The Fashion and Textiles Museum is one of those London museums I’ve meaning to visit for years but just never quite gotten my shit together to go. It’s not the first place that would spring to mind as a suitable destination for a 13-month-old but this was a pretty successful outing. Admittedly, that’s largely down to Pea napping for most of the time we were there.
What’s it all about?
Fashion. And textiles. It was founded in 2003 by zany haired fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. The museum doesn’t have a permanent display but rather a series of temporary exhibitions.
I took Pea here following a Bach to Baby concert nearby. He was getting antsy in his pram while we were on route to the venue. Consequently, once I let him out he was like a captured animal being released back into the wild and spent the hour-long concert just sort of… rampaging about. He thoroughly exhausted himself and when the concert finished we were barely out the door before he’d fallen asleep. My plan had been to pop into the museum only if Pea was either napping or on the verge of so I seized my moment. Naturally, I went to the museum cafe and fuelled up on coffee first. It had already been a long morning.
The current exhibitions are Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Style of her Own, Wallace Sewell: 25 Year of British Textile Design and Harper’s Bazaar 150 – The First and Last Word in Fashion. I really enjoyed the Dahl-Wolfe retrospective. I loved seeing her Hollywood portraits and learning how she photographed movie stars in a much more natural and relaxed way than was typical of the time. There’s a small selection of photographs taken in Tennessee during the Depression and these are so tender and truthful and (to me, fairly unfamiliar with her body of work) unexpected.
Upstairs there’s a small selection of mannequins in exquisite Dior gowns, a reading area, a little section on fashion photography and the Harper’s Bazaar exhibition. There’s a bench directly in front of the Dior dresses – I could have sat there looking at those all afternoon. It wasn’t to be, as Pea woke up, and he was angry (actually, he was hangry) so I thought it best to just get out of there. Such is the tension of visiting a quiet place like this with a baby. On the one hand, the fewer people, the easier it is to push around a buggy and to make haste your escape should it come to that. On the other, more people equals greater background noise to dull the piercing screams of your child when the inevitable tantrum occurs.
Downstairs, we had a quick look at the Wallace Sewell exhibition (London underground moquettes! Right up my street) and checked out the gift shop before we got going.
While this is not a museum that caters directly to under 5s (no surprises there) it’s not a total disaster either, and there are a few reasons for this. One: it’s quite small and I’d estimate it would take no more than a couple of hours to get around the whole space, depending on the nature of the temporary exhibitions at the time. Two: there’s a reassuring absence of precious, delicate things within the pawing range of most babies/toddlers (but you’d probably want to keep walkers on a short leash around the pretty frocks). Three: it’s spacious enough to be able to get around with a buggy, but you do need staff assistance to operate the lift to the first floor. Four: there’s a nice cafe on site you can escape to if a time out is needed. There isn’t loads of space, but unless it’s rammed and you’re clocking a big, fuck-off, beast of a buggy it should be fine.
83 Bermondsey St, SE1. Admission is GBP9.90, under 12’s go free. Open Tuesday-Sunday.
Baby change, accessible toilet, step-free access (ask a member of staff to operate the lift), free cloakroom, gift shop and cafe.