Fashioning Winter has been attracting a steady stream of visitors. Many are visiting Somerset House for other reasons – the skating rink, Christmas Arcade, Blondie, Bourdin or Wounded exhibitions. As they walk through the corridors trailing scarfs, stamping boots and peeling off beanies, it occurs to me that they are as much part of the Fashioning Winter exhibit as the formal displays.
The hours I spend walking through Fashioning Winter offer a fascinating opportunity for observing the real-life style of the people who visit it and there is an enormous range on offer. What strikes me most of all is how hard it is to categorize. Fashion magazines are fond of labelling certain types of “look” – gothic, bo-ho, grunge, etc. It’s a form of shorthand that gets across to the reader the main elements of a visual image. But it makes style seem tribal and, judging from those walking the halls at Somerset House, its not the way that most people dress. In fact, the most interesting and inspiring style of all defies category because it offers the eye something fresh, new and different.
I’m an avid watcher of Bill Cunningham’s New York Time style vlog, and he covered this in his recent piece on Thanksgiving week style in Manhattan, when many natives leave the city to the tourists, displaying a vast array of cultural influences through their dress. You can still catch it on the NY Times website.
So my lesson from this is never to stop looking. Especially when you think you know what is in front of you, or things feel familiar, there’s always a fresh perspective if you look closely enough.