The coat Princess Diana wore when announcing her pregnancy with Prince William will go on display for the first time in over a decade at the Museum of London Docklands later this year. Designed by British couturier Davis Sassoon, the late princess donned the iconic red coat in 1981. The display is part of the Museum of London Docklands’ upcoming major fashion exhibition, ‘Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners shaped global style’, which will open in October.
‘Fashion City’ At The Museum of London Docklands
Diana’s coat is one of many pieces that will detail the contribution Jewish designers, makers and retailers have made to London’s reputation as an iconic fashion city. Other highlights include:
- An Alexon tweed coat worn by beloved EastEnders character Dot Cotton
- Garments designed by the Mr Fish, a leading figure in the Peacock Revolution; Fish’s designs were worn by stars including Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Muhammad Ali
- Hats and objects relating to Otto Lucas, the ‘milliner millionaire’, whose hats graced the cover of British Vogue
- A wedding dress by Neymar – a brand founded by Netty Spiegel, who arrived alone on the Kindertransport at just 15 years old, and went on to become one of London’s go-to wedding dress designers; her work can also be found in national collections at the Jewish Museum London, Museum of London and V&A.
‘Princess Diana played an active role in the design process of her Bellville Sassoon outfits, and wore them for some hugely significant life moments,’ says Dr Lucie Whitmore, Curator at the Museum of London. ‘Similarly, June Brown was involved in shaping Dot Cotton’s wardrobe, and the Alexon coat is instantly recognisable as a piece of EastEnders history. We are delighted to be able to show both coats as part of the exhibition, as they represent the significant cultural impact made by London’s Jewish designers.’
‘Fashion City’ will chronicle the impact of Jewish people on London’s fashion scene, setting the scene in London’s East End – where many Jewish migrants arrived from the late 19th to early 20th century – and continuing west across the city to the West End’s boutiques and couture salons. This is the first major exhibition in two decades centred on the Museum of London Docklands’ extensive Dress & Textile collection, featuring new insights from in-depth curatorial research.
Around 200,000 Jewish people arrived in Britain around this time, with over 50 percent involved in fashion, clothing and textile industries; their stories – which range from founding to working in iconic retail chains like Marks & Spencer, Wallis, River Island and Moss Bros – will be told through personal ephemera, textiles, oral histories, objects, ephemera and photography. This includes a small travelling case used by a child arriving in London as part of the Kindertransport (the rescue effort of children from Nazi-controlled territory in 1938–39), and a leather bag owned by a woman who fled from Vienna in 1938.
The connections forged with other immigrant communities will also be detailed, telling the little known stories of Caribbean tailors and Bengali seamstresses who migrated to London and found employment with and mentorship from Jewish employers.
‘Fashion City will explore a wide-range of experiences, with stories that are both deeply personal and connected to major events in global history,’ adds Dr Whitmore. ‘We hope people will enjoy finding out more about the people who made London the iconic fashion capital we know today.’
‘Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners shaped global style’ opens at the Museum of London Docklands (No 1, West India Quay, Hertsmere Rd, London E14 4AL) on 13 October 2023 and will run until 14 October 2024.
Tickets are on sale now at museumoflondon.org.uk
Off-peak adult entry from £12, peak adult entry from £13, with concessions available.