Women Fashion Power
29 October 2014 – 26 April 2015
From Naomi Campbell to Pearl Lam, Viviene Westwood to the mayor of Paris, exploring how influential women have used fashion to build reputation and assert authority.
Peering into the wardrobes of the world's power-dressing women, this exhibition – devised by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid – explores fashion as a marker of status. Thankfully it isn't all shoulder pads and tailored suits; the diverse choice of subjects showcase wide-ranging sartorial style. Zandra Rhodes' outlandish outfits are counterbalanced by the demure designs favoured by Margaret Thatcher. Meanwhile, extravagantly stylish pieces worn by the likes of Naomi Campbell prove that being ambitious no longer means a dress code that's androgynous.
Although the show encompasses 150 years of women's fashion history, it's the contemporary examples that are likely to draw the most interest. Twenty of today's leading female figures were asked to contribute one of their own outfits for display, and in accompanying interviews they elaborate on their personal style philosophy. Ranging from politicians to princesses, the 20 participants include Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, Serpetine Galleries' Julia Peyton-Jones, Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, the lead vocalist of Skunk Anansie and HSH Charlène of Monaco.
A visual history of women's fashion, key pieces range from a 1920s beaded flapper dress to a pair of bubblegum-pink 1980s Reebok Hi Tops. Among the stand-out pieces are the blue Mansfield suit worn by Margaret Thatcher when she was elected leader of the Conservative party in 1975, a punk wedding dress from Zandra Rhodes’ Conceptual Chic collection and the Jacques Azagury design worn by Diana, Princess of Wales on her 34th birthday.