V&A Collection: West African Evening Dress

This is the object that my Museum Policy and Management course group has chosen to ‘hypothetically’ request on loan from the V&A, for our project (‘hypothetical’ redesign for Living Culture’s Gallery, Manchester Museum).

The gown is an excellent example of a visually compelling, attractive hybrid object. The ‘West African Evening Dress’ by London-based designer Matilda Etches is a European interpretation of a traditional style of wrap worn by women in West Africa. It was made using fabric manufactured in Manchester. The border of the fabric incorporates Morse code ‘V’ (…-) as well as the letter ‘V’ for victory in its pattern. Produced in the wake of WWII in 1948, it is also exemplifies the environmental and aesthetic perspective of its time. It is made of cotton rather than silk, and though the wrapping style is based upon African tradition, the overall silhouette is reflective of Dior’s pivotal and pervasive “New Look” of 1947. The gown is a beautiful physical representation of dialogue between cultures as well as an example of Manchester textile industry prowess establishing a practical, immediate connection between the heritage of Manchester and the heritage of other cities, countries, societies, and industries of the world. For more information about the gown, please visit:


About Stena James

Digital Curator, Videographer, Museologist.
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