People will go to extraordinary lengths to get into a nightclub. Nowadays you must wear something tight, and look slinky. But, as Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s at the V&A shows (until 16 February), a handful of Eighties doormen were into something a bit more deviant.
The combination of a new London Fashion Week, a vibrant club scene and a coterie of ambitious designers emerging from the London art schools was potent. On Thursdays and Fridays, St Martin’s was deserted. Everybody was at home working on their costumes for the weekend.
Over two floors, a mixture of clubbing outfits and catwalk designs are showcased. There is a mirror with the slogan ‘Would you let you in?’ stamped across it. In my faded jeans and old jumper, I decided that, no, I would not let me in.
To get into clubs like Billy’s, Blitz and the Club for Heroes, dressing-up was in order. ‘The fear of getting turned away by Steve Strange [Blitz’s host] forced me to rekindle my childhood knack of making clothes,’ said Pam Hogg, whose ‘Glam Fetish’ designs are displayed. Upstairs, the club outfits are garish and bizarre, while downstairs there are more restrained catwalk interpretations, by Vivienne Westwood, Margaret Howell and Stephen Jones.
The show lacks cohesion, and fails to give much background about the outfits (see Joseph jumper, 1985, pictured), but this is unsurprising. The Eighties underground scene brought together smut, experimental haute couture, ecstasy and alcohol. The thought processes behind these nutty outfits were never going to be simple to explain.