Dior Celebrates The Bloomsbury Group With A Major New Exhibition At Charleston In Lewes

Dior’s not done with the Bloomsbury Group. At its SS23 menswear show, Kim Jones brought a taste of the English countryside to Paris blending the blooming landscapes of Granville, where Dior was born, and Charleston, with two houses dotted either side of the set. He was thinking about insulated artistic communities, looking at the artist Duncan Grant (a consort of the Bloomsbury Group) who, alongside Vanessa Bell, took over Charleston Farmhouse in 1916 – turning it into the epicentre of their circle of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists – to inspire the beautiful ensembles. At the time, Jones’ transported Grant’s artworks to couture-level knits in particular. Now, the maison is picking up where it left with a Bloomsbury Group devoted exhibition. Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion, is the new, major exhibition curated by prodigious writer and fashion critic Charlie Porter and supported by Christian Dior Couture that’s just opened to the public at Charleston’s new cultural site in the heart of Lewes, East Sussex. 

The Bloomsbury Group was a loose collective of artistic and sexual mavericks including Virginia Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Lady Ottoline Morrell, E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes to name a few, first formed in London at the beginning of the 20th century. Now known as “fashion’s queer trailblazers,” the collective were consistently ahead of the curb with what they wore, disrupting society’s expectations and subverting traditional dress as a form of liberation. 

The gallery space’s inaugural showcase – as well as the first ever exhibition to focus on the clothing of the radical collective and their impact on 21st century fashion 100 years on – it features Bloomsbury members’ personal items – such as necklaces worn by Woolf and Bell, Woolf’s bag, hand-embroidered by Bell, and pieces worn by Morrell – exhibited for the first time and never-before-seen portraits by Bell and Grant. It’s only natural to be shown there, the place the group dwelled for decades. On view, there will also be a first edition of Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando, inscribed to her then lover Vita Sackville-West, and the manuscript for a pioneering essay from 1888 by the painter and critic Roger Fry titled, Shall We Wear Top Hats?. Alongside catwalk fashion by Dior, Fendi, Burberry, Comme des Garçons, Erdem and LVMH Prize winner S.S. Daley – who takes inspiration from the characters created by Forster – there will be new commissions and interventions by contemporary fashion designers Jawara Alleyne – a Fashion East alum – and Ella Boucht – a CSM graduate, as well as Jones (Fendi SS21 and Dior Menswear SS23). Meanwhile, Charleston itself becomes a fashion fantasy, with a series of photographs by Tim Walker for Italian Vogue, shot in and around the house. Showing from September 13, to January 7, 2024, expect a multi-layered experience where clothing provides an avenue to break away from tradition. 

Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion uses original garments, archival objects, paintings, photography, manuscripts and spoken word to prove that, pre-fashion houses, the Bloomsbury Group were the people influencing and playing with fashion. “The Bloomsbury Group engaged with fashion in dynamic ways, from philosophical thinking to radical dressing,” Porter relays in a press release. “Bring No Clothes uses garments to shed new light on their lives, as well as bring insight into how we dress today. By mixing together the past with the present, I hope the show will encourage visitors to reconsider their future relationship with fashion.”

Coinciding with the opening of the show, Porter’s new book, Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion – written during the exhibition’s research period – is also available for purchase.

Photography courtesy of Charleston and Dior.


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