I recently had the pleasure of going to see the Vogue100: A Century of Style exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery. This gorgeous exhibition celebrates the first 10 decades of the magazine’s history and includes photography by such legends as Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Helmut Newton, Mario Testino, Nick Knight and of course 1960s bad boy, David Bailey. Their subjects were no less legendary: everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Tallulah Bankhead, the Beatles to Jean Shrimpton, David Hockney to Naomi Campbell.
One of the most interesting tidbits I discovered was the fact that British Vogue started publishing its ‘Mrs Exeter’ column in 1949 (American Vogue had started it earlier). This column was devoted to style advice for women of ‘a certain age’ (she was ‘in her 50s’) who wanted to stay fashionable but didn’t want to stray into mutton-dressed-as-lamb territory (sound familiar?). Even more interestingly, Mrs Exeter started off as an illustration, but then was represented by a series of slim and elegant models. The woman most closely associated with her was Margot Smyly, who died in April 2005 at the age of 93.
It’s a sumptuous exhibition – a real feast for the eyes. I particularly loved the elegance of the 40s, 50s and 60s. There were beautiful photos of chic people wearing hats, scarves, suits, gloves. The exhibition confirmed my view, however, that the 1980s were the most hideous decade of the twentieth century in terms of style. Brash colour and unflattering silhouettes abounded – and don’t get me started on the hair. No wonder we went all minimalist in the 90s!
If you love fashion, or you’re a fan of a particular decade, it’s well worth seeking out. But hurry – it’s only on until 22nd May.