I awoke from a dream in which my sister Sharon, now a retired schoolteacher, was organizing a group of schoolchildren to escort them through a museum. Suddenly the kids stood before me and it wasn’t a dream. It was a long line of children dressed in uniforms and headed to the Victoria & Albert Museum.
It’s easily one of the best in London due to its size and breadth. Oh, sure, the British Museum loftily clings to the Elgin Marbles (They have a point. What would the Greeks do with these priceless sculptures in a failed economy?), and it has an amazing collection of Egyptology. The V&A has the skill and vision, however, to counterpose various media in a way that’s vital and interesting.
The museum has the connections to bring together fashion from celebrity royals and royal celebrities. At Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, Mikayla and I viewed the works of those who designed for everyone from Princess Diana to Beyoncé, Queen Anne to Annette Bening. Some of the designers included Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes and Norman Hartnell.
Nearly as entertaining as the ballgowns themselves are the stories behind the fashions, such as the couture gown that was worn by four different clients over the same royal weekend. The clients arrived at dinner in slightly different versions of the identical dress. Another designer recalled being asked to match the color of silk fabric to a pair of aquamarine gems that were “the size of gobstoppers.”
Just outside the special exhibit of ballgowns stands part of the V&A’s permanent collection of fashions through the ages. The dolman jacket dates back to 1885, yet it looked as contemporary as anything that Mikayla and I had seen in the special exhibit.
For the next six months, the Lezovi will be cruising by land through Europe. S/V Happy Times lies safely at Mario’s Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala, awaiting our return in May.