The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is a great museum of art, design, and decorative arts. I had always wanted to go since getting serious about sewing in high school. Certainly, it’s a treasure trove for any student of the history of fashion!
The V&A began in the 1850s as the Museum of Manufactures. Its mission was to educate manufacturers and designers in arts and sciences, resulting from Prince Albert’s “lessons learned” during the 1851 Great Exhibition. The museum was built in phases over the period 1852 to 1909 in the South Kensington neighborhood.
The fashion and textile collections are among the best known for the V&A. Therefore, I was very excited to see what they have and travel through time in the fashion collection.
I just loved that they include undergarments so you can see how the shape of the clothes was constructed.
Portraits give context for how the clothes were worn. In addition, the texts explain designers and makers.
I was fascinated by seeing the changes in fabrics over time. For instance, some historic styles were made in surprisingly heavy fabrics.
The Victoria and Albert museum is open daily with free admission. Special exhibits have a fee. Be sure to ask someone if you find yourself in a line at the front door – you may not be wanting to attend the special event people may be in line for. The museum has 3 cafés and a fantastic gift and book shop. Photography and sketching are allowed for most exhibits.
Next time I hope to visit the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green to see the children’s clothing and doll collections.
Map of London
- Victoria and Albert Museum official website
- The true story of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition from Town & Country
- Fashion history timeline from Fashion Institute of Technology
- Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from Britain magazine
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