Posts Tagged ‘Fashion’

Lots of Woolf on the Web these days. Here are a few important sightings gleaned via Twitter links shared by Jane deGay and Maggie Humm.

  • Sentencing Orlando: Virginia Woolf and the Morphology of the Modernist Sentence, edited by Elsa Högberg and Amy Bromley, is a collection of 16 original essays offers fresh perspectives on Orlando through a unique attention to Woolf’s sentences.
  • Six Ways Virginia Woolf Pre-Empted Spring’s Key Looks,” by Kaye Fearon in British Vogue, Feb. 21, 2018.
  • Bonnie Greer on Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, a podcast discussing the friendships, work and designs behind the artists, coordinated with the Virginia Woolf exhibition at Tate St Ives, 10 February – 29 April 2018. Then view her art walk below.

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Virginia Woolf wrote in her 1928 novel Orlando “clothes have more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us”. Her intimate circle of friends and members of the Bloomsbury group were part of the radical Modernist rethinking of dress at the Omega Workshops and Woolf herself wrote for British Vogue under Editor Dorothy Todd in the 1920s. Today the styles of Bloomsbury are inspiring more and more contemporary designers suggesting their aesthetic is as modern as it was 100 years ago.


Nina Hamnett and Winifred Gill wearing Omega designs photographed in The Illustrated London Herald 24 October 1915. Copyright British Library.

In 1915 Woolf’s sister and co-founder of the Omega Workshops Vanessa Bell suggested that the Omega take up dress design using the fabrics they were already creating. Bell went on to design and wear many Omega dresses inspired by the new un-corseted “Directoire” style made popular by Parisian designer and marketing-extraordinaire Paul Poiret. Many of the garments were painted in bold colours in the Post-Impressionist style that had offended vast swathes of the British public at Roger Fry’s first Post-Impressionist art exhibition in 1910. The Omega artists took the style of these bold canvases and transferred it onto clothing, revealing a daring defiance in opposition to accepted ideas of “good taste”. Indeed, in Omega dress we glimpse attitudes that would define youth fashion in the second half of the twentieth century, dressing to express alternative aesthetic and ideological allegiance.

Virginia Woolf responded to these Omega styles, writing to Vanessa Bell:

 “My god! What clothes you are responsible for! Karin’s clothes wrenched my eyes from the sockets – a skirt barred with reds and yellows of the violent kind, a pea-green blouse on top, with a gaudy handkerchief on her head, supposed to be the very boldest taste. I shall retire into dove colour and old lavender, with a lace collar and lawn wristlets”.

In this note to her sister, Woolf craves subtler shades for her own wardrobe. She was remembered for these neutral shades, for wearing “simple” or “martial-looking” clothes, but also in elegant stand out dresses and by Madge Garland, fashion editor of British Vogue, as a “beautiful and distinguished woman wearing what could only be described as … an upturned wastepaper basket on her head”. Her own relationship with clothing was complicated and her writing reveals a strong awareness of how clothes represent the self and hints at the perils of misrepresentation.


Virginia Woolf wearing her mother’s dress photographed for British Vogue. Copyright British Vogue.

The many moods of Bloomsbury dress are increasingly being adopted by contemporary designers. Painterly Post-Impressionist styles, updated Victorian details, and slouchy yet elegant shapes capture the freedom of expression and reclamation of the past so typical of the works of the Bloomsbury group.


Burberry AW14/15 ready to wear. Copyright British Vogue

Burberry’s Bloomsbury Girls (AW14/15) modelled long floating hand-painted button-up dresses, patterned as if they had stepped out of the paintwork of an Omega interior. Tim Walker more recently used Charleston House in Sussex – home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant – as the dramatic backdrop for his editorial Rebel Riders for Italian Vogue (December 2015): Four models posed in front of Vanessa Bell’s iconic black painted wall in the library and waded through the depths of the pond that initially drew Bell’s affection for the house 100 years ago. See-by-Chloe’s upcoming AW16/17 collection is also inspired by the Bloomsbury aesthetic, layering floating skirts in chintz prints with long shirts and polo-neck sweaters. Here the subtler Victorian styles – the bow tied collars, lace up boots, and long frilled skirts – are coupled with thick knits and urban details.


Tim Walker’s Rebel Riders December 2015. Copyright Italian Vogue.

The personal styles of many members of the Bloomsbury group were as radical as their works. They rejected expected conventions whether that was with word, image, or by wearing a painted hat or a “wastepaper basket” style on one’s head. Perhaps this reveals the root of their continued relevance, both of their intellectual and sartorial lives, today.


Looks from See by Chloe’s AW16/17 campaign. Copyright Vogue.

This post is inspired by my research paper Dressing Modern Identity that I wrote and delivered earlier this year as part of my curatorial traineeship at Charleston. Read the current interns’ research at thecharlestonattic.wordpress.com.

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Image from the “Rebel Riders” series featured in Vogue Italia (shot by Tim Walker)

Celebrated British fashion photographer Tim Walker recently spoke with The Business of Fashion and revealed that his aesthetic vision is inspired in part by Virginia Woolf.

In Tilly Macalister-Smith’s article, “Tim Walker’s Fantasy World,” Walker, who regularly shoots for Vogue magazine, describes his styles as, “Fellini crossed with Sarah Moon crossed with Dirk Bogarde crossed with Virginia Woolf.”

When Walker was asked to photograph the December 2015 issue of Vogue Italia, he chose the theme of ‘horses’ for the issue, and he made a visit to Charleston House where was inspired by Woolf:

A visit to Charleston House in Lewes, Sussex — the famous haunt of the Bloomsbury set, a group of literary and artistic bohemians working in London at the turn of the 20th century — sparked his imagination for the first shoot. “It was this idea of Virginia Woolf riding to see Vita Sackville-West, and it then led to the Bloomsbury set,” he remembers.

Woolf in Vogue 1924

Woolf in Vogue, 1924

In 1924 Woolf was photographed for Vogue magazine wearing her mother’s wedding dress. Do you see any similarities between Walker’s “Rebel Riders” series and Woolf’s Vogue photographs?


Read the full interview with Tim Walker and watch the video below to view more photos from Walker’s Woolf inspired “Rebel Riders” series.



Shot by Tim Walker for Vogue Italia


From the “Rebel Riders” series (shot by Tim Walker for Vogue Italia)


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Read more about Virginia Woolf and fashion.

Fashion Mayann

Antonio Marras AW1314























The women of the Bloomsbury Group, such as Virginia Woolf, inspired the Antonio Marras Autumn/Winter 2013-2014 Show.

Other Bloomsbury Group-influenced collections : BCBG Max Azria Autumn/Winter 2005-2006 (the delicate details and the fabrics of this collection were inspired by the Bloomsbury Group), Burberry by Christopher Bailey Spring/Summer 2005 (this collection was influenced by the English eccentrics from the Bloomsbury Group ; Christopher Bailey also drew inspiration from the Bloomsbury Group for the color palette of Burberry Prorsum’s Autumn/Winter 2009-2010 collection, for the faded tones and the patterns of Burberry Prorsum’s Resort 2013 collection, which specifically referenced the covers of Virginia Woolf’s books, and for the colors and prints of Burberry’s Spring/Summer 2013 Menswear collection), Dries Van Noten Autumn/Winter 2000-2001 (Bloomsbury Set-inspired collection), Edeline Lee Spring/Summer 2013 (this collection…

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