection of items of clothing that had been donated by various high profile women from the world of politics, business and culture, along with notes on why these were their favourite pieces and made them feel powerful.



How incredible is that phoenix embroidery on the black dress on the right? Just stunning.



The red dress on the left was worn by Miriam Gonzalez Durante (Also, on a side note, I love that neither Nick Clegg nor Colin Firth - his wife Livia's dress is on the right in the picture above - were mentioned in their bios. It's a small thing, but it seems massive to see them standing alone; too often we talk about women as offshoots of their husbands despite what they've achieved on their own.)


Vivienne Westwood channelling modern day Boudicca on the right, Diane von Furstenberg's epically relaxed zebra trouser suit on the left.


I love the theatricality in these designs - Lady Gaga's Gareth Pugh dress (made entirely of bin bags) and Skin from Skunk Anansie's bird-like stage jackets.


Moving on into the 80s... How amazingly over-the-top are those power suits? Not something I'd wear at all but they just give off an amazing 'don't mess with me' aura.


The iconic dress from Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love' video.


I love these two dresses - the one on the right is Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel (that train reminds me of a peacock's tail) and the one on the left is Jean Paul Gaultier. They both have this playful yet sexy quality to them which really appeals to me.


Katharine Hamnett's iconic slogan T-shirts. The photo of her wearing the 'Vote Tactically' seems strangely appropriate right now...


Red and leopard print is a classic combination and this Charlotte Olympia perspex clutch is a perfect match for the red shoes.



More shoes! Louboutins on the top, Manolo Blahniks (and an amazing sketch) on the bottom.


Amazing Philip Treacey hats. I love the one on the right that looks like a cross between a mohawk and a bird of paradise.


The noughties in four outfits: Samantha Cameron's grey polka dot dress (is it wrong that I actually really like this and would wear it myself?), pink Juicy Couture velour tracksuit, adorably sweet Kate Moss for Topshop white dress...


... and the legend that is the Roland Mouret Galaxy. God I love that dress, it's such a classic.


The final image of the exhibition; Lily Allen looking like she's stepped straight out of the 1950s in a pink convertible.

Women Fashion Power is at the Design Museum until 26 April and tickets cost £13 - though you do get access to the whole museum for that, including their current Designer of the Year exhibition. I would really recommend it if you love fashion and the role it's played in women's changing status in society; this is a whistle-stop tour through the history of modern women via the most amazing outfits and, although it feels like a lot is packed it, it's definitely worth it. Go go go!

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