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The London look: 10 fashion exhibitions in the capital

Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto, V&A

The V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition is the first in the UK dedicated to the French couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel – and it is selling out fast. The show is fully booked until Christmas, but at the time of writing there was still plenty of availability in January and February. The exhibition charts the history of the House of Chanel, from the opening of Coco’s first millinery shop in Paris in 1910 to her final collection in 1971, and her legacy today. There are almost 200 looks on show, including a piece from 1916 and outfits designed for Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich, plus accessories, jewellery and perfume.
Until 25 February, £24 adults/£16 children/under-12s free, vam.ac.uk

Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion, Design Museum

Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion at the Design Museum, London.
Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion at the Design Museum, London. Photograph: James Veysey/Shutterstock

The Design Museum is celebrating 30 years of the British Fashion Council’s Newgen programme, which supports young designers. It features nearly 100 looks from the debut collections of designers who became big names, such as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Simone Rocha. Highlights of the “exuberant, rebellious and radical” clothes on display include the swan dress worn by Bjork at the 2001 Oscars and the inflatable latex suit worn by Sam Smith at this year’s Brit awards. The exhibition also includes films, drawings and other archive materials and memorabilia.
Until 11 February, from £16.33 adults/£8.16 children/under-11s free, designmuseum.org

The Missing Thread, Somerset House

The Missing Thread: Untold Stories of Black British Fashion at Somerset House, London
The Missing Thread: Untold Stories of Black British Fashion at Somerset House, London. Photograph: David Parry/PA

Telling “untold stories of Black British fashion” from the 1970s to today, this exhibition celebrates pioneering Black creatives who were either denied access to the fashion industry, or had their contributions misrepresented or excluded from the story of British fashion. These include the late Joe Casely-Hayford, one of Britain’s most influential Black designers, whose archive will be exhibited in the UK for the first time. There are also commissions by contemporary designers, including Nicholas Daley, Bianca Saunders and Saul Nash. As well as the catwalk, the show spotlights music, photography, art and design.
21 September to 7 January, £12 adults/under-25s £5, somersethouse.org.uk

The Fabric of Democracy, Fashion and Textile Museum

This intriguing exhibition explores “printed propaganda textiles” from the French Revolution to Brexit. Propaganda is more commonly associated with art and sculpture, but the curator – the design historian Amber Butchart – shows how fabric has been used politically too, in furnishings and fashion. Visitors will find out how textiles have been used by communist and fascist regimes, as well as by democracies and corporations. Textiles on display include toile de Jouy from France, Japanese robes from the Asia-Pacific war and Cultural Revolution-era Chinese fabrics.
29 September to 3 March, £11.50 adults/under-12s free, fashiontextilemuseum.org

Fashion City, Museum of London Docklands

Workers at a clothing factory in Stepney owned by the Jewish Schneider family in 1917.
Workers at a clothing factory in Stepney owned by the Schneider family in 1917. Photograph: Museum of London

The Museum of London’s new exhibition will illuminate the ways in which Jewish designers have helped make London a world-class city of fashion. Visitors can go inside a recreation of a traditional tailor’s workshop in the East End or a Carnaby Street boutique in the swinging 60s. They will hear the stories of figures such as Netty Spiegel, a renowned wedding dress designer; Otto Lucas, a master milliner; Mr Fish, the flamboyant designer behind the kipper tie; and David Sassoon, who designed clothes for Princess Diana. The show also features fashion and textiles, oral histories, objects and photographs of some of the stars dressed by Jewish designers, including David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger.
13 October to 14 April, from £12 adults/£6 children/under-12s free, museumoflondon.org.uk

Crown to Couture, Kensington Palace

There are only a few weeks left to see Kensington Palace’s star-studded exhibition, which draws parallels between today’s red carpet and the Georgian royal court in the 18th century. There are more than 200 objects on display, historic and modern, from three-metre-wide court gowns and a 360-year-old silver tissue dress to handbags and jewellery. One highlight is the ivory lace dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and to the 1954 Oscars. The 21st-century exhibits include Beyoncé’s outfit from the 2017 Grammys, and three Met Gala costumes: Katy Perry’s chandelier-inspired look and Billy Porter’s Sun God outfit (both 2019), and Kendall Jenner’s Givenchy dress (2021).
Until 29 October, £25.40 adults/£12.70 children/under-fives free, hrp.org.uk

Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Period tailor Zack Pinsent at the Style & Society exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London.
Period tailor Zack Pinsent at the Style & Society exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Photograph: Jeff Moore/PA

It’s the last chance to see another Georgian fashion parade, this time at Buckingham Palace. This exhibition explores what people wore at all levels of society, from laundry maids to royalty. Highlights include Princess Charlotte’s wedding dress and King George’s travel grooming kit. As well as textiles and jewellery, and objects such as swords and snuff boxes, there are artworks by Gainsborough, Hogarth and Zoffany.
Until 8 October, adults £17/children £9/under-fives free, rct.uk

The Cult of Beauty, Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection’s exhibitions are always fascinating – and free. Its next major show explores notions of beauty across time and cultures, asking why we believe in a myth of universal beauty. It considers the influence of morality, status, health, age, race and gender on the evolutions of ideas about beauty. Visitors are asked to question their biases and reflect on more inclusive definitions. The exhibition features more than 200 items, including historical objects, artworks, films and new commissions.
26 October to 28 April, free, wellcomecollection.org

Designed for Life, London College of Fashion, UAL, Olympic Park

This free exhibition celebrates the London College of Fashion’s mission to harness fashion as a force for change. It coincides with the opening of LCF’s new East Bank campus on the Olympic Park in Stratford – one of its themes is “east London as home”. Across five immersive areas in the new college building, visitors will see textiles, design, film, photography, artefacts and testimonies. Featured pieces include a decommissioned refugee tent; textile artworks portraying east London’s immigrant communities; and an interactive living room installation.
2 October to 19 January, free, arts.ac.uk

Gucci Cosmos, 180 Studios

After debuting in Shanghai in April, this immersive exhibition about Gucci is coming to London. The acclaimed British set designer and artist Es Devlin has redesigned the show to pay tribute to the city, which has a key role in the Gucci story: the founder, Guccio Gucci, was inspired to design luggage while working as a porter at the Savoy in 1921. There are pieces from the century-old Gucci archive, including designs by creative directors including Tom Ford, Frida Giannini and Alessandro Michele. After London, the show moves to Paris and then Kyoto.
11 October to 31 December, ticket information coming soon at gucci.com