Studying abroad at the London College of Fashion , what not to miss?
July 16, 2013 10:41 AM   Subscribe

My interests include historical fashion (BBC dramas!), bird watching, music. I'll be there from late-August thru November 2013. More info inside:

I'm a fashion student from the US who is interested in pursuing a career in period clothing and costuming. I've completed a couple historical costuming internships, and I'm taking focused classes at LCF to help strengthen specific skills: corsetry, millinery, and shoe making. While in Europe, my biggest goal is to see as many historical garments as possible. I plan to create a reference journal of period-correct fabrics, colors, and construction techniques to bring back with me. As part of our study abroad program, we will travel to all the major museums in London (and Paris), but where else can I see old clothes in the UK and Europe? I've been Googling my heart out for months and am not finding a lot.

I am obsessed with BBC period pieces. My dream job is to make costumes for BBC, but as an American student, I have been told not to seek out job contacts or even volunteer work while I am there. I understand and will respect the visa laws 100%, but is it possible to tour film sets? Or maybe to see the BBC costuming collection, if I write a nice letter ahead of time? I want to get the most out of this opportunity without crossing any lines.

What else would you recommend that I see while I am studying abroad? I love nature, hiking, birds, and insects. I enjoy music of all kinds. I have traveled abroad before (Germany & Austria), and it seems like I found out about some of the most interesting places AFTER I returned home. I won't know my class schedule until I arrive, but I should have free weekends and a 10-day break toward the end of September.

You always come up with the best ideas! Thank you in advance.
posted by jaynedanger to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The V&A! Of course! You can spend ALL your free time there.

Really, no kidding.
posted by tel3path at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

There's a nice little fashion museum in Bath. Not a massive collection, and certainly not all of it is period, but might be a nice day trip (the Roman baths are also very cool).
posted by catch as catch can at 10:46 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think touring the historical places of London and England will help you put all that costuming into perspective.

So for sure the Victoria and Albert Museum, they have clothing from that era.

But then do the touristy stuff too! It's AWESOME (how freaking much do I love England?)

See shows in the West End. (They have half price tickets in Leicester Square, TKTS, just like in Times Square!) Or go to the box office when it opens on the day of the show, you can get cheap tickets that way too.

The Museum of London was amazing. There's a jewelry exhibition that looks fabulous and it's there when you are.

Go to Stratford upon Avon, wander the streets, see a show.

Go to Apsey House. Check it out, you'll see furnishings and gorgeous stuff there.

Go to the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221-B Baker Street. Talk to Dr. Watson.

Really, the clothing is more understandible in context.

Get a London Pass and use it. You'll skip lines and save money.

Oh! How I envy you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2013

Get on the mailing list for Open House London - 21 and 22 September - right away, and block that weekend out on your calendar. It's basically a festival in which buildings all over the city - from private homes to huge landmarks - that are normally closed to the public are opened up for tours, walks, etc. There are also special events: design and architecture walks, sometimes boat tours, etc.
posted by Wylla at 12:17 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

And bookmark Diamond Geezer for insight and suggestions.

(Warning: do not clink link unless you have TV-tropes amounts of time to spare reading about London and's entry, for example, starts "The Victoria line was built with interchange in mind. [...] But just how long do those connections take? I've worked my way down the line with a stopwatch to find out.")
posted by Wylla at 12:39 PM on July 16, 2013

Best answer: London has a TON of tiny little museums scattered everywhere, and lots of them have relevant collections. I'm sure you'll be taken to the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery and, say, the Fashion and Textile Museum if they have a relevant exhibition on, but the smaller places can be easy to miss:
  • The Fan Museum in Greenwich - worth waiting till you know what the next temporary exhibition is going to be and choosing which is the one you'd be most interested in, as the permanent collection is small.
  • The Clockmakers' Museum has a ton of watches - and fake watches that people bought to make it look like they had a watch... there's also a lot of watches at the Science Museum, just by the V&A. (At some point while you're at the V&A the Science Museum is definitely worth popping into, even if you don't like watches - it has stuff about textiles and materials, and big haphazard rooms full of random stuff that have something of relevance to everyone.)
  • The William Morris Gallery is textiles and the Arts and Crafts movement rather than fashion per se but is arguably relevant/interesting.
  • There's bits of costuming at The Globe
  • The Royal Armouries have armour, if that's included in your interests. But so do a load of other places, and it's kinda expensive - I'd go for The Wallace Collection instead, at least to start off (it's free).
  • The Imperial War Museum sometimes has exhibitions that relate to clothes in wartime, so it's worth keeping an eye on. It possibly has some of that stuff in its permanent collection too, but I couldn't swear to it especially as it seems to be partly closed at the moment.
  • The Royal Opera House looks like the current exhibitions aren't that relevant, but the next set might be. Tours are interesting but pass through the costume department for only 5-10 minutes.
  • A lot of the tiny local museums, like Barnet, have some clothes on display.
  •'s just about conceivable that you might be one of, like, four people who would enjoy the Sewing Machine Museum. It's a cavernous decaying room above a sewing machine repair shop in Tooting, with 800 or so sewing machines (some historical) and virtually no explanatory context, open one afternoon a month (third Sunday, maybe?). I love dull tiny museums and even I couldn't quite figure out how to enjoy it, but maybe you can.
Some of these are free, some charge.

Oh, and: the Royal Opera House and various other costume places have occasional sales of stuff they don't want to bother storing - you have to queue up a couple of hours before they open to get first dibs, but might be worth it for you.

Perhaps most importantly, take a day trip down to Brighton - for a start, it's lovely and less than an hour on the train, but it also has museums with a ton of fashion-related collections.
posted by severalbees at 12:39 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also see about visiting the auction houses on their open days: Christies and Southeby's both have London locations, and will have viewings for their decorative arts, jewellery, and collectables auctions: you can go see things without being a billionaire or registering to bid.
posted by Wylla at 1:06 PM on July 16, 2013

There's a Corset Museum in Leicestershire, if you can get up there. But yeah, V+A.

not to seek out job contacts

Really? Wow.
posted by Leon at 1:32 PM on July 16, 2013

Best answer: The Royal School of Needlework, at Hampton Court Palace.

Also, the BBC doesn't have a costume shop, per se, but there's dozens if not hundreds of costume shops around. You might try contacting the British Film Designers Guild. The old BBC collection was acquired by Angels The Costumiers and I'd be surprised if your class doesn't do a field trip.

And the VA has a huge collection, but you can also find private dealers, as well as antique clothes and textiles for sale at various markets. You'll also want to go to Liberty's, to fondle the world's most wonderful fabric.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2013

Oh, and I nearly forgot--The Vintage Showroom, which used to be to-the-trade only, as a reference collection. List of vintage shops==in the UK, "vintage" is more than just rockabilly and Mad Men stuff. And if you really want to see amazing craftsmanship--gather up your courage and check out Savile Row--Anderson & Sheppard is astonishing.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:02 PM on July 16, 2013

Oh! Stroll on Carnaby Street!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:18 PM on July 16, 2013

In the Netherlands:

* The Centraal Museum in Utrecht has a collection of historic costumes (historische kostuums in Dutch)
* The Textiles Museum in Tilburg
* The Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam
* The SALON/LACE exhibition at the Amsterdam Historical Museum, which ends on 18 August
posted by neushoorn at 1:39 AM on July 17, 2013

Best answer: With regard to the birdwatching, hopefully someone more knowledgeable will come along, but I'll just point out that even within London, there's plenty of bird life. I'm not a good birdwatcher at all, but without trying too hard, I've seen ring-necked parakeets, all sorts of waterfowl (including herons and great crested grebes), terns, a grey wagtail, a blackcap, a couple of goldcrests and a great spotted woodpecker. People who pay more attention spot a lot more!

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is probably your best bet for information, and there's a local group for London; here's their page listing good birdwatching sites within easy reach of central London.

Regarding insects, the same places are likely your best bet. Be warned that last year the weather did most insects no favours, and I don't think the population balance has sorted itself out yet; I haven't seen as many butterflies as I'd expect, for instance. Regent's Canal has a thriving population of damselflies, though, and I've seen a surprising number of bumblebees.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:49 PM on July 18, 2013

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