Ooof! If there’s one thing I love about the colder weather that’s creeping in, it’s getting all cosy with knitwear and so it was without hesitation that as Autumn started showing it’s blustery face I swooped down to the beautiful Bermondsey to take in the latest exhibition at The Fashion and Textile Museum; called KNITWEAR, Chanel to Westwood. I’ve not been to an exhibition at this place which I haven’t adored, it’s the most informal, welcoming and relaxed atmosphere and the size of the exhibition space means that each show is perfectly digestible and you don’t need to spend hours making sure you’ve seen everything there is to see. Although that being said, I get the feeling that staff wouldn’t mind one bit if you fancied lingering the whole day long looking at the fashion on display. Sometimes with the more epic fashion exhibitions at venues such as the V & A, it can be kinda overwhelming and you feel like you need to invest the bulk of your day taking in all the sights and remembering all the information you are learning. Sometimes, that’s great, you wanna loose yourself in a magical exhibition, in an amazing venue for hours and hours, but, there’s a lot to be said for those small and perfectly formed exhibitions in smaller places which can be enjoyed as part of your day rather than as all of it. For me, this is where The Fashion and Textile Museum excel.
This exhibition was a super display of knitted fashions spanning the last century and, was interestingly predominantly made up of the personal collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield. It was more a showing off of their vast and spectacular collection than a timeline of knitting, allowing the whole thing to feel slightly more light-heated than historically rigid. With amaaaazing examples on show, we get to see the journey of knitwear; it’s early use for warmth and function, knitted swimwear and evening dresses of the 1920’s, the ‘make do and mend’ trend for unravelling jumpers to use the yarn again, embellished angora sweaters from the 50’s, futuristic knits from the likes of Couregges in the 60’s, novelty and folklore knits in the 70’s and the experimental bold knitwear from the 80’s! This exhibition is thorough without being too heavy and you get a really good grasp of knitwear and it’s past, there’s plenty to swoon over, especially, for me, the 1920’s fine knit gowns! The layout was a bit dark for me, the displays were sectioned into large wooden shipping crates, with some piled two high so it pulled the small space in quite close and felt a bit gloomy, but, the actual garments themselves were all pretty well lit and what I always like about this place is you can peep your eyes up real close to the displays and see every stitch! A gorgeous exhibition that leaves me gasping to get a look at more of Cleo and Marks incredibly large private collection of vintage fashion….. making mine just seem teeny in comparison.
KNITWEAR, Chanel to Westwood is on at the FTM until 18th January 2015
To find out more about Cleo and Mark Butterfield visit their blog