Friday, 27 March 2015

Birds of Paradise: Plumes and Feathers in Fashion @ The Bowes Museum

Hello lovely people,

I've been so excited to write up this post as it relates to one of my favourite subjects in the world: fashion.  And not just any old fashion either, I'm talking high-end Haute Couture, basically the stuff that my dreams are made of.  I love fashion exhibitions and after visiting my very first (the Vivienne Westwood Shoe Exhibition) a couple of years back, I was hooked.  If you live in London near the V & A, fashion exhibitions are probably ten a penny (I'm very excited to visit the V&A later this year for the Alexander McQueen exhibit) but up here in sunny Sunderland, we usually have to travel for such luxury.  However, the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle has completely stolen my heart and is slowly becoming the epicentre for fashion and fashionistas alike in the North of England.  Just a forty (ish) minute drive from my house and I am transported into the lap of fashion luxury; what more could a girl ask for?

It was a sunshine filled Sunday a few weeks ago that Natalie (my VBF) and I embarked on our fashion filled journey.  Arriving at the Bowes Museum early, we used our two for one admission (thank you Groupon!) grabbed our maps and headed straight for the Birds of Paradise exhibition.  We were greeted first by the beautiful 'Chimera' a character from Greek mythology captured beautifully by Thierry Mugler for his Haute Couture AW '97-'98 collection.

The attention to detail was the key factor of this exhibition for me, as you'd expect with intricate feather work.  In this piece, both ostrich feathers and horse hair were used in the creation of the dress and dyed swan and goose feathers in the headdress.

On entering the exhibit, we were met by another Thierry Mugler piece.  This one from SS'97, titled 'Metamorphose d'une chrysalide en femme papillon' likens the exotic nature of women to that of a butterfly.  This was my favourite piece of the day; the beautiful butterfly effect was created by Maison Lemarie using peacock, rooster and eagle feathers, as well as feathers from a bird of paradise.

Moving through the textiles gallery, the next striking piece was the beautiful 'White Swan' created by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen's SS '11 collection using goose and ostrich feathers.  I remembered seeing this piece float down the runway, so to see it in person was both captivating and breathtaking.

There were other swan-like pieces from Nina Ricci and Balenciaga to name a few, but it was the McQueen piece for me that absolutely captured the beauty and elegance of the white swan.

Natalie's favourite piece was this beautiful gown by Olivier Theyskens entitled 'Rochas' from his AW '04-'05 collection.  The dress was created from silk taffeta and nylon gauze, then covered with treated and dyed rooster feathers.  The dyed feathers create a stunning ombre effect helping to finish the dress beautifully.

Heading back out of the gallery, I really loved Jean Paul Gaultier's 'Les Surrealistes'; a dress with a rooster-like creation adorned on its sleeve.  This for me embodies the fun of the runway and how daring designers can be!  The rooster was created using pheasant, bird of paradise, rooster, heron and ostrich down and mother of pearl for the beak.

There were many other amazing pieces including beautiful fans, shoes and handbags as well as more dresses, coats and accessories but I've tried to condense the exhibition down slightly to concentrate on the pieces that really stood out for me and to give you a taste, dear readers, of how beautiful 'Birds of Paradise' at the Bowes really is.  Below are some of the other great garments that I saw...

How fitting that the Bowes Museum should host such a beautiful exhibit when its main attraction is this beautiful silver swan, Sarah Burton should be thrilled!

If you live in the North of England, or maybe you're looking for somewhere to go for a day trip, I urge you to try out The Bowes Musuem.  'The Birds Of Paradise' exhibition runs until April 19th, so there's still time to visit if you haven't done so.  Also it's worth noting that 'YSL:Style is Eternal' will arrive at the Bowes on the July 11th; I can't wait to visit again!

The book which accompanies the exhibition is available from the Bowes Museum bookshop.  Whilst I was there there weren't any in stock so I purchased mine from Amazon; it's beautiful and perfect coffee table reading, but nothing beats the grandeur of actually visiting 'Birds of Paradise', it's absolutely breathtaking.

Have you visited The Bowes Museum?


All information on the exhibit was taken from the museum guide and the accompanying book; all opinions are my own.
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