First Look: The V&A’s Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950
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First Look: Victoria and Albert’s Ballgowns

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Unlabeled, 1950s

Photo: David Hughes

"This dress is a couture piece, stitched by hand but made from a synthetic fabric. At the time it was made, this was an innovative choice and didn't have the connotations we associate with man-made fibres today."

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Bellville Sassoon, 1964

Photo: David Hughes

"The tiny cutouts in the fabric of this dress each contain teardrop-shaped crystals, which move and shimmer when the gown is worn. It was worn by the donor to a ball celebrating her engagement in 1966."

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Yuki, 1972

Photo: David Hughes

"This dress was selected for the actress Gayle Hunnicutt to wear in a shoot for British Vogue in October 1973. She liked it so much that she subsequently became a great client and friend of the designer Yuki. She later wore the dress to a ball at Windsor Castle."

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Zandra Rhodes, 1981

Photo: David Hughes

"Zandra Rhodes wore this design herself to the opening of London's Barbican Centre in 1982. It's a perfect example of 1980s high-impact glamour, combining Zandra's signature prints on a tulle skirt with a pleated, high-shine golden fabric."

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Victor Edelstein, 1986

Photo: David Hughes

"This dress was worn by Lady Anne Heseltine in the early 1980s when her husband Michael Heseltine's position as secretary of defence required her to attend many formal occasions. She recalled of her fittings at Victor Edelstein: 'It was so easy to be his client ... I loved going there, I always took far too long about it.'"

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Elizabeth Emanuel, 1999

Photo: David Hughes

"Worn by Elizabeth Hurley, pictured on a swing in a campaign shoot for Estée Lauder Pleasures perfume, this Elizabeth Emmanuel dress recalls the pink robe of Jean-Honoré Fragonard's 1767 painting The Swing."

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Giles Deacon, 2007

Photo: David Hughes

"Giles often cites wonderfully unexpected sources of inspiration in his work, this tiered ballgown with patent-leather details was inspired by the Visconti film The Leopard and the spinning pillars of the mechanised car wash near the designer's studio in London's East End."

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Erdem, 2008

Photo: David Hughes

"This dress is a great combination of jewel-like colours, digital print, and surface embellishment — factors which are key to Erdem's work. [Photographer] David Hughes styled the image with leaves which appear to blow up and out from the page of the book, picking up on the leaf motifs which are appliqued around the hem of the skirt."

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Mary Katrantzou, 2011

Photo: David Hughes

"We liked how Mary Katrantzou has printed the ballroom onto the dress, the window curtains of the printed room, fall to make a 3-D chiffon skirt."

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Alexander McQueen, 2010-2011

Photo: David Hughes

"This dress was from the final collection designed by Alexander McQueen before his untimely death in February 2010. The dress is printed with the motif of two grisaille angels, they hold fabric in their hands which appears to fall and form the full skirt of the garment."

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Osman, 2010-2011

Photo: David Hughes

"This is a very wearable take on the ballgown in bouclé wool with very useful pockets at the hip. The strong colour-contrast embroidery on the bodice is inspired by the work of artist Catherine Yass."

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Gareth Pugh, 2011

Photo: David Hughes

"This unique piece is made from hundreds of metallic leather tabs, which gives it the appearance of armour. It was created especially for the museum by Gareth Pugh."

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