Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950

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Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950

 

Bruce Oldfield

Craftsmanship is what it’s all about I mean couture is actually just the French way for saying dressmaking. The French always manage to find a nice way of saying things.

 

David Sassoon

I’m probably the only designer around today that’s dressed every single female member of the royal family except the queen.

 

Mary Katrantzou

It’s quite nice to look back at that time where it’s a little bit more formal than it is today.

 

Nicholas Oakwell

The 40’s through to the 60’s were a very strong period of time I think.  It was very much Royal Britannia at that time and I think Britain was very glamorous at that time with the balls and the functions and the debutants and things like that.

 

David Sassoon

In the 50’s young girls aspired to look like their mothers, but in the 60’s the mothers aspired to look like their daughters. All the rules went out the windows so you really were free to do very exciting, very glamorous clothes and of course clothes could be a little bit more sexy than they had been.

 

Bruce Oldfield

It has changed hugely in the past fifteen, twenty years. The big dress, the occasion dress has become something people wear less and less and less of.

 

David Sassoon

In the 60’s and 70’s, people paid for the dresses but today, red carpet dresses are borrowed so you get stars and celebrities wearing a ball dress.

 

Bruce Oldfield

People look at a long dress and say, ‘What’s that? Where do you wear a long dress? Oh yes, the Oscars.’

 

Roksanda Illincic

Designing a dress can be really quite versatile and different projects. Sometimes I start with ideas that maybe I just saw on the street.

 

Bruce Oldfield

I always designed from technique. I would find a technique that I liked whether it was smocking or draping or pleating or ruching or whatever it might be.

 

Roksanda Illincic

The ballgown usually demands lots of fabric and there is a place to play, to drape, to draw, to playing with the view of 360 degrees, which is really exciting.

 

Mary Katrantzou

It starts I think with a theme, all my collections are very thematic. It’s been perfume bottles and interiors, objects of art.

 

David Sassoon

A lot of the collections we designed were based on themes. For instance we would have an Indian collection or a Chinese collection. I loved doing dresses for Princess Diana. She was very, very charismatic. And she could wear all sorts of wonderful colours. Our dress was on the official stamp. These are all the sketches that she would make comments on and write on.

 

Bruce Oldfield

Bianca Jagger was major in the 70’s and Bianca wanted a special red dress for this big ball that everyone went to in Paris. You know, I remember Tina Chow, Marie Helvin and Gerry Hall and these kind of beautiful, the demi-monde of the time and to dress Bianca Jagger at the time was quite cool. The dress is kind of homage to the dress Rita Hayworth wore in Gilda.

 

Nicholas Oakwell

I think my style, I try to be modern in a way but still quite romantic with the clothes and try to be feminine and try and think inside what a woman wants to wear. Trying to get away from that man dressing a woman and thinking how a woman dresses and what she wants to wear.

 

Roksanda Illincic

I always have a certain modern woman in mind. She works, she lives in a town, she goes to different events and that’s somebody that I design for.

 

Bruce Oldfield

I don’t think a frock needs to be challenging, I just don’t.  But I think it really should be an amalgam of the wearer and the dress. You know, ‘Doesn’t she look fabulous’ is good enough for me.

 

Mary Katrantzou

My idea of glamour is that there’s symmetry to everything and everything is very considered. I wouldn’t say that my prints are random. I think there’s an essence of classism there and elegance that’s still part of my work but at the same time, I think there’s something very free about how women in the UK dress up now and there’s still glamour but again I think it’s a little bit more individual.

 

Roksanda Illincic

I think what makes Britain different is that sort of effortless glamour, glamour that is done without trying too hard, without trying too much.

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Those who visit the V&A certainly should go to the ball – by which we mean the exhibition ‘Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950’. This survey of remarkable eveningwear forms the basis of the following film, which – through interviews with designers Nicholas Oakwell, Bruce Oldfield, David Sassoon, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Illincic – examines the significance of the ballgown, and what it is to be truly glamorous.

Through interviews with designers Nicholas Oakwell, Bruce Oldfield, David Sassoon, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Illincic, this film examines the significance of the ballgown, and what it is to be truly glamorous...