The V&A (& Me)

Living in South Kensington, I’m lucky to be a mere ten-minute walk away from the Natural History, Science, and Victoria & Albert Museums. The irony is that I visited them more when I lived an hour’s drive from London, than in my last two years living in SK. In fact, until a couple of weeks ago, the only time I had been to any of these museums since I moved to London was almost a year ago, on a lunch date at the V&A. The date wasn’t a success, but I did fall in love with the V&A café.

Photo: V&A Chandeliers

The designers have cleverly juxtaposed these huge contemporary mesh chandeliers with the opulent surroundings. The combination works surprisingly well, and makes for a really sumptuous, but not pretentious, setting for lunch or afternoon tea.

Photo: V&A Chandelier

The variety and quality of food is also impressive for a museum, with a good choice of hot and cold dishes, sandwiches and wraps, and, my favourite, lots and lots of cakes and desserts (including enormous meringues the size of a teapot, which I wouldn’t know how to eat without making a huge mess).

I finally made some time to make another visit to the V&A and, more importantly, to its café, after my exams finished at the end of June. This time, instead of heading straight for the food, I wandered around the vast space for a couple of hours. It always surprises me how much bigger these places feel on the inside compared to how they look on the outside. On the day I was there, a large section of the museum was closed due to a workers’ strike so, fortunately, I didn’t feel obliged to take in the entire museum in one day. Even so, there was a LOT to see, and I think I probably only took in about 20% of what I saw.

Photo: Giles Deacon DressDress from SS09 Giles by Giles Deacon collection. Given to the V&A by Giles Deacon. The dress behind it is by Alexander McQueen, for SS10, his final full collection before his death in 2010.

One of my favourite things was this dress from the Spring/Summer 09 Giles by Giles Deacon collection. The slightly stiff, classic, elegant silhouette is totally Kate Middleton, and also a shape that I always drift towards (cinched in at the waist and flared A-line skirt to hide my out-of-shape thighs). The Swarovski embellishment is genius (though probably not very Kate Middleton). Sparkly Pacman, ribcage and chunky chain all together – really, could you ask for any more? Not sure exactly where one would wear it…perhaps its sole purpose is to be admired on a mannequin? If so, I think it has succeeded.

Photo: Giles Deacon Dress

Another favourite was this Moschino bag (below) from 1996. I was five in 1996, so forgive me for being slightly slow on the uptake of 90s fashion trends. Similar to the Giles Deacon dress, I like the witty twist on something that is often quite serious. It’s refreshing when designers don’t take themselves too seriously although, of course, there’s a time and place for everything. This bag is apparently meant to represent a scoop of ice cream topped with chocolate, and is intended to be a play on the idea that the fashion world is obsessed with size. The other interpretation was that both fashion and chocolate are guilty pleasures…though I would argue that fashion isn’t really a guilty pleasure.

Photo: Moschino BagHandbag By Moschino, 1996…isn’t the smooth, sleek leather fabulous?

It may sound somewhat trivial to talk about ‘mere clothing’ (or accessories), when there is so much ‘real art’ on display but, for me, there’s something accessible and covetable about an item of clothing because we all wear it: it’s a common denominator of sorts. Having said that, I do also admire and appreciate painting and sculpture, and the sheer talent of many artists.

Photo: V&A GardenI had lunch (a houmous and falafel wrap) sitting outside by this water feature. Quiet and tranquil, you wouldn’t guess that you were in central London. And that’s one of London’s many wonders – there are so many sanctuaries and hide-aways from busy city life, where you can go to recharge and emerge feeling relaxed and de-stressed. In a day of doctors’ appointments, this little escape from reality worked wonders for my sanity. As contrived as that sounds, I think there’s a lot to be said for treating yourself to an over-priced lunch, and enjoying some time on your own with just your thoughts and imagination for company.

Maybe when I’m back in London in October, I’ll be able to conquer the Science and Natural History museums too. What’s your favourite London museum or gallery? Did anyone get a chance to see the Yohji Yamamoto exhibition at the V&A? I got a glimpse of the impressive exhibition space on my visit but, unfortunately, didn’t have time to get a proper look before I left London for the Summer 😦 Must plan better next time…

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