Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood
19 September 2014 – 18 January 2015
Charting over 100 years of knitwear history, from functional garments to experimental designs.
The 150 items of knitwear have been drawn from the collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield, which is on show to the public for the first time. Displayed chronologically, early exhibits include knitted sportswear popularised during the First World War and easy-wearing Chanel twinsets from the 1920s.
Moving onto the clothing restrictions and rations of the Second World War, the display explores how women became creative with old knitwear. Sweaters were unravelled and the yarn recycled to make new multi-colour jumpers which made a feature of the variety of wools used.
The transformation from functional to fashionable was complete by the 1950s, influenced in large part by its popularity with Hollywood stars and leading avant garde designers. Examples of the 'cocktail sweater' feature a defined waist and embellishments at the neck and shoulders, while the crocheted mini-dress epitomises youth quake style in the 60s. There are also items of brightly coloured 'novelty knit' with kitsch motifs; a hallmark of 1970s fashion.
Concurrent displays in the mezzanine and ground floor galleries include Visionary Knitwear – bold designs from the 21st century selected by Sandy Black from the London College of Fashion – and Knitwear in Fashion Photography, featuring pictures from magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Queen.