Thursday, 26 March 2015

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty At The V&A Museum

The much acclaimed Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibiting at the V&A Museum from March 14th to the 2nd August 2015 celebrates the extraordinary talent of one of the most creative and innovative designers of recent times. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is the first and largest display of the late designer's work to be showcased in Europe. Spanning from his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection.

London was McQueen’s world. He grew up in the city’s East End and having left school at 15 years old he seized the chance to become an apprentice tailor at the world famous Savile Row in Mayfair. In 1990 he was accepted onto the prestigious MA Fashion course at Central Saint Martins. He drew inspiration from everything around him including the emerging Brit Art scene, London’s rich history, and its illustrious architecture and museums. 

“London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration,” Alexander McQueen, January 2000.

Spray painted dress, No. 13, S/S 1999

Duck feather dress, The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009/10
Nature was the most prominent influence upon Alexander McQueen with collections often including fashions that took their forms and raw materials from the natural world. With his mixture of technology, craft and showmanship McQueen frequently played upon the transformative powers of clothing.  

Jacket, Alexander McQueen, It's a Jungle out there, Autumn/Winter 1997-8

Python skin Armadillo boot, S/S 2010

If you are as much of a fan as we are of the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty display, and avant garde is your thing, be sure to visit us at Alfies to see the wide range of unique and original items available from our dealers. Here are some of our favourites:

1950s black velvet and appliqué textile feather hat, offered by Tony Durante

1950s Italian Murano red and gold glass fish offered by Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

This 1940s brown hat is made of felt and feather.Offered by Velvet Atelier

1920s lame dress with 3D lame leafs and grapes offered by Velvet Atelier

18ct garnet Victorian buckle in original box. Offered by Kieron Reilly

19th century icon of a Russian Saint on gold background, offered by Diplomat Treasures International

1940s large chocolate brown envelope crocodile clutch bag. Offered by Tony Durante

Thursday, 19 March 2015

BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair

From 18 March until 24 March, The Duke of York Square in London will be occupied by the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair, a showcase for members of BADA representing the UK's leading specialists in the fine and decorative arts.

A diverse range of important furniture, objets d’art, paintings and jewellery will be on display, with just under a hundred of the most renowned art and antiques dealers in the country (including dealers from our sister company Grays) showcasing their stock, encompassing both antique and contemporary items. The BADA Fair is sure to have something for everyone.

If you can't make it to the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair, rest assured that at Alfies our dealers stock a wide range of quality items all year round. Here are our favourite picks:

One of a pair of Antique Victorian balloon back armchairs, offered by Attic London

1970s cup & saucer, William Morris design made for the V & A, offered by Gloria Sinclair

Hunting scene landscape, 19th century. Oil on board, offered by Peran Dachinger's Fine Art

Gilt ormolu wall sconces (one of a pair), originally candle holders, c1860s, offered by Good Time Antiques
Small Worcester pickle dish c1765, offered by Janes Antiques

A Gothic style Paris Veilleuse c1820, offered by Nadine Okker

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fashion on the Ration

Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum looks at how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing in 1940s Britain. Often in new and unexpected ways. The exhibition starts 5 March.

Despite the hardships of WWII, fashion in the 1940s was creative and innovative. 'Make do and Mend' was a pamphlet full of useful tips issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII, it encouraged housewives to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing.

Make do and Mend pamphlet

The rationing of the 1940s enforced an era of required minimalism. The shortage of fabric created the popularity of the two piece suit known as a Victory or Utility suit which took on a sleek, military look. Women could mix and match skirts, blouses, and jackets for a new outfit everyday. Even after the war the suits remained popular due to its comfort and practicality.

The Victory suit

Even during the war years, hats were very fanciful. The hat continued to play an important role in women's fashion. It may have been even more important than usual, as many of the materials that went into the making of hats were not rationed although it was commonplace to add a corsage made of fresh flowers or feathers to snazz it up. Many women also owned corsages made of artificial flowers or gathered netting to accessorise a dress.

Leg make-up

The shortage of silk stockings resulted in leg make up becoming a popular choice.  To recreate the look of stockings, a line was drawn along the length of both back legs. If a lady had no money for decent leg cosmetics, she would resort to staining her legs with ‘tea’.

While London was bombed, people also feared a gas attack. Harvey Nichols offered gas protection suits of pure oiled silk in a variety of colors. Many women owned utility jumpsuits which one could put on quickly when the sirens blew. The jumpsuit, a new innovation, was warm and comfortable and featured pockets for papers and valuables.


During this time, there existed a particularly visually rich tradition of propaganda scarves, created for the benefit of an army. Jacqmar of London propaganda scarves were created from remnants of silk fabrics that were used to make gowns. These scarves, depicting militaristic iconography, patriotic flags and maps, were then sold to profit the war effort, simultaneously creating a new class of fashion and very loaded 'conversation’ prints. 

London Wall, designed by Arnold Lever and produced by Jacqmar. Arguably, one of the most iconic propaganda textile images of the Second World War. Offered by Tin Tin Collectables.

The thrifty nature of the 1940s even extended to wedding dresses! The method of creating wedding dresses from parachute silk was customary. A number of dresses made from parachute silk can be viewed at the Imperial War Museum. The dress pictured below was made for (the then) theatre actress, Miss Jean Neville. Be sure to view the stunning intricacy of this dress in person, Fashion on the Ration is on until 31 August.

White silk full-length dress with tie belt made from parachute material. Image taken from IWM website.

If the 1940s is your favourite decade for fashion, make sure you plan a trip to Alfies, we have vintage clothing dealers who stock pieces from this era. Here's a small selection of what you might find:

Large brown 1940s clutch bag with lucite clasp, offered by Tony Durante

Lipstick shape ladies pocket lighter, offered by Tony Durante

Crepe silk dress in burgundy floral print, c1940. Offered by Tin Tin Collectables

Brown 1940s wool felt Cocktail tilt hat, offered by Carole Collier

1940s Ring with ruby and diamond, offered by Connie Speight

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