Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood

By Dieneke Ferguson

19 September 2014 – 18 January 2015

Fashion and Textile Museum
83 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3XF

I love the Fashion and Textile Museum so was looking forward to seeing the Knitwear exhibition after having seen the Mexican Reboso exhibition earlier in the year. See here for review.

I was also very interested in the Knitwear exhibition as it is the first exhibition I can think of that aims to record how knitwear has been used over the ages.

My mother also was a knitwear designer and designed the most stunning creations. As children my brother and myself would also have many knitted items of clothing.

The examples on display were taken predominantly from the private collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield, one of the most important collectors of antique vintage and clothing and accessories.

Therefore the exhibition emulated their personal approach rather than creating a comprehensive historical overview. The garments therefore were displayed in loose themes.

At the entrance there was a nice picture of a woollen jumper and one of their children, which made me feel very much at home, as it could have been myself or my brother instead.

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear - From Chanel to Westwood

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood

It was nice to see some of the examples of the knitwear in the Victorian and Edwardian era including the men’s vests. In those days knitting was not limited to women, it seems that many men, including soldiers and sailors, knitted as a practical pastime.

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear -From Chanel to Westwood. Edwardian Vests

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear -Chanel to Westwood. Edwardian Vests

Fashion Textiles Museum - knitwear from Chanel to Westwood.

Fashion Textiles Museum – knitwear -Chanel to Westwood.

By the advent of the First World War women’s attitudes to dress were changing and knitted sportswear had become a popular choice for cycling, golf and motoring.

 

It was Chanel in the 1920s who introduced striped and checked jersey twinsets in neutral colours who remain understated classics of the 1920s modernism.

Fashion and Textile Museum: from Chanel to Westwood. Early version of the twinset. Long loose cardigan with matching sweater, c.1918. Attributed to Chanel.

Fashion and Textile Museum: from Chanel to Westwood. Early version of the twinset. Long loose cardigan with matching sweater, c.1918. Attributed to Chanel.

During the Second World War, clothing rations meant that British women had to find creative ways of recycling garments – this included unravelling old sweaters, which then were knitted into multicoloured jumpers. The government who promoted the re-use of garments would issue a CC41 mark which designated the restricted use of materials for new ‘utility clothing’. The Make Do and Mend.

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear -From Chanel to Westwood. Make Do and mend

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood. Make Do and mend

 

Fashion and Textiles Museum: Knitwear Exhibition, Coco Chanel in striped knitted jersey photographed in 1929 by Alex Stewart.

Fashion and Textiles Museum: Knitwear Exhibition, Coco Chanel in striped knitted jersey photographed in 1929 by Alex Stewart.

In the 40s Hollywood stars were photographed and filmed by the studios in knitted garments.

Fashion and Textiles Museum, Knitwear from Chanel to Westwood. 1947, US VogueFeb 1947 by Horst P. Horst. Corbis/ Conde Nast

Fashion and Textiles Museum, Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood. 1947, US VogueFeb 1947 by Horst P. Horst. Corbis/ Conde Nast

The jumpers below reminded me of the many jumpers that my mother designed and knitted with her knitting machine in equally bright colours.

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear -From Chanel to Westwood.

Fashion and Textile Museum, Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood.

 

I visited the exhibition on a Sunday and it was good to see that it was busy.

Fashion and Textiles Museum - Knitwear - Chanel to Westwood

Fashion and Textiles Museum – Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood

In summary for the first knitwear exhibition I have seen it was an interesting experience and it was good to see that knitwear is now taken more seriously.

My mother would have been very pleased. My brother and myself are now planning to see whether there is an organisation that would be interested in showing her designs. But that will be another story. Meanwhile I couldn’t resist to show this picture of my mother, my brother and myself plus the doll all in knitted jumpers!

The Ferguson Family  in knitted jumpers including the doll.

The Ferguson Family in knitted jumpers including the doll.

 

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