Come Into Her World - Kylie Minogue At The V&A, London

By Kristen Bailey | 06 February 2007
Exhibition display of photographs with a mannequin dressed in a white hooded jumpsuit. On the wall is a large signature which reads 'Kylie x'

Kylie - The Exhibition © P.Kelleher @ V&A Images

Kristen Bailey dons a feathered headdress to explore Kylie's world at the V&A in London.

Kylie - The Exhibition explores the changing image of pop star Kylie Minogue from her days on Aussie soap Neighbours to her recent Homecoming tour.

The show runs at the V&A from February 8 until June 10 2007. Admission is free but entry is by timed ticket and booking is advised.

In 2003, the Arts Centre in Kylie’s home town of Melbourne got a call from her parents Ron and Carol. Would the Centre like to acquire over 600 items from Kylie’s costume collection? Of course they would – and they wanted to get them out on public view as soon as possible. The resulting exhibition toured Australia to huge crowds, and now it begins its UK tour.

This is the first time the V&A has devoted an exhibition to the wardrobe of a performer, rather than the work of an established designer. But it's too good an opportunity to miss. Janine Barrand, the Arts Centre's Collections and Research Manager, and curator of the Kylie exhibition, says: "This has been an incredible project to work on... it is unusual to receive such a complete collection that tells the whole story of an artist."

An exhibition with several outfits on mannequins in front of a huge photo of a young woman in a white dress reclining on a bed.

Kylie - The Exhibition © P.Kelleher @ V&A Images

The exhibition is packed with all things Kylie - clothes and accessories, magazine covers, records, photos, awards and tour memorabilia, along with quotes from Kylie and the people she's worked with, and preparatory sketches from costume, make-up, stage and lighting designers.

It's a fascinating look at Kylie's many incarnations over the past twenty years. Kylie has moved from cute to sexy, from overalls to over-the-top glamour, and while not every image change has worked, you could never accuse her of being dull.

You get a great sense of the fun she and stylist friend William Baker have had coming up with each new image, and of the many big names Kylie has worked with in fashion, photography and video.

A short white muslin dress with long sleeves and a puffed skirt

Muslin dress worn in the 'I Should Be So Lucky' video, 1987

© V&A Images

Some of the most iconic items from Kylie’s stage wardrobe are here – her overalls from Neighbours, the muslin dress she wore in the I Should Be So Lucky video and the futuristic white hooded jumpsuit from Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

I must admit to a twinge of nostalgia when I spotted a bright yellow dress with a blue heart applique, from the video for Hand On Your Heart.

Blue and white feathered corset and headdress

Corset and headdress worn on the 'Showgirl' tour, 2006

© V&A Images

Two spectacular 'Showgirl' outfits by John Galliano (with help from corsetier Mr Pearl and milliner Stephen Jones) are on show - fantasies in feathers, sequins and crystals. They are at their breathtaking best in motion, so concert footage plays on a huge screen nearby.

And yes, those infamous gold hot pants are here. I note with glee that unlike most of the garments on display, they have been put in a glass case - presumably to keep them safe from groping hands!

A pair of gold lame hot pants with ruched side seams

Gold lamé hot pants worn in the 'Spinning Around' video, 2000.

© V&A Images

Many of the outfits on display come with a story. The designer Julien Macdonald recalls coming to Kylie’s rescue when she suddenly needed a frock for the 2003 Brit Awards.

Having lent her a floor-length black gown trimmed with Swarovski crystals, he was shocked to see that on the night that Kylie and William Baker had hacked off the skirt to micro-mini length, with fabric ruched around the renowned Minogue rear.

Close-up of silver sequins and stones on a royal blue corset

Detail of beading on corset worn on the 'Showgirl' tour, 2006

© V&A Images

There are also chances to look at the fine detail of some of Kylie's costumes - how they have been made, and how they have been altered or added to. Two versions of the same Dolce & Gabbana corset are on show - one on a mannequin, and one on display flat, wrong way out, so the construction is visible, including integral bra.

Unique to the V&A’s Kylie show are costumes from her recent Homecoming concerts in Australia and the UK, and a recreation of Kylie’s dressing room, which was packed up and shipped to the museum as soon as the tour ended.

This is a great exhibit - shoes and clothes spill out of Kylie's customised pink road cases, and the dressing table is covered in lidless make-up and bottles, as if the Showgirl has just left for the stage. On a more poignant note, you can spot the white lace Chloe dress Kylie was spotted in when she reappeared in public last year following her treatment for breast cancer.

A dressing room with a cluttered dressing table and clothes and shoes spilling out of packing cases.

Kylie - The Exhibition © P.Kelleher @ V&A Images

Being able to look behind the scenes - in Kylie's dressing room, at the lighting crew's notes, in the costume designer's sketchbook - puts the clothes in context as part of a hugely complex project which takes dozens of creative people months to bring together... but has to seem as if it's appeared by magic.

Kylie says: "What I imagine people will want to see is the wear and tear, the ingrained make-up after 50 shows, where the audio pack rubs - these are the things that for me, bring costumes to life."

For more about Kylie - The Exhibition, visit the V&A's Kylie microsite. The exhibition will travel to Manchester Art Gallery (30 June - 2 September 2007) and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow (21 September 2007 - 13 January 2008).

You can explore the Kylie Costume Collection online courtesy of the Arts Centre, Melbourne.

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