A small but important collection of Vivienne Westwood designs, on loan from the V&A, can be seen at Danson House in Bexleyheath until 31 October. Danson House is a beautiful Georgian villa sitting grandly atop of a very scenic park on the south-eastern edge of Greater London. It’s a stone’s throw from Red House, the home of the ‘Arts & Crafts’ founder William Morris and both of these relatively little-known gems can be explored in a day. However, when my friend and I visited Danson House, its setting and the summer weather pretty much stole the show so we spent hours lingering on the sunny terrace of the tea-room with a view of the boating lake and despite the distant tear of traffic, we felt transported to a different time… Jo wondered who would’ve been lucky enough to live in such splendour. An information tour of the house answered her question: this was the home of the owner of a plantation in St Kitts. Like much of this country’s Georgian heritage, the elegance was sponsored by slavery. But it belongs to the people of Bexley now. Tickets are £8, half price for National Trust and English Heritage members.
The Georgian period has been a very inspiring one for Westwood who shares its dedication to opulence, elegance and a fetish-like dedication to honouring the female form. I admit I found the foil and jersey maxi dress that you see here a touch granny-ish, but was nevertheless charmed by the simplicity of some of these items typical of VW’s 1990s output.
The most impressive piece in my opinion was the green gown inspired by Rococo painters and by the typical French mid-century design of a type of dress named ‘le sac’ which has pleats of fabric at the back of the neckline falling to the floor. Westwood never simply copies; she subverts which is evident in the lack of symmetry. The gown is romantic and retrospective on the right side – with that unexpectedly unusual sleeve I so long to copy! But the left side is modern, bold, confrontational even. This dress was once worn by Linda Evangelista, the cruellest-looking of the supermodels!