Robert Melendez, Sporting Around 1969, 1944

The Must-See Fashion Exhibitions of 2021

Culture /

Featuring Princess Diana's wedding dress and a retrospective dedicated to sneakers

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Fashion exhibitions were hit hard in 2020. The long-awaited Bags at The V&A, a retrospective dedicated to fashion’s best-loved accessory, experienced its fair share of closures, whilst the Fashion Museum Bath’s Shoephoria! was forced to postpone its showcase of over 3,000 pairs of shoes for an entire year. The good news? As the UK’s lockdown restrictions lift, museums and galleries are opening their doors to an exciting array of fashion exhibitions. These are the ones not to miss.

Please note that exhibition dates are subject to change.

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The Must-See Fashion Exhibitions of 2021


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The Regency Wardrobe

The Regency Wardrobe

Firle Place, the Sussex manor house where Autumn de Wilde’s Emma was filmed, is a spectacular sight year-round – but even more so now it’s hosting a Regency-inspired exhibition. Created by paper textile artist Stephanie Smart, The Regency Wardrobe features 11 life-sized outfits formed of thread and paper alone.

Throughout September and October 2021.

Robert Melendez, Sporting Around 1969, 1944

Drawing on Style

Fashion illustrations from the 1940s to the present day are being celebrated in a new exhibition at Cromwell Place, launching this September to coincide with London Fashion Week. Hosted by fashion illustration experts Gray M.C.A, Drawing on Style will feature rare and original works seen in magazines throughout the 20th century from the likes of David Downton, Gladys Perint Palmer and Ali Mahdavi. 15 – 29 September 2021.

Image: Robert Melendez, Sporting Around 1969, 1944

fashion exhibitions

Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street

The Design Museum’s latest exhibition celebrates and explores one of fashion’s most practical and prized possessions: the sneaker. ‘A footwear staple for style, performance and comfort wear, Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street reveals the role young people from diverse backgrounds have played in making individual sneakers into style icons and in driving an industry now worth billions,’ says curator Ligaya Salazar. Uncover how the sneaker became one of the most ubiquitous items of all time, from its humble beginnings as a shoe designed for athletes to its catwalk debut and sustainable future. Until 24 October 2021.

Image by Felix Speller

Royal Style in the Making

Royal Style in the Making

All eyes will be set on Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding gown at a new exhibition taking place at Kensington Palace this June. Alongside the world-renowned silk taffeta dress will feature an array of garments formerly worn by royalty, including the unique coronation gown toile worn by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in 1937 and designed by Madame Handley-Seymour. Exhibition curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, Matthew Storey said: ‘Our summer exhibition at Kensington Palace will shine a spotlight on some of the greatest talents of British design, whose work has been instrumental in shaping the visual identity of the royal family across the twentieth century.’ Until 2 January 2022.

Image: Wedding gown of Diana, Princess of Wales © Royal Collection Trust All Rights Reserved

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

Enter into the fantastical world of Alice in Wonderland and explore the iconic story’s influential 158-year-old history; its origins, evolution and impact on film, fashion, photography, and more. Expect an array of fascinating and whimsical exhibition highlights, from stage costumes and Iris van Herpen designs to Annie Leibovitz and Tim Walker photography. Visitors will also catch sight of Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript and fantastic illustrations from John Tenniel, Ralph Steadman and Disney. A wholly eccentric exhibition, the V&A will be the first museum ever to delve headfirst into the evolution of Alice and her long-established cultural influence. Until 31 December 2021.

Image: Viktor&Rolf Haute Couture AutumnWinter 2016 – Vagabonds. Peter Stigter. 

Lee Miller Self Portrait with sphinxes

Lee Miller: Fashion in Wartime Britain

Farleys House & Gallery’s spring exhibition will take an in-depth look at Lee Miller’s fashion photography captured during the Second World War. Over 60 of the American surrealist photographer, model and war correspondent’s wartime works (predominantly shot for British Vogue) will be showcased, alongside the launch of a brand-new coffee table book comprising over 100 archived images. Spanning factory wear to designer garments from the likes of Norman Hartnell and Bianca Mosca, whose designs came to the fore throughout the 1940s, the retrospective will shed a compelling light on wartime fashion trends and how Miller’s photography so creatively encapsulated these. Until 8 August 2021.

Image: Lee Miller, Self Portrait with sphinxes. © Lee Miller Archives, England 2020. All rights reserved.

Chintz: Cotton in Bloom

Chintz: Cotton in Bloom

The Fashion and Textile Museum is set to host a compelling exhibition dedicated to chintz, the once intricate art of printing pattern on cotton fabric. The unique showcase will explore 150 chintz pieces from different centuries across the globe – think bold colours, vintage florals, exquisite period dresses and more. Until 12 September 2021.

Image: Detail of palempore. Cotton, painted and dyed using the chintz technique. India, 1700-1725. Fries Museum Leeuwarden. Photo Studio Noorderblik.



Fashion exhibition Shoephoria! will showcase a 100-piece collection of shoes and boots, exploring the fascinating history of shoemaking. From 17th century red velvet mules to a pair of Russian boots worn by artist and aristocrat Lady Ottoline Morrell, the unique exhibition will take spectators on a ‘shoephoric’ journey through time, from footwear designed for royalty to modern-day Converse and Nikes. Until 2022.

Bags: Inside Out at the V&A

Bags: Inside Out

Do you often get teased about your ridiculously large bag collection? Well, prepare to rub this in everybody’s faces: bags are important, says the V&A, who has staged an entire exhibition about the accessory. From luggage to boxes, rucksacks to handbags, the museum will explore the history of the bag with a showcase of 300 bag-related items and artefacts dating from the 16th century onwards. Until 16 January 2022.


Christian Dior: Designer Of Dreams

If you didn’t get a chance to visit the spectacular Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A back in 2019, you can now experience the enchanting showcase from home. Dior has released an hour-long film available to watch for free via YouTube detailing the curation of the retrospective initially hosted at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, from the elaborate dress tailoring to the comprehensive exhibition construction and glamorous opening night. Watch now via the Christian Dior YouTube channel.

Image: © Adrien-Dirand

Fashion & Textile Museum

Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture

It was the mid 60s, and a small number of Chelsea boutiques reigned supreme, sparking a fashion revolution which, along with popular music, fuelled the cesspool of creativity and experimentation that came to define the decade. See fantastical pieces worn by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix in this exhibition, which features rare pieces from the iconic stores and designers like Ossie Clark, Biba and Thea Porter. 3 September 2021 – January 2022.

Featured image: Robert Melendez, Sporting Around 1969, 1944

More Fashion Exhibitions:

Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress Goes On Display at Kensington PalaceAlice: Curiouser and Curiouser: Here’s What To Look Forward To