Claire Wilcox on clothes
22.09.21. Curator’s kitchen, London
Claire Wilcox is best known for her work as senior curator of fashion at the V&A, where she has staged shows such as Radical Fashion, Vivienne Westwood, The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57, and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, as well as launching the groundbreaking, Fashion in Motion in 1999.
She is also professor in fashion curation at the London College of Fashion and is on the editorial board of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture.
More recently though, she has written a genuinely original – and I’m delighted to write, now, award-winning – memoir about her life, work, family, and her relationship with clothes. Patch Work: A Life Amongst Clothes is funny, unselfconscious, thought-provoking and elegiac in roughly equal measures. It is an extraordinary piece of work.
In this episode we talk about: the importance of clothes; how garments store memory; why she decided to write Patch Work; what the book reveals about her relationships with her parents, friends, and family; her fascination with buttons; dealing with the death of a child; why she feels at home in the V&A; creating Fashion in Motion; refusing to name (fashion) names; ricocheting between uncertainty and doubt; oh, and getting fired from a sex shop.
Pictured above are buttons made from mother-of-pearl and dating between 1900 to 1950.
Find out more about Claire Wilcox’s work at the V&A
Patch Work is an extraordinary book that uses fragments of memory to descibe Wilcox’s life and her relationship with clothes.
The book is puntuated with images, taken by ceramic artist Julian Stair, including this embroidered purse from Afghanistan.
This is linen from eighteenth century Italy. Images by Julian Stair.