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How do women use Fashion as a representation of authority?

This exhibition explores this question, sparks up a debate and conversation starter for women, and which items of clothing a woman wears that makes them feel powerful.

Now, I am not talking about the caricatures of popular 80s TV Show ‘Dynasty,’ huge shoulder pads or the term, “power dressing.” (Thank goodness this exhibition avoids that dreadful terminology!)

I am talking about how do we, as women, dress today to enhance our authority in our professional lives?

WOMEN FASHION POWER showcases 26 influential contemporary women, each one of them contributing an outfit on display for the exhibition. The criteria were simple, “Each woman chose an outfit which made them feel powerful.”

Many women who contributed all agreed that the clothes we wear has to be functional and comfortable and crease-free (when taken out from the suitcase.)

Women ranged from HSH Princess Charlène of Monaco, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Dame Zaha Hadid (Pulitzer Prize winner for Architecture) whom designed the exhibition space.

Installation of Women Fashion Power exhibition at Design Musem.jpg

I was looking forward to his exhibition for several obvious reasons

1. I love Fashion exhibitions.
2. I love Strong women being represented in their own right.
3. It’s in the Design Museum!

That said, I found it very surprising to see a Fashion exhibition at the Design Museum.

Installation of Women Fashion Power exhibition at Design Musem.jpg

Normally I would expect to see an exhibition which such calibre at the V&A or at the Fashion and Textiles Museum. However, I don’t think they could have done it without conventions or conviction. It would have been an exhibition we have all seen before.

Margaret Thatchers Turquiose suit when she was elected prime minister.jpg

The turquoise suit was worn by Baroness Margaret Thatcher when she was elected Prime Minister.

This exhibition delicately handles the subject of women and power, with the minimal wall paint, simple captions and an openness – so You, as the visitor, decide where to start.

Having the topic of WOMEN FASHION POWER at the Design Museum, I felt compelled to ask questions, debate and wonder what I have worn, that made me feel powerful.

Wallis Simpson wearing Schiaparelli jacket.jpg

Wallis Simpson wearing a Schiaparelli designed jacket.

The minimal exhibition space creates an environment that is gender neutral. I saw male visitors in the exhibition, taking an interest. I feel it is so important to cater all the genders. It is not just about Women’s clothing, it’s also how Men respond and respect them as powerful and intelligent women.
Interior shot of the Women Fashion Power exhibition at Design Museum.jpg

I brought my darling husband, Robert along to the Bloggers’ Preview to get his views on the exhibition. The following paragraph contains a brief overview of Rob’s thought about the exhibition:

June Sees (June Chanpoomidole) with her husband, Robert at the Design Museum.jpg

Myself and Robert wearing our powerful outfits. Do we look like a beautiful couple?

Robert’s view

“Do the clothes make a woman powerful? Or do powerful women wear the clothes they like? This exhibition is full of clothes worn by powerful women. Looking at fashion today and it seems that the designers are catering more to women. This is probably because women know fashion whereas men would just wear suits that can come from any designer and look similar. I had better not go off tangent.

Let’s see why we are looking at their clothes at all, it’s because powerful women wore them. Once women were starting to be seen as equals they gained more power and their views were heard. They had spending power and stores such as Selfridges hired and catered for women’s fashions.

Opera cape c1910 Velvet damask.jpg

Opera cape c1910, Velvet and damask

This exhibition shows powerful clothes wore by powerful women from the early days of women’s power to today with a good selection of items made by the worlds most influential and powerful women designers.

They were well laid out like designs on paper, the curators had a good idea and set out to inspire. For lovers of fashion and lovers of fashionable powerful women.”

End of Robert’s view

Coming back to the deliberate avoidance of the terms “power dressing” and “feminists” made me feel at ease and I think many visitors would agree. Even though the exhibition touches upon the key social and liberation of women’s history. Such as; the suffragette’ fight for women to vote, the 60s mini skirts and 90s Spice Girls’ anthem of ‘Girl Power.’ Albeit mentioned, it is such a small part of the exhibition.

Suffragettes costumes and typical clothing.jpg

Left: Film costume replica worn by Meryl Streep in the upcoming movie about the Suffragettes. Right: Original traditional suffragette outfit.

There are subtle moments in history that leans toward the comfortably and functionality of women’s clothing. The Corset cage adapted its functionality to suit pregnant women, side-saddle riders, until it developed in the industrial revolution to the early designs of the bra. Not only that there was the revolution of bathing suits, bath pyjamas, trousers and Lycra sportswear.

With the honourable mention of Coco Chanel who popularised trouser, bringing breathable materials such as tweed and jerseys to consumers.

Beach pyjamas as swimwear cover ups.jpg

Beach Pyjamas are introduced as chic swimwear cover-ups. They significantly proven that trousers can be elegant and the appropriate attire for women.

Coco Chanel suit.jpg

Coco Chanel suit

Donna Loveday, Head of Curatorial of Design Museum embarked on an idea for this exhibition started since December 2013.

I really commend the curators and the team at the Design Museum for their hard work organising this ambitious exhibition. Knowing how museums work and what it takes to organise one, in the timescale of approximately 11 months is no mean feat.

Illustrated advert for Shocking Pink by Schiaparelli.jpg

Illustrated advert for the Shocking Pink collection by Schiaparelli

Young woman sunbathing in December on French Riviera, Le Petit Journal 1953.jpg

Young woman sunbathing in December on the French Riviera, Le Petit Journal Illustre, December 1935

We get to see rare corsets, clothing and vintage illustrated adverts loaned by regional museums. Women’s role gradually and visually changed, from the heroic Joan of Arc battle armour to defining her authority to the simple tailored jackets, cashmere jumper and smart flat shoes. The representation of powerful women has transcended throughout history.

Installation shot of Flapper dresses c1920 at Design Museum.jpg

This is an exhibition you want to spend your afternoon in. To be honest, I will have to go the second time, take a moment to read the commentary of 26 influential women and learn something from them. I know I have every right to wear what I feel most comfortable in, that expresses me as a strong woman.

P.S: There is an announcement!

I will, very soon, be posting a Giveaway Blogpost since I have not done one in awhile. Great news! It will be a special giveaway because I am working with the Design Museum to give you something special. Just in time for Christmas!

Follow my blog via WordPress or Bloglovin so you don’t miss out on this fantastic giveaway coming soon!

June Sees (June Chanpoomidole) taking a selfie with Robert at Design Museum.jpg

Me and Rob had a brilliant time, and we both looked powerful. So we took a selfie with my Canon SLR.

Open to the public until 26 April 2015

Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD

Opening: 10:00 – 17:45 daily
Admissions: £12.40 Adults, £9.30 Students, Members and Under age of 6 goes for Free.


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