What a sight

What a sight

The Barbican seeks to find the meaning of vulgarity in fashion

From the Renaissance through to contemporary design, there have always been trends that have made fashion lovers wince. The Barbican Art Gallery will explore these garish styles in its new exhibition, The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, shining a light on what makes a trend so detestable.

Co-curated by fashion curator Judith Clark and psychoanalytic writer Adam Phillips the exhibition will showcase over 120 objects that span more than 500 years of fashion. They examine the changing notion of vulgarity in fashion and why it has become such a contested term. Historical costumes, haute couture and ready-to-wear items will be on display including an 18th century dress that is over four metres in circumference.

A menagerie of contemporary designers will also lend pieces to the exhibition, including a Pam Hogg body stocking, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s ‘tits’ top and Walter van Beirendonck’s elephant skirt outfit. Leading British milliner Stephen Jones will also display some of his ostentatious hats. After all, there’s no accounting for taste.

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined will run at the Barbican Art Gallery from October 13th 2016 to February 5th 2017.


  • Words: Rebecca Parker