Vivienne Westwood was the high priestess of punk; the iconoclast maître de; and of course, the queen of corsetry. Her capacity to subvert a garment once synonymous with female constraint into something imbued with an aura of ferocious self-love was unmatched. Following her passing in December, Westwood’s indelible legacy in life and even in death, lives on through the house’s new retrospective exhibition entitled, Vivienne Westwood Corsets – 1987 to Present Day.
Encapsulating the late Dame’s deft designs over the course of 36 years, the exhibition illustrates the intrinsic links between the corset as a historical garment, its place in culture and in fine art. Through pivotal runway show looks which continue to sow contemporary collections, and crop up time and again in fresh iterations and exciting prints, as well as Andreas Kronthaler’s most recent renderings of the historical garment, an eclectic vision of Rococo grandeur unfurls. Aligning its debut with London Craft Week, from May 8 to 21 at the maison’s Conduit Street flagship store, the exhibition will examine the vanguard’s approach to subverting underwear as outerwear.
It’d be remiss not to mention that on top of an immersive, in-store display, the house is dropping a gilded, limited-edition jewellery collection crafted especially for the exhibition. The pendants are inspired by the Portrait corset, a voluptuous number that first appeared on the Vivienne Westwood Harris Tweed AW88 runway and introduced the concept of wearing a corset for style rather than restraint. It was then reimagined in a metallic gold iteration just one year later for the label’s AW89 Time Machine collection – the pendant’s primary and direct reference. Bringing 3D Portrait corset pendants on gold or pearl necklace chains, bracelets and clip earrings to flagship Vivienne Westwood boutiques across London, Manchester and Cardiff, you can take a little Westwood magic home.
Photography courtesy of Vivienne Westwood. ‘Vivienne Westwood Corsets – 1987 to Present Day’ is open to the public during store operating hours at 44 Conduit Street. Discover the exhibition here.