Vivienne Westwood at Danson House

1 sleeveA 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.

1 bubble skirt1 granny maxiThe 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!

1 robe a la francais

‘Le Sac’ or Watteau Gown, Back View, Mid-18th Century, France

1 gown

Westwood ‘Watteau Evening Dress’ Les Femmes Collection, 1996

1 Marge n' Jo

16 thoughts on “Vivienne Westwood at Danson House

  1. Thanks for the review. I didn’t know about the exhibition and LOVE VW. And Arts & Crafts too. Never really connected the 2 tho. I’m a long time lurker of your blog and have decided to de-lurk myself to the blogs I really like. Really enjoy your style and humour – please keep blogging.

  2. Oh how lovely. I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny day. I’d go there in a shot if I was nearer. Thank you for sharing. I’ve not seen some of those VW pieces before. Just divine. Recommend her autobiog by the way 🙂

  3. Ha ha I laughed at the “cruellest looking” of the supermodels, as LE comes from a town in Canada very close to where I was born. 🙂 I think she’s only one of two supermodels we can claim. I love VW and found myself imagining myself in the green gown as I read your post. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a day with a friend.

    • You would look wonderful in the green gown! I always assumed LE was Italian; not just her name but because she reminded me of the beautiful actress Virna Lisi.

      • Hmm.. .I don’t know that Italian actress! Going to look her up. I love green. Maybe one day when I have the skills I will try to imitate that gown. 🙂 PS There are many Italian immigrants in the greater Toronto region and so LE is definitely at least half Italian I would think.

  4. I’ve just spent ages looking at the dress wondering why I couldn’t see a difference in the sleeves. Obviously a very subtle difference I thought – which isn’t very VW is it? Then I realised I was looking at the original 18th century ‘sac’. It’s a shame and a worry but it is very hot so I am using that as an excuse for my flakiness. Sounds like a grand day out and when a terrace and tea are thrown in, it can’t be beat – unless the bar had been open 😉

    • Closely is the right word. Some garments, though behind glass, you could examine for the kind of zips used and focus on looking for technical details which wouldn’t have interested someone who doesn’t sew.

  5. I used to run the housing department in Bexley so know those two historic houses really well. So I was thrilled to read that they have a VW exhibition and urge people to go (although it is a bit far from central London). Thank you for your lovely review M.

  6. It’s great when you visit somewhere and can transport yourself to how it would feel to be living there during that period. thanks for this great review Marianna.

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