Ballgowns: An Accessible Exhibition
When I heard about the exhibition currently at the V&A called Ballgowns I was keen to pay a visit.
I have delivered visual awareness training to V&A volunteers in the past so I know they are very mindful of accessibility. There is lots of information on their website about accessibility for people with various disabilities so I sent them an email explaining I was visually impaired and that I wanted to visit Ballgowns. Without delay I received an email saying a guide could be arranged to take me around the exhibition. I was really pleased as I had given less than 24 hours notice so I wasn’t expecting much to be able to be arranged.
The following day I met my guide as arranged and was admitted, at no charge, into the exhibition. By chance my guide had just come from a curator’s talk and so had plenty to pass on to me about the exhibits.
Ballgowns is billed as ‘British glamour since 1950’, not all the designers are British born but they all learned their trade in the UK. There are about sixty ballgowns in total spanning this period and they include beautiful ballgowns, red carpet evening wear and catwalk showstoppers. The ballgowns on the ground floor span varying decades and are created by various designers. Having Penny, my lovely guide, was great as she could describe the detail and colours that I would otherwise have missed and she also read to me the information about some of the dresses. The stories behind the dresses are as interesting as the dresses themselves. Penny told me of the people who had worn them and in what situations. There are quite a few famous dresses which have been worn by royalty.
There is a beautiful dress which was worn by Elizabeth Hurley in an Estée Lauder advert. It was designed by the designer of Princess Dianna’s wedding dress and you can see the similarities with the dress Dianna later wore down the aisle.
The exhibition continues upstairs and the space is perfect as it is as elegant as the dresses. It’s predominantly white with a domed ceiling and there are four projected images of the ballgowns rotating within the dome. The dresses upstairs are all contemporary. They are not behind glass so while you can’t touch them, you can get closer to them which makes it much easier to see them. Up here is a dress Beyoncé wore when invited by President Barack Obama to sing at a state reception. It has a daringly high side split and is covered in Swarovski crystals. It is stunning and you can imagine her looking unbelievable in it.
Most of the dresses are couture pieces which were handmade for a particular client. The information about the wearer, the designer and the event are often as fascinating as the dress.
There is a little history also on how the role of the ballgown has changed over the decades. The dresses range in shape and silhouette and include the sleek and elegant and the slightly outlandish. They are all super glamorous and you can’t visit Ballgowns without wondering what it must feel like to wear at least one of the exhibits.
I would recommend the exhibition and I would certainly advise you contact the V&A ahead if you have any access requirements; my appreciation of the exhibition was vastly improved by doing so.
I used to b a fashion designer so this was of interest to me. In the past I may not have chosen to go along as I would have felt it would not have been very accessible and a great deal of it would be lost on me. The V&A could not have been more accommodating and I now intend to visit again and to try more galleries and museums.
Ballgowns is on at the V&A until 6th January 2013
10.00 – 5.45 daily
10.00 – 22.00 Fridays
For any assistance during your visit contact a member of staff or the Disability Officer on telephone +44 (0)20 7942 2766, text phone +44 (0)20 7942 2002, or email email@example.com in advance.
Assistance dogs are welcome.
Nearest tube: South Kensington (5 minute walk)
South Kensington is on the Piccadilly, Circle and District Lines. It is a five minute tube journey from Victoria, ten minutes from Covent Garden and Leicester Square and 15 minutes from King’s Cross Station