The Concise Dictionary of Dress

I went along to an exhibit at Blythe House in London today, The Concise Dictionary of Dress. It is a collaboration between fashion curator, Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips in conjunction with Artangel. The exhibit is a series of eleven written definitions pertaining to clothing. It is emotional, thought provoking and beautiful. I am not sure that all would come away with the same impression. It has been said to be one of 'The most eccentric shows in London*. It most certainly opened up discussion within our group and I noticed a few quizzical brows.  I took it for what it was and looked for more. We were not allowed to take pictures. In fact I don't think I have ever come across a more thorough security clearance. You can imagine my glee when I spotted a book with these wonderful images and comprehensive description of the exhibits. It certainly leaves you wanting to know more.

Photography by Norbert Schoerner

I think this was my favourite exhibit. The figure was designed and commissioned by the curator, Judith Clark. Can you see the figure in the tower? It reminds me of a 'widows walk' in the old homes around the area that I grew up in. We lived by the sea and I often heard tales of women who stood in the 'watch' looking out to sea, waiting for her loved one to return home to her to her.

I think these images speak for themselves.

Whenever I visit an exhibit, I take a notebook. 
I like to sketch or just write down words or phrases that catch my attention. 
These are just bits and pieces of what was given to us to read as we viewed each exhibit. 
The words were created by the curators.
I took what resonated with me...a simple dictionary of dress.

the affluence of ease
a nostalgia
something pretending to be something that it is
the triumph of continence
a gathering, collecting, a smoothing over
proportion as the mother of virtue
contained for the idea of containment
exhaled impatience with the body
history without footnotes
a longing
a private nostalgia
a moveable feast
not conforming to contour or arrangement, 
subject to influence and gravity, 
seeking direction
the line designed by use

Text and images from The Concise Dictionary of Dress
By Judith Clark and Adam Phillips
Photographed by Norbert Schoerner

Oh, how could I forget!
Blythe House..what an intriguing place.
As I turned the corner in the back streets of Olympia
I came across this incredible sight.

Blythe House was originally built (1899-1903) as the headquarters of the Post Office Savings bank. Today it stores small and medium sized objects for the Science Museum, British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum. The buildings have been blacked out to help preserve the objects. We were under strict instructions not to touch as we glided thru the hallow halls of this formidable sight. Try as we might, we were not allowed to linger. Lights were turned off as quickly as they were turned on as we were faced with rows and rows of white custom built storage containers. It was as unforgettable as the sculpture that sits beyond the gates below.

last two pictures~me
* Esther Freud, BBC Radio 4 Satruday Review


  1. That dress exhibit sounds very interesting. I find the subject of how we choose to clothe our bodies endlessly interesting. Some people manage wear their clothing as though displaying a true work of art, while others simply throw a modern version of a gunny sack over their heads and call it good.

  2. Now there is a look Val...the gunny sack!
    I wonder if that is the same as a moo moo :)
    Either way, I think I will pass on that one too!