Art & fashion afternoon

For years before getting rheumatoid arthritis, I lived with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobility type), which was only diagnosed by a geneticist when I was 15. This means I get tired very easily. Add on another layer of fatigue derived from the RA which started 3 and a half years ago – and it’s a double whammy of tiredness. I know that pacing is supposed to be the answer to this, but it’s very hard when you want to be active and hate sitting still and doing nothing. What usually happens is that I overdo things on one day and then feel totally lethargic the next day. A habit I need to try and break out of. This isn’t helped by my insomnia and current failure to go to bed before 3am.

Today, after a regular blood test at the hospital, I decided to defy fatigue by visiting the Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House in London. (She was a unique fashion director who discovered fashion designers Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Julien Macdonald, milliner Philip Treacy and model Sophie Dahl). On the way, I got sidetracked by another exhibition (presented by The Moving Museum and The Vinyl Factory) in a huge former office building just one block away. 31 artists were on show with very different styles. I like to be challenged and entertained by art, even if it isn’t always ‘my thing’. One artist I particularly liked was James Balmforth, for his other-worldly abstract art, called names like Scenic Dissolution #57. Here’s a blurry photo (I really must find my camera rather than using the phone camera!):Image

Then on to Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! which only opened yesterday. To reach the show, I had to pass the festive Somerset House ice rink, which was heaving with enthusiastic, rosy-cheeked skaters gliding over the ice in time to fast-paced music. I would have loved to join them if a) I actually knew how to skate and b) didn’t have such stiff joints. Once inside, I was greeted by a cornucopia of fantastical outfits worn by Isabella, styled to perfection exactly as she’d worn them. Sculptural, tactile hats by Philip Treacy were teamed with exquisite, form fitting dresses in luxurious fabrics by Alexander McQueen and others. I admire her boldness with style, her experimental vision and contribution to fashion through spotting and nurturing talented designers. It was shattering being on my feet the whole time but the endless surprises such as a hat made of silver kept me focused on the fashion, not my health. Overall, it was a great retrospective, and it is a shame that Isabella Blow is no longer around to see the level of affection for her and permanent impact that her work had on the fashion world and wider culture. Another enjoyable afternoon that took my mind away from RA worries.

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