Remember this? 80’s was the century of the power dress. Actually, these 80’s power dresses don’t look that dated (but the hair does). Women, Fashion and Power is an exhibition about the use of fashion to define and enhance women’s position in the world.
The exhibition is a retrospective into key moments in fashion that paved the way forward to liberate women from the era of corsets to today. It demonstrates the evolution process of how each stage of innovation in fashion impacts to increase the personal freedom and therefore power of women.
It is interesting to see how radically the fashion has changed from first restricting movement (e.g. corsets) to taking influence of men (e.g. suites) to gender free (e.g. T-shirt).
One of the biggest trend at this year’s catwalks has been the menswear taking influences from womenswear. So is this the tipping point in fashion?
The exhibition design format gives clarity and is informative (designed by Zaha Hadid), starting from 1850 by identifying not only by profiling innovation in fashion, but also inspiration and the most influential women of their time.
Selfridges department store is a good example of how new store format completely democratised shopping for the wider public, and was probably only possible since it was an American innovation.
Chanel is perhaps the most influential fashion designer of all times. Coco Chanel was not only a designer, but influencer in society and an art lover. Her clothes still look timeless today.
The second coming of Chanel in her 70’s established her career as the Chanel suite were worn by film stars and royalty. Coco Chanel also invented the quilted leather shoulder bag already in 1955 for hands-free carriage.
Hollywood was a major source for inspiration already in 30’s and 40’s when ready made was not as common in Europe.
Another trendy example is the fantastic 60’s space age dress. Space is yet again a source of inspiration for today’s catwalks.
If you are quite familiar with fashion, the exhibition doesn’t provide anything totally new, but what makes it unique is the presentation of today’s women leaders with their choice of outfits and thoughts about their wardrobe. Unfortunately, while the group of women is impressive and heterogenous their thoughts are still not very interesting. Most women just describe their outfit as a sort of a uniform or even an armoire, and the most important aspect is comfort.
So is the conclusion that fashion is not so important as a source of power today for female leaders? In my opinion yes, and it is a good thing. What makes a leader, is not the clothes after all.
The favourite quote came from Vivienne Westwood, which is not surprising as fashion is her job.
All my outfits are powerful even if they are pretty or silly or butch. They give you power because you’re able to play with your identity.