part of Fashioning Winter,
Somerset House, London, United Kingdom, 2014-2015
White is the colour of winter: ever-present, relentless and beautiful in the fog, the frost, the ice and snow. Although the radiance of white is highly coveted in fashion, historically white clothing has been less-commonly seen during this dramatic season.

The history of white is complex and in the context of Western fashion history, colours have been used in both rituals and to mark political and social distinctions. This exhibition considers a number of views on how new materials, technologies and ideologies have contributed to changing the meaning and function of the colour white over time. It looks into the history of white plastic, white ink, white cotton, white pearls white lace, white teeth, white hair, white silk, white paint and white paper.

Architect Louis Savot, in 1626, voiced contemporary beliefs that there was no need for bathrooms, ‘[…] because of our usage of linen, which today serves to keep the body clean more conveniently…’. However, a daily change of linens was for the rich only as it required many servants to keep them white. The arrival of the washing machine and bleach was revolutionary. Soon the white shirt and the white t-shirt became some of the world’s most common garments. In the 1980s and 90s – designers deconstructed ideas of high fashion and cleanliness, and began using stained and slashed fabrics that gave a notion of decay.

The installation design is inspired by the collaborative relationship between Josiah Wedgwood and Sir William Chambers, the architect who designed Somerset House in the 18th century and features white silhouettes by Jean Paul Gaultier, Maison Martin Margiela, Gareth Pugh, Kokon To Zai, Bea Szenfeld, Ann-Sofie Back, Iris van Herpen, Fantich & Young, Mao Usami and Charlie Le Mindu.

Special thank you to assistant curator Johan Deurell and fashion historian Hanne Eide.