The Bloomsbury Group: an eclectic group of innovative creatives, including Virginia Woolf who altered the conservative landscape of the 20th century. Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion at the Charleston Museum is here to enforce that statement. Many would question the modern relevance of the inner circle of writers, artists, and philosophers, but Charleston’s exhibit in Lewes is here to suggest otherwise.
Curator and acclaimed writer Charlie Porter has compiled a meticulous array of sources demonstrating the impact of the Bloomsbury group on contemporary fashion, and in a broader sense, how art and literature have a profound influence on fashion. This showcase is not only a nod to the past and the present, but perhaps also insinuates the future. Continuing to return to the classic works of the Bloomsbury Group’s most notorious members: Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Vanessa Bell, and artist Duncan Grant.
The exhibition begins by highlighting the link between fashion, literature, and theatre – displaying original manuscripts and a digital performance of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando alongside pieces featured in Christopher Bailey’s Spring/Summer 2017 Collection for Burberry. Bailey’s collection sought to emulate Orlando’s gender fluidity and unconventional narrative, fusing billowing sleeves with harsh lines, both masculine and feminine elements seemed intertwined throughout the collection. Woolf’s influence has clearly manifested in the house of Burberry, but the exhibit reveals that the Bloomsbury influence has and will continue to extend beyond one label. The exhibit also includes pieces from Comme des Garçons and Erdem, as well as drawing a particular focus on Dior’s Spring/Summer 2023 Menswear Collection by Kim Jones. Jones sought to emulate the whimsical and bucolic paintings of Bloomsbury member Duncan Grant, mirroring his inspiration: the natural environment.
It appears that ‘The Bloomsbury Effect’ has surpassed the 20th century, extending its literary and artistic influence to the future by appearing in the modern creative sphere of the present day. Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion is here to reaffirm exactly that. Alongside a visit to Monk’s House, this exhibit provides a pivotal perspective on the impact The Bloomsbury Group had and continues to have on society as we know it.
Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion by Charlie Porter is on display at the Charleston Museum in Lewes until January.