Five unmissable fashion shows

Published 29 April 2015

From Audrey in Givenchy to golden gimp masks by McQueen – here are our pick of the most stylish shows to see this season.

1. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A

50% off with National Art Pass

Hailed by the critics as 'defiantly joyous' this exhibition celebrates one of Britain's most creative minds, whose tragic suicide at the age of 40 left the fashion world reeling. Spanning from his earliest graduate show to the unfinished collection he was working on at the time of his death, the display has been arranged thematically with each gallery 'dressed' to match. Included are golden gimp masks, armadillo shoes, bird nest hats and dresses crafted from flowers, feathers and razor clams; prepare to be dazzled (until 2 August). Shoes: Pleasure and Pain – featuring 200 examples of extreme footwear – will run concurrently at the V&A over the summer.

2. Vivienne Westwood: Cut From the Past, Danson House

Free with National Art Pass

Vivienne Westwood describes the 18th-century as 'the high point of art and culture', and has been incorporating the styles of the era into her designs since the 1990s. Here several examples are displayed within the apt setting of Danson House, a restored Georgian villa originally designed by Sir Robert Taylor in the 1760s. Drawn from the Cut, Slash and Pull, Mini Crini and Seditionaries collections, they typify the style that has been the key to her success, both critically and commercially (until 31 October).

3. Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal, Bowes Museum

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Yves Saint Laurent was a huge talent, taking command of the Dior fashion house aged just 21. His ambition was to dress 'all women' – not just haute couture clientele – and after setting up his own label with Pierre Bergé he launched the trench coat, the jumpsuit, the pea jacket and the tuxedo. This exhibition brings together his original designs with landmark garments, including pieces directly inspired by his personal art collection – such as the Mondrian cocktail dress (11 July – 25 October).

4. Fashion on the Ration, IWM London

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This exhibition at IWM London sets out to prove that fashion didn't just survive under rationing, it flourished. Focusing specifically on the British home front, it highlights the ingenious ways individuals found to recycle and reinvent old clothing and unused textile: among the items on display are a bridesmaid’s dress made from parachute material, a bracelet made from aircraft components, and a bra and knickers set made from RAF silk maps. The show also explores how retailers responded to the war, producing gas-mask handbags and siren suits to wear in the air raid shelter (until 31 August).

5. Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, National Portrait Gallery

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Audrey Hepburn is synonymous with great style; her 'looks' both on and off the screen continue to spawn copycats more than a decade after her death. This exhibition combines publicity photographs that show Hepburn in her roles as Holly Golightly and Sabrina – as well as her first shoot as a model for calamine cream – with candid personal shots that document the rarely-seen private life of the major international star. Included are magazine covers, film posters and fashion campaigns where she is swathed in the leading designs of the day, and captured by top industry photographers such as Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon (2 July – 18 October).

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