Kate Bethune is an Assistant Curator in Textiles and Fashion at the V&A Museum. She has been in this position for 2½ years.
Projects you’ve previously worked on?
Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950; Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s; Author of the V&A’s A-Z of Wedding Style (2014).
Projects you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working as a Senior Exhibition Research Assistant for the 2015 fashion programme.
What's a typical day like for you?
Sometimes I might be researching ideas for exhibition content by visiting the archive of a designer or tracking down potential loan pieces, other times I might be attending meetings to discuss the wider outputs of an exhibition. Or I might be updating our conservators regarding our preferred choice for mannequins and moving objects to their studio so that they can be mounted for photography, prior to being installed in the gallery.
Our primary concern as curators is a duty of care to the objects in our collection. Everything we do focuses on preserving them as best we can and providing the best possible access to them, so that our visitors can enjoy them for generations to come.
It’s not all glamorous. Over the summer I spent time at our stores cleaning drawers in preparation for the transfer of our stored collection to the new Clothworkers Centre, for the Study and Conversation of Textiles and Fashion.
But we all muck in and work towards shared goals – in this case brand new storage and study facilities that will provide researchers and the public with even greater access to our objects. There’s also a lot of admin in terms of responding to public enquiries and processing paperwork for new acquisitions into the collection, but this provides a great opportunity to develop expertise.
My most memorable moments so far have to include, meeting with Manolo Blahnik in our stores and attending Matthew Williamson’s A/W 2012 show at London Fashion Week.
What is your favourite fashion decade?
The 1930s. I love the elegant, long evening dresses and bias cuts that flattered and celebrated the female form without manipulating the silhouette.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Variety in the work that I do, working and collaborating with so many creative and inspiring individuals, both within the V&A and the fashion industry more broadly.
Describe the 80s look in five words?
Eclectic, bold, colourful, experimental, individual.
Have you got any tips on how to recreate the 80s look?
Make it your own. Customisation was such a key look of the 80s; the ability to carve out an identity for yourself through your clothes by adding your own unique touches.
A bold, daring and carefree attitude were also essential.
If you could work on any film/TV show/theatre production past or present what would it be?
I recently saw the stage production of Les Misérables for the first time and thought it was outstanding. The costumes were remarkable and I was particularly drawn to the men’s frock coats.
The nineteenth-century was such a great time for tailoring and I would love to spend more time researching this aspect of dress history.
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