Decoding dress: clothing and culture at the V&A

Course Dates: 14/07/20
Time: 11:00 - 16:00
Location: OS - Off Site
Jacqui Ansell

Explore the V&A’s rich collection of garments, artworks and objects, and forge connections between them. Learn what such clothing felt like to wear, and how difficult it is to display, through discussion drawn from contemporary accounts, diaries and letters.


What is the course about?

From farthingale skirts of the Elizabethan era, to the dazzling dresses worn by flappers of the jazz age, we will explore the meanings and messages encoded in dress. From Tudor times to the early twentieth century we will discuss courtly fashions and those who made and wore them – including Madame de Pompadour, Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde. Discussion will range from underwear to outerwear, and also consider the impact that bulky clothing has on seat furniture, to present the wider cultural context and promote greater understanding of clothing and the decorative arts. Tutor: Jacqui Ansell.

What will we cover?

• Close consideration of selected surviving garments from c1500–1950
• Artworks and objects (furniture, tapestries) from c1500-1950 that can tell us about dress
• Discussion drawn from contemporary literary and documentary sources
• The changing outline of fashionable dress (and how this was achieved via underwear)
• The fabrics and techniques used, and how these impacted upon the wearer’s health and hygiene.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Discuss selected surviving garments with a better informed understanding of their cut and construction
- List the sources for dress information and understand how they inform our understanding of surviving garments
- Identify different approaches to pattern – i.e. weaving, embroidery and printing and be able to identify different fabrics and their properties
- Talk about changing clothing styles, with appropriate vocabulary
- Understand what it might have felt like to get into and wear historical clothing.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for all levels.
You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught with short presentations in the gallery, and invited to contribute via question and group discussion.
Teaching will take place in galleries such as the British Gallery, the European Gallery and the Dress Court. There are steps between these places (and also lifts) but some walking will be required and it will not always be practical to sit down. Please note we are unable to guarantee seats on gallery visits. You might prefer to invest in a lightweight portable seat.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You might wish to bring a notebook. You might wish to buy some of the books on any reading list given out in class.
While there are usually some gallery stools available this cannot be guaranteed so you may like to bring a portable stool.
Gallery entry is free. There will be a break for lunch in the V&A restaurant – lunch is not included.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You might also be interested in:
• VB851 - A day of nineteenth-century fashion.
• VB856 - A day of twentieth-century fashion.
• VB627 - Decoding dress: National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery
• VB892 - The Fashions of 18th-century Britain and France.


Customer Reviews 2 item(s)

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Reviews below are by students who have attended this course, regardless of the course teacher. Please be aware you may not be booking onto a course with the same teacher.

Very interesting
Course Rating
Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 30/07/2019)
It's not just costume. You'll learn about trade, fashion, taste, textiles, history and any other incidental things...
Course Rating
Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 18/07/2019)
Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: VB628

Tue, day, 14 Jul - 14 Jul '20

Duration: 1 session

Full fee: £49.00
Senior fee: £39.00
Concession: £30.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

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