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BIO

whatgrandmawore is a celebration of all-things fashion and its most iconic moments, written by Ruby-May Helms. She has a BA (Hons) in Fashion and Dress History, and an MA in the History of Design and Material Culture. She is currently in the process of applying for a PHD in design history, exploring the relationship between clothing and death. 

 

This blog explores fashion and dress history through the analysis of surviving garments and other material culture from museum collections. It discusses fashion theory, topical and current issues, and reviews the latest exhibitions. 

 

TO CONTACT: rubymayhelms@hotmail.com. 

 

You can follow us on our social media channels by searching for us on Instagram and Twitter.

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January 22, 2019

‘St Augustine says, “the dead are invisible, they are not absent.” You needn’t believe in ghosts to see that’s true […]. We sense the dead have a vital force still — they have something to tell us, something we need to understand.’ [1]

The above quote was taken from Dame Hilary Mantel’s lecture The Day is For The Living for the BBC Four Reith Lectures in 2017. It is also the same quote that I used for the first few sentences of my MA dissertation in the History of Design and Material Culture. I started my thesis with Mantel’s quote because her words resonated with the aims of my research. I believed that the individual that I was studying did have something to tell me, and I was on a journey to discover more about their life through the study of their surviving clothes. 

Not only at this stage did I feel that the dead had, to quote Mantel, a ‘vital force,’ but equally, that their clothes, also had the capacity to communicate something I was attempting to uncover. I wanted to employ...

December 23, 2016

‘Vulgarity exposes the scandal of good taste.' - Adam Phillips

Exhibition poster for The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined Exhibition. Image Credit: The Barbican. 

It's quite unusual to find the works of Madame Gres, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, and Christian Dior, amongst many other cherished designers in an exhibition titled The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined. The Barbican Art Gallery has installed a fashion exhibition deliberately designed to question our ideas of taste and vulgarity, depending on the various perspectives taken by the wearers, or viewers.

(Although the above and below dresses do not feature in the exhibition, the works of Alexander McQueen are perfect examples for discussions surrounding the concept of the vulgar, questioning ideas surrounding beauty and femininity.) Alexander McQueen Voss dress. c2001. Red and black ostrich feathers and glass medical slides painted red. Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Yo...

November 25, 2016

This is the second article featuring the theme of fashion and art. The first post, which discusses the work of designer Charles James, can be read here

Elsa Schiaparelli, photographed by Cecil Beaton, c1930: Image Credit: The Red List. 

The wonderful and eccentric Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the most predominant and successful fashion designers of the 1930's. Her name is no longer recognised within common culture, but throughout the field of fashion history, she is often regarded as an iconoclastic adventurer, who blurred the lines between art and fashion. Mingling with the avant-garde Surrealists, and experimenting with bold and bright colours, Schiaparelli set herself apart from the rest of the 1930's couturiers, their designs oozing restrained elegance and glamour. In contrast, Schiaparelli seemed to have no creative limitations, her garments created through a blend of enchanting and mythical themes, combined with the exquisite couture techniques which aided to reinforce Schiaparel...

August 19, 2016

Last week I took a trip over to Amsterdam. Having already visited before, I had gone to see the Van Gogh Museum, but this time, I wanted to see more.

There were five museums in total that I decided to travel to. For anyone else who wants to spend their holiday at some of Amsterdam’s most fascinating, famous, and at times freaky museums, I would advise for you to buy a Holland Pass. Using Gold tickets for the bigger museums (like the Rijksmuseum) and Silver tickets for smaller attractions (such as Red Light Secrets: Museum of Prostitution), this is the easiest and most convenient way to skip queues and save money. You can buy your passes depending on how many museums you wish to visit, and collect them at the airport (and other locations within Amsterdam).

Tassen Museum Hendrikje – Museum of Bags and Purses

By far one of my favourite museums (although biased because I am a fashion history student), the Museum of Bags and Purses consists of over 5000 objects, all thanks to the passion of co...

May 21, 2016

Last month I took a trip to Berlin with my university. I had heard many great things about the city; that it was spacious, modern and full of artistic culture. Indeed, my visit proved that Berlin is an up-and-coming city with much to offer. With such a colourful history to say the least, Berlin is a hodgepodge of Cold War buildings and meticulously formed modern architecture. Youth definitely influences Berlin wherever you travel within the city. I of course took photographs of all the places I visited, however this is not always an option in museums (as rules are rather strict, with some museum assistants insisting that you keep coats and bags in the cloakroom. Therefore if you visit these places, remember to behave yourself). I have made a list of some of my favourite museums that a young visitor to Berlin should definitely make the effort to visit.  

 

Kunstgewerbemuseum

 

The Kunstgewerbemuseum is a must see for all art/decorative art/fashion history students. At first glance...

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