On Saturday morning I went with my mum (and a nasty little hangover, but we won’t go into that) to Brighton to check out Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki at the Brighton Pavilion Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve been obsessed with clothing, particularly vintage clothing since like, forever, so I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to go and see some of those gorgeous Biba pieces in the flesh. As it happened I managed to win a couple of tickets on Twitter (thanks Brighton Museum people) which was an added bonus. The first thing that struck me was the sheer beauty of the museum itself, and how many amazing objects they have in – what I assume – is their permanent collection. If you haven’t been, you surely must go for the furniture and crockery alone.
I could talk here at length about the enormous influence Barbara Hulanicki has had on the fashion industry, how she revolutionised the high street shopping experience as we know it, how she practically created Twiggy and fast-changing disposable fashion but we all know that what really matters is the clothes. Classic Biba shapes are iconic; romantic and incredibly elegant. Those maxi lengths, empire lines and bell sleeves must have made the wearer feel like they’d just swept out of a John William Waterhouse painting, only with a wide brimmed hat on, of the kind Bianca Jagger might wear to snort cocaine off of Brian Ferry’s naked butt cheeks.
Look at that black dress. The quality of line is just breathtaking. It reminds me a little of the outfit Nicole what’s-her-face wore to the NTAs but with a soupcon more… how shall I put this… class. If I was an evil sorceress with nymphomaniac tendencies, who lived in a castle surrounded by vast frozen lakes and drove a chariot drawn by rabid wolves with glowing violet-coloured eyes, this would be my signature look. I would also be impossibly thin obvs (it was clearly designed to fit an actual twig).
The sleeves on that brown dress in the centre of the shot are amazing. Not in the least bit practical though. How would you do anything? You’d just have to waft about. You wouldn’t have a choice. You certainly would be able to eat soup, that’s for damn sure. Perhaps that is why they were all so skinny – the sheer length of their sleeves simply prohibited nourishment of any kind.
I can’t leave without showing you a close-up of some of the swirly patterns in the exhibition. If you’re thinking ‘That’s weird, they wouldn’t look remotely out of place in a high street collection today’ you’d be right, they wouldn’t. That’s because people have been
ripping off, allowing themselves to be inspired by Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba designs for decades. I just love the art deco inspired sun bursts that appear on practically everything Biba related. I bought a postcard. Yes, another one.
Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki is on at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until 14 April 2013. Don’t delay going though because you know how these things are, you’ll put it off and put it off and then suddenly you’ll realise it’s too late and you’ve missed yet another great exhibition! GO NOW! Unless it’s night time, in which case GO TOMORROW, or possibly at the weekend, GO.