The impact of 18th-century art and design on the work of distinguished British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is the subject of – and hugely celebrated in – the exhibition, Vivienne Westwood: Cut from the Past.

The exhibition will be running until 31st October at the Danson House – a small restored Georgian villa at Bexleyheath, Southeast London, whose interior is richly decorated and is the perfect setting for the 10 pieces on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum and private collections. A tailor-made backdrop will thus be provided from this splendidly restored location, which will ignite and present Westwood’s highlighted seminal work of the 1990s (influenced by the 18th century) within its entirety.

Piecing together for the first time a number of Westwood’s ground-breaking designs, Cut from the Past explores the collections proven to be her turning point both critically and commercially. Arranged through several rooms in the historical Danson House, the exhibition will first introduce her work in a fittingly chronological survey. The next room will explore the use of 16th-century patterns, which will then lead to items from her 1991 Portrait Collection, the famous “Watteau” dress worn by Linda Evangelista, and finally the showcase-room featuring the dress inspired by an 18th-century clock from the famous French cabinet maker Andre-Charles Boulle (1642-1732).


Vivienne Westwood, Portrait Collection (1991)

Having often riffed on period clothing and costumes, with references to pirates and various historical periods, Westwood’s designs are subverted and firmly anchored in a certain time or place – always full of authentic and cultural references. This ongoing dialogue with the past stemmed from her very first catwalk collection in 1981, The Pirate Collection. Billowing shirts formed the basis of this collection, and undoubtedly launched the New Romantic trend. Following this, further historical shapes were unleashed with Buffalo Girls (1982-83); Punature (1983); Witches (1983-84); Hypnos (1984); Clint Eastwood (1984-85); Mini-Crini (1985).


Vivienne Westwood, Pirate Collection (1981)

“The 18th century is the high point of art and culture,” said Westwood. Whilst covering various historical periods – with a somewhat defining and critical eye – it seems that Westwood particularly favoured the 18th century and its Rococo style. Her later Portrait Collection of Autumn/Winter 1991 was directly inspired by the Wallace Collection of 18thcentury French paintings, which is where she appropriated the corset shape found in Francois Boucher’s shepherdess’s dress. Jean Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was also a great inspiration to her work and formed the base of many of collections; the Voyage to Cythera Autumn/Winter 1990 collection and the Spring/Summer 1996 featured the ‘Watteau’ dress and periodic petticoats that derived from this historical marker.


Vivienne Westwood, ‘Watteau’ Dress (1996)

Caroline Worthington, Chief Executive, Bexley Heritage Trust said: “We are delighted to be working together with the Victoria & Albert Museum for the first time to bring cutting edge design back to Danson House for the 2015 season – just as the original owners, the Boyd Family, did in the 18th century.”