After showing minimal Swedish style and the evolution of underwear this year, the Fashion and Textile Museum has gone back to its favourite era to honour the influential but somewhat overlooked, Foale and Tuffin.
Sixties design legends Mary Quant, Ossie Clark and Biba are considered the leaders of the swinging London style movement, but those that were lucky enough to be there will remember that Foale and Tuffin was ‘what cool girls wore’.
Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin played a major part in London’s ‘Youthquake’ and were the label to be seen in by the Mod girls of Carnaby Street and posh bohemians on the King’s Road. Replicating couture by Paris-based designers like Dior and Balenciaga was the most likely career route for RCA graduates, but Foale and Tuffin wanted to break out and create their own functional but stylish clothes for Britain’s new independent and free-spirited girls.
Foale and Tuffin’s designs have an apparent femininity and innocence, but there is no key formula to their style. They have gone from creating pop and sports-inspired shift dresses to moody, Bloomsbury-style smocks with wallpaper prints in dark ochre and bottle green.
Wandering round the exhibition, I felt a bit nostalgic for all my handmade childhood clothes, which were obviously inspired by Foale and Tuffin. There were look-a-likes of my beloved purple wool coat with grey corduroy lapels from when I was four years-old and my dark floral smock dresses. Even the sixties soundtrack being played reminded me of Sunday afternoons spent having fittings and playing with the mannequin in my grandma’s sewing room.
For the exhibition, they have recreated the Foale and Tuffin boutique, workroom and design studio. You can see their exquisite sketches and illustrations, their sewing table and patterns and images of models like Twiggy wearing their clothes on the covers of Vogue, ELLE and Harper and Queen.
Foale and Tuffin’s influence on fashion is still evident today – the resurgence of velvet and lace, Liberty prints, floral dresses and boyfriend jackets can be pinpointed back to their collections. Psych girl band Ipso Facto, VV Brown and even, dare I say, Peaches Geldof owe their style to Foale and Tuffin.
I love it that Fashion and Textile Museum hasn’t relied on drawing the big name designers to get fashion lovers through the door but has once again offered an alternative education on fashion history beyond the mainstream. The range of garments and the fine attention to detail make it the must-see exhibition of the season – I can’t recommend it enough!
Foale and Tuffin: Made in England runs from 23 October until February 2010. Ticket prices are £6.50 for adults, £3.50 for students and concessions, free entry for under 12s.
Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF