On a sleety morning last week, I decided to take refuge from the weather in the Decorative Arts and History Museum, as I happened to be nearby in the Stoneybatter area. It has been far too long since I last paid a visit to my favourite part of the National Museum, so I was glad of the excuse given by the inclement (well, vile) winter weather. Doing my usual leaflet prowl in the foyer, I spotted information about the Ib Jorgensen fashion retrospective. Delighted to find something cheerful to view, I headed off in the fashion direction. After all, what better way to spend a cold wet morning than gazing at some fancy couture frocks?
For any non-Dubs who may not know the layout of the museum, based in the former Collins Barracks buildings, you might not realise the amount of walking often required to find your destination. However, this is not a complaint by any means, as I love walking around the building complex, through galleries full of fascinating objects. I went early in the day, just after opening time and I felt as though I had the museum all to myself. I have written about the Reconstructed Rooms gallery previously, for the Irish News Review so it was with pleasure that I once again fantasised about what furniture I would take home with me. It is my regular game and I rarely tire of indulging in it. Today however, I would be fantasising about vintage couture outfits (budget unlimited I think).
I had heard something of Jorgensen’s work before and I knew that he had retired from fashion design and opened an art gallery in his former salon in Molesworth Street. That was the extent of my knowledge of his career, so this exhibition was an excellent Jorgensen introduction. What I didn’t previously appreciate was just how good a reputation he had gained for his tailoring and finishing. I like good tailoring and proper finishing is always to be valued. My mum taught me always to look at the finishing on garments before purchasing them. Even at chain store level, this is still worth doing. I still do this even though I know that sadly, I am often likely to be disappointed to find loose threads and dangling buttons.
The exhibition does not merely feature dresses, but coats and suits as well so you get a good idea of Jorgensen’s range as a designer. He produced some of the outfits in collaboration with his talented wife Patricia Murray, a textile designer. Her hand beaded and embroidered pieces were stunning (I would love to own those pieces!) Apart from the design work involved, it was amazing to consider the sheer dedication and skill involved in the physical production of the clothes. The practical side of me was wondering how you would maintain and clean pieces made up of sequinned fabrics. Maybe if you were wealthy enough to buy such clothes in the first place, then that would not be your primary consideration.
The exhibition flyer (see above) shows one of the sequinned dresses, ‘Casino Royale’ from the 1988 spring/summer collection. This is an evening dress made in deep pink satin brocade and wild silk. I think you would need to be an expert to distinguish between wild silk and any other variety, but the finished garment is beautiful, if not really my colour. Much more to my taste is a sequinned coat ‘Suleyman’, again from 1988 (donated by Anne Heseltine) with gold and pearl beading designed by Patricia Murray. So elegant and stylish.
I sat and watched a video of a fashion show from 1993, the models parading to the mellow sound of Sade’s Smooth Operator. The show looked as stylishly produced as the clothes; a sense of humour was also in evidence, everything refreshingly un-egotistical. Perhaps that is because Ib Jorgensen seemed to be a modest and unassuming person, or at least that is how he came over in the interview clip. More a dedicated craftsperson than a prima donna type of the fashion world, he designed and made some wonderful clothes in his forty-year long career.
The Ib Jorgensen couture exhibition is on for the remainder of the year and it is well worth a visit. Given that I have latched onto it rather later than I should, I will certainly be fitting (pun intended) in another trip before it closes.
Let me know your favourite piece if you have been to see the exhibition!
Picture credits: Curiously Creatively and the National Museum of Ireland website (link above).