The V&A’s current exhibition of British designed ballgowns since 1950 is a gallop through froufrou, sequins, and pink and onto leather, latex and black. The title of the show ‘British Glamour since 1950′ made me reflect on the nature of glamour, because nothing I saw in the vitrines looked at all glamorous; they were simply dresses, which on a shop window dummy in a museum looked like nothing more than a construction of material.
It was when I could see a photo of a person wearing it, that I could see the glamour of the thing. The dress in that context appeared to be the wrapping that a woman could use to make herself look glamorous, and that it is the person in it that gives it that quality.
In the section displaying the most contemporary dresses, what seemed clear was that the purpose of the ‘red carpet dress’ is to look good when photographed, rather than in the present, so a fabric which looked rather dull on the mannequin, when captured under the flash of the photographers attention, glistened and shone.
Looking at the frocks as the tools of the trade of glamour, rather than as something aspirational, was a much more satisfying and interesting experience.