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The BBC's Jane Goddard
"The mother of punk was promoting cool Britannia before the phrase was coined"
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Friday, 7 April, 2000, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Best of Westwood on display
westwood fashion show
Westwood is known as the 'mother of punk'
A woman's passion for the extravagant creations of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has provided the focus for a new exhibition at the Museum of London.

Fifty bizarre Westwood outfits from the personal wardrobe of Lady Romilly McAlpine are on show, drawn from her collection of more than 1,500 items.

An eclectic mix of whalebone corsets, wild tartans and trendy tweeds from the designer dubbed 'the mother of punk' can be seen, including some of Westwood's most famous designs.

There was always something witty about Vivienne. Her shoes, her bags, the actual dresses themselves - they were always cocking the snook

Lady Romilly McAlpine
Lady McAlpine, whose married to the former treasurer of the Conservative Party, has been adding pizzazz to formal social functions since the 1980s.

Frequently seen sporting colourful outfits at the opening of Parliament, Buckingham Palace receptions and Downing Street dinners, Lady McAlpine has been as much an ambassador for Vivienne Westwood as the designer herself has been for British fashion.

Tight bodices

Westwood's trademark figure-hugging suits, tight bodices and bustle skirts feature at the exhibition. They are items that Lady McAlpine views as both practical outfits and pieces of art.

"She (Westwood) reinvented the bustier and made it fashionable," Lady McAlpine told the BBC.

"The first few times I went out in one of her bustiers people said 'goodness, you can't go out like that'.

"The really high platform shoes, I have to say I haven't got the nerve. I thought they were such beautiful objects I've displayed them sometimes on my mantelpiece."

woman in a tartan suit
Lady McAlpine sports a Wetwood tartan creation
Museum visitors can check out the Grand Midnight Experience skirt which Romilly McAlpine wore to the opening of the Houses of Parliament. This sits alongside her made to order Diamond Encrusted Codpiece Corset, Criniscule Skirt and classic Rocking Horse Boots.

The Shredded Tulle Feather Skirt worn by Naomi Campell on the catwalk and by Lady McAlpine to Norman Lamont's 50th birthday party is also on display.

Dedicated exhibition

Credited as one of the most innovative British fashion designers, it is the first time that Westwood has had an exhibition dedicated to her work. She has described her own creations as a "criticism of mediocrity and orthodoxy".

Award-winning theatre designer Tim Hatley has created a Rococo style setting for the range of costumed figures.

Unusual hats, gloves, stoles and scarves tumble artistically out of a floor-to-ceiling chest, while video clips capture the animation of Westwood designs on the catwalk.

Lady McAlpine first started collecting Westwood creations in the 1980s, when her marriage to Conservative MP Alistair McAlpine put her at the centre of the political social scene.

Outrageous platforms are a Westwood hallmark
Now living in Venice and London with her husband and daughter Skye, she once told Moira Gemmill, former contributing editor to English Vogue: "There was always something witty about Vivienne. Her shoes, her bags, the actual dresses themselves - they were always cocking the snook."

Another notable Tory figure was present at the launch of the exhibition, which opened on 7 April and runs until 25 June.

Lady Thatcher, who McAlpine says was "always very kind and interested" in her unusual wardrobe at official functions, praised the designer's work.

"They are lovely. I didn't know you designed like this," she said.

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Catwalk on the wane?
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