blown away @ the v&A

I was not prepared for yesterday's press event at the V&A, Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950.

Or rather, I was not prepared to be as blown away by it as I was.

I knew - because I'd seen in the Times Style section, and on the BBC News, and in the invitation itself, that this show would coincide with the launch of the redesigned fashion gallery. And I knew I'd love it. But still, I wasn't prepared for the impact, architecturally or emotionally. I was so blown away, in fact, that I got a bit... snap happy. I even started shooting other people shooting the mannequins. A brief return to my streetstyle roots. And I know that rather than try to get all complicated and try to encapsulate my experience into one perfectly cohesive post, I'm going to do it in stages.

Maybe not quite one glamorous gown at a time, or maybe I will.

The weirdly serendipitous thing about this, my first choice, is that when I researched further into it (see description, below), I found that the woman in the photo - the owner and wearer of the dress, by a designer named Yuki, is an American actress named Gayle Hunnicutt. Further investigation revealed that while she had only the briefest of Hollywood careers, she was married to the late actor David Hemmings (see Blow Up: Bad Boys). During his cutest bad boy years, from 1968-1975. Which couldn't have been easy: an American wife, in London in the swingingest years, married to the baddest boy. I tip my cap to her.

And then she married Sir David Jenkins, the journalist, but they separated in 2008. I would so love to go for a coffee with this woman, and hear the story of her life.

I never used to get it, all the fuss about a dress. But this one was worn by Lady Jenkins, to a ball at Windsor Castle, by a girl from Fort Worth, Texas, the daughter of an American Colonel. This kaftan must have caused quite a stir at the time. I wonder what the Queen made of it - or her. I'd love to hear how this particular Cinderella felt, in this gown, at the ball.

There is so much - so very much - woven within a dress. Memories of moments, 'thrilling and exciting.' Of love: at once eternal, and yet, ultimately, fleeting. I think of the Beatles song, 'In My Life.'

All our lives are so rich, so full. We all have so many stories yet to tell.

The new space - which will blow you away, I promise - and the new show, Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, will open to the public this Saturday at the V&A. Thank you to the lovely Charlotte, and more to come.


The Foolish Aesthete said...

I would so love to see this exhibit! (There's also another costume one at the Met I wish I could see -- Schiaparelli and Prada.) But your first image just makes me want to fly over to London! Perhaps it's the suggested imagery of the lady's outstretched arms?

I enjoyed that back story on Gayle Hunnicutt's life. (I know what you mean about wanting to grab a cup of coffee with her!) And I long to go back to the days when hostesses entertained at home in a kaftan. (Why do I picture everyone holding a cocktail?) It's so luxuriously bohemian and lazily elegant. Was it YSL that made them popular? Anyway, I do have memories of my mom in her '70s kaftans and batik gowns and looking so chic in them.

And I just saw your previous post. So did you get to see Prince Phillip & the Queen? How was your friend's daughter's performance?

- J xx

O D Y S S E Y said...

How amazing. True glamour.
The red-orange dress is incredible!

Jessie In Fashion Limbo said...

ahhh missing london a lot at the moment, for things like this! thanks for all the pics of the V&A Jill, at least i get to see a bit through your amazing camera lense. Do you get my emails by the way? From what you said on your last one it seemed there was some sort of problem, last one I wrote to you was about Nero being sick. In any case,im ok, enjoying the sun in Barcelona xxxx

williamh said...

Gayle was married to Sir SIMON Jenkins, not David Jenkins. She discusses the dress on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour on 23rd. August 2012. You can listen to the programme on the BBC's iplayer site at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer for a week after the initial broadcast.