Transparent Language

Thinking of learning a new language? Thinking of learning a 100 or more new languages?!

Check out our online resource – transparent language. You’ll find it challenging. You’ll find it fun. If you find your tongue is twisted, that’s because you’ve just begun!

It will open up a whole new world of cultures. don’t just rely on someone from foreign parts speaking to you in English.

Show them and their culture respect by speaking to them in their own language. just a phrase or two has a remarkably positive effect.

Try it and see for yourself. this resource is available to you right now on our website. a new language to speak.

Allez! May you reach your peak!


Harry Potter Book Night at Brompton and Chelsea Libraries!

“Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

Who could resist Potter madness?

Brompton and Chelsea libraries certainly couldn’t and fully embraced the Harry Potter Book Night madness with magical craft sessions of their own.

We captured a few pictures from the events, take a look at the ‘mischief managed’!

Continue reading “Harry Potter Book Night at Brompton and Chelsea Libraries!”

Story-time at Chelsea Library

When I first started doing the under-5s at Chelsea I had no experience at all, in fact I had come from delivering the housebound service in Hammersmith, so I was used to dealing with the very elderly who were often slow on their feet and very polite. I was in no way prepared for the chaos of pre-schoolers: the tired and distracted mothers and the nannies on their mobiles.
My God they were a tough audience!

I soon realise why so many people were reluctant to take on the responsibility. Some fellow workers were not brave enough to put on the baritone voice of the ogre in The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Three Billy Goats Gruff

There was almost a sense that the children’s library should be free of noise and chaos.

Did we really need class visits when books were left strewn across the carpet? Well, yes we did! We needed to embrace the chaos.

I soon developed a taste for amateur theatrics and found myself thinking my way inside Mr Bear’s mind in the wonderful ‘Peace At Last’ where the adults are amused by Mr Bear’s wretched sleepless night, his snoring wife and the horrible brown letter from the Inland Revenue which appears at the end and is clearly responsible for the wiggly lines etched round his eyes.

Last month I was sent on a story-time training session in Barnet where I hoped to pick up some new tips.
Would there be some hints on puppetry?
How to throw your voice or even a magic spell to aid concentration?

The session in Barnet was led by three high octane women. They had a personal interest in all the stories and like fans of music they felt a special relationship with Lucy Cousins and Jez Alborough. They had taken ownership of the books. Their enthusiasm was a little daunting for the first timer. I both appreciated the course and squirmed with embarrassment at having to sit on a small inflatable ring in a mock-up of a farm yard. Story-time means you have to let go, become cartoonish, engage the children with eye contact and big swirling gestures.

What I learnt is that repetition in a story is great, less text too, stories that elicit a call and answer response and some of those almost silent books such as ‘Hug’ which repeat one word over and over are the best. Most important of all don’t be afraid of repeating the same story. They will soon know Jack and the Beanstalk by heart.

Hug by Jez Alborough
Hug by Jez Alborough

We had a busy Summer Reading Challenge party and began with some themed record breaker questions for the completers. No one was prepared for the weird questions quizmaster Vince Symmons prepared: the length of the longest nose hair or the greatest distance covered by a skate-boarding goat?
Answers on a postcard please.
The more absurd the question the better the children responded.

Furry Creatures
Furry Creatures

Story-craft this month was structured around monsters. Di devised some brilliantly huggable creatures with folding arms and big furry bodies – a bit like an angry sporran. Earlier we designed frogs with red woollen tongues and a squashed fly on the end.

Frogs and flies
Frogs and flies

We also had a visit from the Holland Park ecology centre. The staff brought cockroaches and millipedes to the library and they did very well with our very own two-legged mini beasts!

By Daniel Jeffreys
Customer Service Assistant, Chelsea Library


The Chelsea Society discovers treasures

Lucy Yates (WW1 Centenary Project Support Officer) writes:

On 13 July, Local Studies welcomed the Chelsea Society on a tour of the archives. The members were particularly delighted to see their Walter Greaves grisaille watercolours of riverside Chelsea, which are stored in the archive. Plans and descriptions of Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens, once an eighteenth century pleasure ground (where the Royal Hospital now stands), were also studied with interest.

Chelsea Society visit to RBKC Archives and Local Studies 2015
Chelsea Society visit to RBKC Archives and Local Studies

Amongst the other treasures down there, Dave Walker, the Local Historian, had unearthed fascinating mortuary books, which contained details of those killed during bombing raids in World War Two.

The Chelsea Scrapbooks, with their wealth of vivid World War One posters proved to be of great interest too.

'Meet me at the Chelsea Fair' WW1 poster, RBKC Archives and Local Studies
‘Meet me at the Chelsea Fair’ WW1 poster, RBKC Archives and Local Studies

“I suspect that you might find some of our members camping in Local Studies over the summer,” remarked Camilla Mountain of the Chelsea Society, and we were very pleased to have raised awareness of the wealth of material in the archives and how to access this.

The visit concluded with a well earned glass of wine upstairs and a hearty agreement that we’d be delighted to have the Chelsea Society back any time.

Opening hours for Local Studies
Tours for groups can be arranged by appointment. Contact Dave Walker at for further details.

Happy National Libraries Day!

Today, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

National Libraries DayIf you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

Just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Local Studies Collection, or use the study space we offer.

On Saturdays in Kensington and Chelsea Libraries you can find a range of story times for children and IT help sessions. There are regular events every day that we’re open, with a brilliant programme of special events throughout the year.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Times newspaper archives and Berg Fashion Library (and more) from home too.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

Fashion on display- new images at Chelsea Library

Reference Librarian, Gillian Nunns, writes:

Chelsea Reference Library had a bit of space on the wall above our costume collection, and what better way to fill it than with some beautiful images from our fashion and costume periodicals?

Chelsea Fashion Collection & our new fashion images
Chelsea Fashion Collection & our new fashion images

Staff at the library were asked to pick their favourite images from a shortlist, and choosing was tricky! The images, depicting costume spanning the Regency and Victorian eras, were all picked from our own magazine archives of La Belle Assemblee, The English Woman’s Domestic Magazine and Les Modes Parisiennes. We like the fact that the winners show how the shapes and styles of fashionable dress changed over 5 decades:

La Belle Assemblee November 1808
La Belle Assemblee November 1808

Classical Greece influenced dress was at the height of fashion in 1808, featuring a high empire waist line and long straight skirts. Woman dampened the muslin draperies so that they clung to their figure!


La Belle Assemblee November 1812
La Belle Assemblee November 1812

This evening dress from 1812 features a great turban – indoor caps for daywear weren’t that fashionable in this era but essential for evening wear and turbans were a very popular choice.


La Belle Assemblee 1828
La Belle Assemblee 1828

By 1928 a very different silhouette was in fashion –with so called leg-o’-mutton sleeves and skirts with tiny waists and wide bases. Check out the elaborate trimmings and hats!


Les Modes Parisiennes 1852
Les Modes Parisiennes 1852

By the 1850’s ladies skirts were so domed that they had to be supported by hoped cages called crinolines and lots of petticoats.


 English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872
English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872

And then by the 1870’s the fashion was to have a flat front of the skirt, with lots of fabric pushed to the back… called a bustle. This image features a popular style called the Dolly Varden (Charles Dickens fans will get the reference) – where you have an overskirt which is shorter at the front with the sides and back bunched up.

Here are a few other images that were on the shortlist but didn’t make the final cut. We hope you like our choices!

Les Modes Parisiennes 1852
Les Modes Parisiennes 1852
English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872
English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872
La Belle Assemblee 1828.
La Belle Assemblee 1828.


The colours of these prints are really vibrant even after all these years, but we also loved seeing some amazing pictures of the actual fabrics in one of the books that we have in our collection – Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston published by Victoria & Albert Museum:

Promenade Dress made of silk plush. British 1855-57
Promenade Dress made of silk plush. British 1855-57
Woman’s dress of woven silk with applied plated trimming, lined with linen. British, about 1805.
Woman’s dress of woven silk with applied plated trimming, lined with linen. British, about 1805.
Day dress (sleeve detail) of block printed cotton.  British, 1825-30 (page 194)
Day dress (sleeve detail) of block printed cotton. British, 1825-30 (page 194)
Evening Dress made of machine-made silk bobbin net, hand embroidered.  British, about 1810
Evening Dress made of machine-made silk bobbin net, hand embroidered. British, about 1810
Women’s shoes made of silk and linen satin lined with kid and linen with a flat leather sole.  British, 1830s-40
Women’s shoes made of silk and linen satin lined with kid and linen with a flat leather sole. British, 1830s-40
Bustle made of horsehair woven with linen  British, 1870-75
Bustle made of horsehair woven with linen, British, 1870-75

To find out a bit about costume in this era we also read History of Women’s Costume by Marion Sichel. Come along to Chelsea Library to find lots more about the world of Costume and Fashion, or log on to Berg Online with your library card!


The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon – and the people that wear the clothes

Debby Wale, Chelsea Reference Librarian, writes:

I have been looking through David Sassoon’s marvellous book in Chelsea Reference Library. I’d seen Bellville Sassoon gowns at the V&A’s Ballgowns exhibition last year, but nothing prepared me for the out-and-out glamour of the Bellville Sassoon exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum (ends 11 January 2014).

Bellville Sassoon was founded in 1953 as Bellville et Cie by Belinda Bellville. Sassoon joined in 1958 Lorcan Mullany joined in 1987. It’s the people who wear the clothes that are of interest to me. You need an occasion to wear such glamorous outfits. So who wears Bellville Sassoon? As Britain’s foremost couture label from the 1960s onwards, Bellville Sassoon have dressed many of the world’s most stylish women, including Diana, Princess of Wales.

 Many well known clients of Belleville Sassoon had lent dresses for the exhibition: Lady Shakira Caine, Cilla Black, Minnie Churchill, Angela Rippon, Lady Jane Rayne, Lady Anne Glendower, Lady Woolf, Baroness Fiona von Thyssen, Gaby Harris-Lyons and Brazilian socialite, Renee Behar.

Princess Diana, Princess Alexandra, Princess Michael of Kent, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Margaret were also clients. Princess Diana needed a dress for her engagement to Prince Charles. A formidable member of staff in Bellville Sassoon didn’t recognize her and suggested Harrods might be more appropriate. When David Sassoon found out, he was horrified.

She did return to Bellville Sassoon to purchase a number of outfits, including the one below:

From The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp.
From The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp.

The Princess of Wales arrives  for a 1993 film premiere in Bellville Sassoon’s little black dress, with beaded jewelled straps, one of the glamorous evening dresses that were auctioned at Christie’s New York in 1997.

 From an interview with David Sassoon in the Sunday Telegraph February 17 2013:

Another sketch, for a claret taffeta dress with bows, shows her enthusiasm to have the dress made up, with the words “Yes please!” next to the design, which she subsequently wore to the opening of the Barbican Centre with the Queen in March 1982, when she was six months pregnant.

“We had to let it out at the very last minute because her bump had suddenly grown,” said Sassoon. “She was very excited about the baby but also conscious of looking appropriate for the occasion during her pregnancy.”

Diana Princess of Wales in a maternity gown by Sassoon
Diana Princess of Wales in a maternity gown by Sassoon

 Bellville Sassoon are also famous for their wedding gowns. In April 1971 when Sarah Donaldson-Hudson married Nicholas Haydon at Caxton Hall, she wore Bellville Sassoon, but as she was marrying a divorcee, her mother forbade her to wear white. She wore a hand-painted coat, lined with silk, which had graced the pages of Vogue in November 1970.

 Sarah Donaldson-Hudson on her wedding day with Dorothy Donaldson-Hudson and Lt. Col. Ralph Davies-Cooke 23 April 1971:

From The Wedding Dress: 300 years of bridal fashions by Edwina Ehrman
From The Wedding Dress: 300 years of bridal fashions by Edwina Ehrman

  And the coat as it appeared in Vogue, 1970:

Cream wool crepe coat from the Indian-inspired couture collection, ‘Rajputana’
Cream wool crepe coat from the Indian-inspired couture collection, ‘Rajputana’

Bordered and panelled with exquisite flowers from a Persian miniature. Designed and printed by Richard Cawley and Andrew Whittle, who painted the boots by hand to match.

The coat proved to be very popular. The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon reproduced an article from Women’s Wear Daily 6 October  1970. Rajputana was ordered by ‘a tall member of the Royal Family’, but the name was not to be revealed. Baroness Fiona Von Thyssen (former fashion model Fiona Campbell-Walter) also ordered this costume.

 The Indian theme continues. In The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon, David Sassoon has a picture of Lady Londonderry wearing one of his Indian inspired costumes (in the December 1974 issue of Harpers & Queen, alongside the original picture, her name is given as Mrs Clive Powell. At the time of publication, she was married to Georgie Fame, a pop star, and Clive Powell was his real name.)

Harpers & Queen December 1974
Harpers & Queen December 1974

 Mrs Powell wears blue and coral printed silk georgette long sleeveless dress embroidered in gold, with wide waistband and gathered skirt. Matching printed and embroidered cardigan, with gold sequins.

 More famous clients dressed by Sassoon:

Catherine Deneuve (Mrs David Bailey), Vogue December 1965
Catherine Deneuve (Mrs David Bailey), Vogue December 1965
Actress Julie Christie, Vogue December 1965
Actress Julie Christie, Vogue December 1965

My favorite is the evening dress with gold lame spots on black chiffon:

From Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950 by Oriole Cullen
From Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950 by Oriole Cullen

This was made in 1996 and is in the V&A collection: T.76-1997. In the exhibition, it stands in a glass case, the fabric spreading out in a sumptuous puddle of almost liquid fabric.

You have until 11 January 2014 to visit The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon. Make it a New Year’s resolution!

From Chelsea Reference Library


Vogue from 1923 – current issue

Queen from 1949 – 1970

Harpers & Queen 1971 – current issue

For a full list of newspapers and how long we keep them, click here


The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp. Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd, 2008.

Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950 by Oriole Cullen. V&A Publishing, 2012.

The Wedding Dress: 300 years of bridal fashions by Edwina Ehrman. V&A Publishing, 2011

Memories of a creepy summer…

As the nights are getting darker, we decided to look back at some summer events and remember the fun we had when the sun was shining…

…and here at Chelsea library this summer we had a bumper edition of our summer reading challenge with the theme of ‘spooky house’. Everyone was keen to join in the summer fun and the friendly staff couldn’t wait to take it on: the challenge of a new creepy house activity every week!

Was it too much to expect in the soaring heat? With gay abandon everyone threw themselves into it.We had so many ideas we wanted to try out on the kids.

 Daniel was keen to dress as a bat and hang upside down from the children’s library uplighters.

Di was ready to stand at the top of the stairs in her Victorian nightie holding a flaming candelabra aloft.

We tried them out, we thought better of it.

We decided we needed an entertainer. We searched from A to Z. At Askew Road we found  Zedh (Library Manager) who mentioned Wiz. Mr Wiz it was , Wiz went off with a bang, a wizz bang.He really got the fireworks started with a show that set the library alight

 We were set on a trail of super dooper fun: fun with a capital F.

Thursday afternoons in childrens were not the same, with everyone trying to outdo the others with their classy creepy crafts.

Creepy Summer Reading Challenge crafts at Chelsea!
Creepy Summer Reading Challenge crafts at Chelsea!

Chelsea children chose Thursdays as their favourite afternoon, beating Dr Who on Saturday afternoons into second place.

First they built a creepy house, upon  which  on consecutive weeks they continued in their thrilling quest to fill with all sorts of ghouls and ghosts and spiders and snakes and rats and bats and all things creepy. Not to mention witches and wizards. There was so much we couldn’t capture it all.

Creepy house crafts
Creepy house crafts

Roll on the next Summer Reading Challenge – but we’ll have to get through Christmas first!

Fade to grey: fashion and music from the 1980s

Jodie Green, our Lending Librarian, writes:

I was really keen to go to the exhibition Club to Catwalk: London fashion in the 1980s.  It is on at the V&A 10 July 2013 – 16 February 2014.

I was a teenager in the 1980s and I was interested to see if I recognised any of the clothes on display. I was really surprised at how much I recognised – I mean I obviously didn’t buy or wear any designer clothes (my Saturday job at C & A’s didn’t pay that well!) but I was an avid reader of Just Seventeen (a weekly magazine that began in 1983) so I was aware of designers such as Katherine Hamnett and Wendy Dagworthy. Just Seventeen also featured items from a shop called ‘Boy’ on the Kings Road – this is now called ‘Ad Hoc’ and little did I know all the years ago that I would end up working less than five minutes away from there…


One fantastic thing about the exhibition is the 1980s soundtrack they play and hearing some of these songs and these really brought back memories for me – so much so I wanted to share them on this piece.

If you’ve been inspired to listen to some music from this great decade – check out our CD collections in our libraries.

Gillian Nunns, our Reference Librarian with the Chelsea Library fashion collection at her fingertips, writes:

I recognised some of the songs in the exhibition but can’t remember them from the time!  To make up for it I have been looking through the books and magazines in Chelsea Library’s fashion collection and getting an idea of the 80s vibe.

It was great to see images from London’s 80s clubs such as Blitz, The Wag Club and Taboo in our collection.  The clothes take inspiration from a great mixing-pot of places and times.   Here is a picture of a Blitz Kid – Steve Strange from Visage, who features in Jodie’s Playlist:

Steve Strange from Visage
Steve Strange from Visage

And here is someone at Heaven’s Day Glo Ball in 1984 that we found in When We Were Young by Val Williams, which is a great book of street portraits taken in London by Derek Ridgers between 1970 and 1987.

Day Glo ball at Heaven
Day Glo ball at Heaven

In the early 80s there was a shift away from Punk’s anti-fashion stance with subcultures like the New Romantics, who dressed really theatrically and individually, taking inspiration from artists like Bowie.  Here is a picture of one of David Bowie’s outfits from his Serious Moonlight tour in 1983:

David Bowie's costume
David Bowie’s costume

So with the new club culture growing London seems like an exciting place to have been in the early 80s, with different kinds of music and styles emerging.   Here is a nice shot of Sade by the Thames who also feature in Jodie’s playlist:


London’s club scene in the 80s was documented in independent magazines from the time such as i-D and Blitz.  These great i-D magazine cover’s are also in the book ‘We Can Be Heroes’:

ID magazine
ID magazine

From the V&A exhibition Jodie and I got a sense of how designers took inspiration from street style, and I came across some great images of some 1980s collections.   London’s theatrical and eclectic club scene can definitely be seen in Wendy Dagworthy’s designs.  Check out this design with its layers and mix of cultural influences that I found in a book called The London Look 

The London Look
The London Look

Punk’s legacy can be seen in Katherine Hamnett’s anti-establishment slogan t-shirts.  Hamnett herself wore one saying ‘58% DON’T WANT PERISHING’ to meet Margaret Thatcher at Downing Street. Here is an image of one that we found in Harpers & Queen, October 1986:

Harpers & Queen
Harpers & Queen

And there was also Body Map,  which started with a stall in Camden market and was closely linked with London’s thriving club culture, even holding its own Body Map parties.  By 1982 there was lots of hype around this brand, which also exploited a younger market by making a more affordable, b-Basic clothing range.  This Body Map outfit is from Harpers & Queen, October 1986:

Body Map, Harpers & Queen
Body Map, Harpers & Queen

And I haven’t forgotten Vivienne Westwood, whose 1981 Pirates collection saw her move away from the Punk scene but stick with taking inspiration from rebellion.  Like with London’s club fashions, her 80s collections including ‘Pirate’, ‘Savage’, and ‘Witches’ took inspiration from a melting pot of places and times.  Her 1982 collection ‘Savage’ collection has a tribal look:

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood’s Worlds End shop is just down the road from us on the King’s Road, which got us thinking about what else was happening on The Kings Road at the time.  Of course the Kings Road in the 60s is pretty infamous, but after the 60s the draw continued…

If you enjoyed this, keep an eye out for more 80s fashion posts!


  • From Club to Catwalk edited by Sonnet Stanfill, V&A Publishing 2013-11-20
  • The London Look: Fashion from street to Catwalk by Christopher Breward et al
  • When We Were Young by Val Williams, Photoworks, 2004.
  • We Can Be Heroes by Graham Smith, Unbound, 2012
  • David Bowie is, V&A, 2013
  • Vivienne Westwood by Claire Wilcox, V&A Publishing 2004
  • Vogue, September 1984
  • Harpers & Queen, October 1986

Dame Vivienne Westwood

Debby Wale is back – with another fantastic blog post about  our Costume Collection at Chelsea Reference Library. Over to Debby….

In my previous blog about Zandra Rhodes (Zandra Rhodes – Unseen (and seen in Vogue and Harpers and Queen) I mentioned I had been to the ‘Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s’ exhibition at the V&A Museum.

Zandra Rhodes in The Art of Zandra Rhodes

1977 was the year I became the infamous High Princess of Punk – the darling and the damned of the media, but mostly the latter.  In fact what I was doing wasn’t Punk, but I can’t say that it was that it had nothing to do with it, I called Conceptual Chic – but the press as a voice hailed it as Punk and that’s where it stuck.
It was a journey into London street culture, that’s true,  but as in everything  I do there where many influences at work,  some lurking away in my subconscious, some  staring me in the face,  openly challenging me.

Another of the designers featured in the V&A’s exhibition was Dame Vivienne Westwood, a key figure in the Punk movement. Her partner was Malcolm McLaren, inventor of the Sex Pistols.

From Vogue, August 1987. Article by Liz Jobey

The Queen of the King’s Road arrived on a bicycle. She was wearing a dark grey botany wool twinset with matching sash from her latest collection, a thick cotton knee-length dirndl skirt in red and white, pale grey tights, a pair of square-toed triple tongued grey leather lace-up hip-hop shoes left over from the Hobo year of 1984, and a single string of pearls. She parked under the World’s End clock, it’s backwards whizzing hand stilled before opening time. She was sorry she was late.
Vivienne Westwood, Vogue August 1987
Vivienne Westwood, Vogue August 1987

Shops in King’s Road

A selection of Westwood shops from Vivienne Westwood by Catherine McDermott.

Vivienne Westwood shop fronts taken from Catherine McDermott's book
Vivienne Westwood shop fronts taken from Catherine McDermott’s book

Her first shop was Let It Rock, on the premises of Paradise Garage, further down the King’s Road.

[People] from all over the country, flocked to the shop. In the years that followed, they were replaced by punks fighting for bondage trousers in the mid 1970’s.
Before that it had been Sex, and Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die; after it became World’s End. McLaren had the ideas and Vivienne carried them through.
When she began designing, Westwood adapted existing styles. ‘One day I put a hole for the neck in a T-shirt just here’ – indicating just above the breast – ‘and I knew it would do something with the body in an extremely sexy way. All those ripped things came from picture’s we’d seen of film stars looking really sexy in ripped clothes.
Bondage trousers - image from McDermott's book
Bondage trousers – image from Catherine McDermott’s book

Above images from Harpers & Queens, February 1985

Six years later, in the October 1993 issue of Vogue, we see Queen Viv, (at that time she was an OBE – Westwood advanced to Dame in 2006 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) when interviewed by Yvonne Roberts wearing:

check pyjamas, white socks, lots of gold chains, white blonde hair. She has a beautiful unmade-up face, long graceful fingers, pale orange eyebrows like delicate tracks in the desert and smokes enough Gitanes to kill off the entire Foreign Legion.

Way Out West

Queen Viv, Harper's & Queens October 1993
Queen Viv, Harper’s & Queens October 1993

Queen Viv is wearing a full satin skirt, matching fitted jacket, gold and diamante earrings and matching choker.

Shoes by Judith Miller

Her shoes are distinctive, and as well as high heels and platforms her bold imagination reinterprets classic forms. Take, for example, this ghillie – an exaggerated interpretation of a traditional Scottish shoe.
However such style can result in catastrophe – supermodel Naomi Campbell stumbled and fell on the catwalk while modelling a pair of super elevated ghillie platforms with 9-inch heels and 4 inch platforms at Westwood’s 1993 fall-winter Anglomania collection in Paris.
Wearing Vivienne Westwood’s high heels – combined with slippery cream rubber stockings they made this a show to remember.

Vogue August 1987 Classic Good Looks

Westwood is also well known for using classic British fabrics such as Harris Tweed, tartan and Scottish cashmere.

Vivienne Westwood, focussing on the admirably staunch image of the Queen, on Harris Tweed. Velvet collars and princess coats and liberty bodices, allows women to appear both part of tradition and romantically, rather sexily modern.

The author of the article, Georgina Godley, says

‘British women are beginning to see fashion subjectively, not dressing for men anymore, but for themselves and other women. They have been given freedom at last, a passport to doing their own thing.
Vogue, August 1987
Vogue, August 1987

Changing the guard: Vivienne Westwood’s about turn with that traditional British uniform, the suit, throwing a few contemporary curves with peplum and Peter Pan collar, scarlet Harris wool and black velvet, gilt buttons down the back, at World’s End, 430 Kings Road SW10.

Vogue, August 1987
Vogue, August 1987

Switch on traditional country clothes and colours: velvet-collared princess coat, new and not entirely well behaved, in Vivienne Westwood’s russet Harris Tweed, cut short to curve and flare out at the back, the velveteen collar and pockets flecked with Lurex, at Worlds end as before.

Westwood in Vogue, 1980s – 1990s

Looking at Westwood’s coverage in Vogue through the late 80’s and early 90’s, the collections continue to be very British and very sexy.

Further reading

If you want to find out more, Chelsea Reference Library’s fashion and costume collection has the above editions of Vogue and Harpers & Queen and an extensive collection of books.

In the library or the comfort of your own home, with a library card you can access Westwood’s design in the Berg Fashion Library online.

Further reading – all titles can be found in the Costume Collection at Chelsea Reference Library:

  • Vivienne Westwood by Terry Jones
  • Vivienne Westwood by  Linda Watson
  • Vivienne Westwood by Gene Krell
  • Vivienne Westwood by Catherine McDermott
  • Vivienne Westwood (VA) by Claire Wilcox
  • Shoes by Judith Miller
Debby Wale
Debby Wale

Debby Wale, TriBorough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library