This autumn, Royals & Rebels puts the spotlight on British fashion

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, April 13, 2024


This autumn, Royals & Rebels puts the spotlight on British fashion
Dress for Swinging London, 1960s, Kunstmuseum Den Haag. Photo: Alice de Groot.



THE HAGUE.- Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Savile Row tailoring, boarding school uniforms, tartan, sportswear, the royal wardrobe, hats for Ascot by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones: Brits have made an indelible impression on fashion history. And not only in the realm of smart, respectable tailoring. British fashion’s international influence owes just as much to Swinging London’s rebellious youth and to skinheads and punks. And the British royal family have also made their mark, especially the beloved Lady Diana, who was both a fashion icon and a rebel who used fashion to make a statement. With the exhibition Royals & Rebels – British Fashion, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag delves into the rich history of British fashion and pays tribute to Vivienne Westwood. In addition to her work and that of McQueen and McCartney, the exhibition features dozens of other British designers, including Charles Frederick Worth, Liberty’s, Lucile, Edward Molyneux, Mary Quant, Katharine Hamnett, Paul Smith, John Galliano, Phoebe Philo, Richard Quinn, Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha and young talents such as Bora Aksu, Robert Wun, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy and Matty Bovan.

Anglomania: the fascination with everything British

There is currently enormous interest in British fashion, partly because of the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles III. The fascination with Britain’s rich clothing tradition has also been fuelled by the hit series The Crown and the recent deaths of iconic designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Dame Mary Quant. And punk is alive and kicking again in these socially troubled times. Royals & Rebels – British Fashion responds to this current situation.

But interest in the British lifestyle is nothing new. Anglomania swept Europe in the 18th century when suddenly everything from carriages, garden designs and dinner table to women’s dresses, and men’s and children’s clothing had to be done à l'anglaise. The robe à la française received stiff competition from the robe à l'anglaise. The Netherlands followed both the French and English fashions. For example, the English court mantuas were worn here, but not in France. And the Dutch were very fond of the ‘redingote’, a gown based on a riding coat that became fashionable at the end of the 18th century and was worn by women for the modern activity of ‘promenading’ at the time of the Brontë sisters at the beginning of the 19th century. But Britain made perhaps its most important mark on men’s fashions in the 19th century. Colourful French designs gave way to sober yet highly distinguished bespoke tailoring. London became the main center for made-to-measure menswear with Savile Row as the hotspot.

Big names like McQueen, Galliano and Beckham

The first couturier to add his signature to a piece of clothing was the 19th-century designer Charles Frederick Worth, a flamboyant Englishman who established a studio in Paris. But his influence spread far beyond: his designs were also in great demand among wealthy American women. Other Britons followed Worth’s example and made a name for themselves in both Paris and London. These included Edward Molyneux, whose fashions are well represnted in the Kunstmuseum’s collection, and Charles Creed. They were followed in the Swinging Sixties by Mary Quant and Biba, and Ossie Clarck from the 1970s by their rebellious, anarchic and pioneering colleagues Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett. Later generations of British designers have included big names such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, Sarah Burton, Grace Wales Bonner, Mary Katrantzou and ex-Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham. The youngest generation includes influential designers such as Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Matty Bovan, Richard Quinn and Robert Wun.

From royals to pop idols

British life has had a significant impact on Western fashion history over the years. Great designers have been inspired by typical British sportswear and country clothing, such as Coco Chanel’s suits in traditional tweed, which she discovered while fishing in Scotland with her lover, the Duke of Westminster. The wardrobes of the British royals have been admired around the world for more than a century, from the style of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor) and his companion Wallis Simpson, and the wardrobes of Lady Diana and the late Queen Elizabeth II to the style choices of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. British pop culture has also spawned countless style icons, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the two Davids: Bowie and Beckham. And more recently Harry Styles, who has had a huge influence on millennials’ dress sense, making pearl necklaces, Peter Pan collars, nail polish and dresses into must-have fashion items for men. And because of the strong connection between British fashion and music, it’s as if every fashion era in our collective memory is accompanied by an English pop song, from Dusty Springfield, the Who and the Sex Pistols to Duran Duran, the Spice Girls and Harry Styles.

Rebellion: in the city, in the country

Royals & Rebels – British Fashion takes visitors on a journey into different British worlds. ‘In the City’ revolves around tailored suits, women’s tweed suits, houndstooth check, rainwear, Aesthetic Movement dresses and floral dresses. ‘In the Country’ focuses on tweeds, redingotes, hiking suits and ‘sportswear’ such as cardigans, pullovers, jersey tennis jackets, tweed sports ensembles and riding and hunting outfits. Finally, the exhibition explores the love-hate relationship with the British royal family and the numerous rebels that Great Britain is so rich in. One striking example is Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, a young Scottish designer who makes extensive use of tartan in his gender-neutral creations, illustrating the long tradition of combining tartan with rebellion.










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