A knitwear retrospective in London

Jun 04, 2014, 7:58 AM EDT
Jerry Hall wearing Jap & Joseph, Vogue, ‘jamaica Blue’ May 1975 / Coco Chanel in striped knitted jersey photographed in 1929.
(© Norman Parkinson Ltd (left)/ Alex Stewart (right))

From the loose 1920s jersey of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel and the tight cocktail sweaters of the 1950s to the novelty knitwear of the 1970s and the experimental work of Julien MacDonald in the 1990s, the Fashion and Textile Museum in London will shine the spotlight on 20th century fashion knitwear this fall.

“Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood,” opening September 19, will present over 150 knitwear pieces from the private collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield, including cardigan suits by Chanel from the 1920s, crocheted evening dresses from the ‘30s, vibrant Missoni creations, and late 20th century innovations.

“Knitwear in fashion is often taken for granted, but this exhibition is an opportunity to celebrate knitwear center stage and to inspire future design directions,” said Celia Joicey, head of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

‘‘Decade by decade, this incredible collection charts over 100 years of knitwear history. It is the first exhibition of its kind to explore not only key designers but also technical innovations in hand, machine, and industrial knitting,” she added.

The exhibition will highlight how Chanel introduced practical jersey clothing in the 1920s, the creation of colorful jumpers during the war as a mother of necessity (sweaters had to be unraveled and their yarn recycled), and then how Hollywood stars made the cocktail sweater (a knit with a defined waist and often embroidered embellishments) fashionable in the 1950s.

From the crocheted mini-dress of the 1960s and the use of knit and jersey fabric by avant-garde designer André Courrèges to the 1970s gold-metallic knitted Disco designs and the sophisticated creations of Vivienne Westwood and Sonia Rykiel in the 1980s, the exhibition will take visitors through a century of fashion designs.

The exhibition will run until January, 18, 2015.

-- Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop