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


Zandra Rhodes – Unseen (and seen in Vogue and Harpers and Queen)

Inspired by visiting various fashion exhibitions recently – Debby Wale, one of our Triborough Reference Librarians has once again been delving into our Costume Collection at Chelsea Reference Library.

Zandra Rhodes - Unseen programme from the Fashion and Textile Museum
Zandra Rhodes – Unseen programme from the Fashion and Textile Museum

Working at Chelsea Library, with unlimited access to the Costume Collection, my interest in fashion has been revitalised. With the final days of my National Art Pass discount to be used, I went along to the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street, SE1. If you’ve not been – here’s a great description of the museum taken from their website:

The Fashion and Textile Museum is a cutting edge centre for contemporary fashion, textiles and jewellery in London. Founded by iconic British designer Zandra Rhodes, the centre showcases a programme of changing exhibitions exploring elements of fashion, textile and jewellery as well as the Academy which runs courses for creative students and businesses.

Their current exhibition is ‘Zandra Rhodes: Unseen’ and it runs until 31 August 2013. I had already been to the ‘Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s’ at the V&A. Zandra Rhodes’ career has spanned the decades from the 70’s and 80’s including designing a dress for Princess Diana – which can be seen at the current ‘Fashion Rules’ exhibition at Kensington Palace which I’ve also been to.

Princess Diana and Zandra Rhodes (taken from 'Dressing Diana by Tim Graham and Tamsin Blanchard)
Princess Diana and Zandra Rhodes (taken from ‘Dressing Diana by Tim Graham and Tamsin Blanchard)

Princess Diana wearing the dress designed by Zandra Rhodes
Princess Diana wearing the dress designed by Zandra Rhodes

This pink chiffon and pearl dress with a zig zag hem was worn in Japan and was sold at a sale of Princess Diana’s garments at Chrisities.

Years earlier I attended a talk at the Commonwealth Institute given by Zandra Rhodes and I was interested to find out more. Back at Chelsea Reference Library I trawled through the back issues of Vogue and Harpers. I even put together a display in Chelsea Gallery (part of Chelsea Reference Library) of the materials I found to write this post.

There’s some great information about Zandra Rhodes on Voguepedia:

When she realized her prints were too bold and boisterous for other designers, Rhodes began crafting clothing, as well. Still, she never lost sight of the methodical approach that she learned in textiles. For early collections, she visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and studied ethnic costume in the field. With a scholarly eye, she filled her sketchbook with drawings of Maasai warriors in Kenya, cacti from the Mojave Desert, Australian rock formations, and even celestial bodies that she discovered at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. For her book The Art of Zandra Rhodes, she wanted her garments displayed flat, like mounted butterflies, rather than worn by models. That way, their extraordinary patterns were revealed.

Zandra, Queen of the Desert

Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Be inspired by the art of seventies icon Zandra Rhodes. The pink lady’s fantasy fashion delivered a fix of culture clash glamour that lives on and on: graphic textiles, bold prints and swathes of diaphanous chiffon.
Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002

This silk devore dress was from the same shoot – worn with a Philip Treacy Couture hat and leather, feather, sand shells and beaded necklaces by Erickson Bearmon.

How to do….Zandra Rhodes

Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002

The same issue of Harpers and Queen has a very handy guide on how to dress in the Zandra Rhodes style or as Harpers and Queen describe it:

The original – and still the best for jet-set chiffon and inspirational prints.
Harpers and Queen, March 2002
Harpers and Queen, March 2002

This silk chiffon dress is by Salvatore Ferragamo and it’s worn with lace leggings by Zandra Rhodes – you don’t have to dress head to toe to get the Zandra Rhodes look.

Attention! Diversion! Zigzag Rhodes! 

Over to Vogue now…..

Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)
Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)

These pictures were taken from the article about Zandra Rhodes’ home:

Powerful patterns and coloured cover Zandra Rhodes house and her person, all is idiosyncratic, instantly recognisable decoration…The house, salmon pink outside, has mottled marbled sea-pinks and blues inside, a Martin Sharp mural up the stairwell meeting painted columns, urns, banked plastic flowers on the landing, with scarlet pleated bath alcove and Zandra in the tub.
Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)
Vogue, September 1976 (photo by Norman Parkinson)

Vogue’s own motor show

Here’s Jerry Hall in a Zandra Rhodes satin sarong – with a Rover to match!

Vogue, October 1976
Vogue, October 1976
Frilled sarong of pleated satin in whipped cream print, tendrils of rouleaux and gilded cords keeping body and soul together.

West Coast style

Vogue, March 1976
Vogue, March 1976

With more time, I’m sure I would find a lot more – I feel as if I am just scratching the surface. I really enjoyed researching this subject – so if you feel inspired come and take a look at our Costume Collection at Chelsea Reference Library.

Debby Wale
Debby Wale

Debby Wale, Triborough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library

Further information

  • ‘The Art of Zandra Rhodes’ by Anne Knight is available to view in the Costume Collection – it documents her designs inspired by Africa, China and India
  • Vogue and Harpers and Queens – back copies of these magazines can be viewed in the Costume Collection too
  • Berg Fashion Library has more information about Zandra Rhodes – you’ll need a Kensington and Chelsea library card to access this amazing online fashion resource
  • Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection Project – a blog I can certainly recommend
  • More information about the National Art pass is available on the ArtFund website