We are very lucky in London to have access to some wonderful exhibitions and galleries. On Saturday my friend and I went to see Valentino: Master of Couture at Somerset House before going to the Lucia service in the Swedish Church in Marylebone. This has become of a bit of a Christmas ritual for us; she is Swedish so I go with her family to Lucia and we combine the day with Somerset House which almost always has a fashion exhibition at this time of year.
The best way of getting to the exhibition is through the main courtyard, passing by the winter ice rink. Once in the main building you can choose to either take the lift or walk down the stairs – choose the stairs they are beautiful in their own right and have been decorated with a simple length of red silk which hangs down the entire well and forms a puddle at the bottom.
The main part of the exhibition is in the long hall above the embankment entrance which has been transformed into a cat walk with the visitors walking down the red carpet and the exhibits on either side. There must be over a hundred dresses on show and, surprisingly, very few of them are red.
I was astonished by how much intricate detail went into creating each of the dresses; hundreds of hours of embellishing with embroidery, beading, draping and pleating. My favourite dress was a heavily beaded and rather stiff ivory lace sheath with a draped and pleated floaty train in various shades of blue that went over one shoulder and under the dress reappearing at the other side.
The last part of the exhibition was about the Valentino Atelier. In this room they showed some of the details on the dresses and, best of all, had films showing the seamstresses making them up. I’m always aching to see the inside of fashion exhibits and to find out construction details so this was a wonderful treat.
A couple of dresses looked like they were made out of silken cords with beads on the end, these were sewn together to give the dress shape at the top but hung freely lower down giving a swingy movement to the skirt. The film showed each cord being sewn out of a length of silk which was then turned, stuffed with wool and then had their beads sewn on. The final cords are only millimetres in diameter; I know how much swearing turning the shortest of tubes takes so some how I can’t imagine having the patience to make a whole dress out of them!
Another film showed roses being made out of red organza and then being covered with another layer of twisted organza to give a veiled appearance to the dress. I was amazed by how many pins the seamstresses used to hold everything in place.
We finished the day at the Lucia celebration which is a beautiful carol service lead, as all Swede’s will know, by a girl wearing candles in her hair and followed with mulled wine and saffron buns. All in all a perfect day!