The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Wedding Fashion

This post goes out to all the ladies (and everyone else interested in fashion or a fun exhibition). There has been a few big fashion exhibitions on at various London museums over the summer and I recently spent an entire day admiring elegant, wild and precious fashion items from the last centuries. The day started at the Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) for the exhibition Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 (on till 15 March 2015). On display were some unique items dating back to the Victorian period, varying from dresses worn by women from high social classes to ‘common’ women. Having got married myself last year and not intending to ever part from my wedding dress, I was of course curious to see this exhibition that shows not only wedding fashion over the centuries, but also symbolises that ancient institution of everlasting love and commitment (everlasting in principle for some). My personal highlights in this show were the Victorian dresses and the background information on the original dress owners. But most appealing to the eye were the contemporary glamour dresses worn on (one of their) most beautiful day in their life by Dita von Teese (when she married Marilyn Manson), Gwen Stefani and hubby Gavin Rossdale’s suit. I gaped in admiration at dresses designed by Christian Lacroix, Vivianne Westwood, Vera Wang and many others. Unfortunately it wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the exhibition (or make any sketches of the dresses), but there’s still plenty of time for you to go see it for yourself as it’s on till March 2015. Besides dresses there are also films, photographs, newspaper clippings, props and more on display.

Italian Fashion

The second exhibition was on Italian fashion from post WWII till 2014: The Glamour of Italian Fashion, also at the V&A. The exhibition shows how Italy’s economy managed to recover from the war and developed into one of the leading fashion countries in the world. Again no photography was allowed here, but I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with the show anyhow. I had hoped for more exciting and cutting-edge designs, but the outfits on display were quite conservative. I would have been curious to hear your opinion on the show, but it has closed now already.

Jean Paul Gaultier

After a very fast walk through the very well-attended Italian Fashion exhibition it was off to the Barbican for the first major exhibition devoted to the French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier and his 40-year long career. From the start of the exhibition it showed such a difference from the two fashion exhibitions visited earlier that day at the V&A. The exhibition felt more informal and had lots of humour and quirky gadgets. Also the lay-out was more spacious and inviting. I could see how the designer’s character was reflected throughout the exhibition. At the entrance visitors were encouraged to take photos and share their messages on social media. I took over 90 photos at the show, here is a small selection of it. For a change just lots of photos in my post and hardly text. I encourage you to go see this fantastic show before it closes on Monday 25 August! The exhibition features over 165 ensembles which are displayed in eight different sections, each with it own theme such as Urban Jungle, Skin Deep and The Boudoir. Most of the pieces have never been exhibited before.


Jean Paul Gaultier himself welcomes you at the exhibition and tells a bit about it. I was a bit startled at first when I realised that the mannequins smiled at me, followed me with their gaze and some even spoke or sang!

Welcome by Jean Paul Gaultier

A choir of singing women dressed in angelic outfits. The dress on the far right, named the Dolores gown, was modelled on the runway by Lily Cole for the spring/summer 2007 haute couture Virgins (or Madonnas) collection.

Virgins (or Madonnas) collection

You can’t have a fashion show without a catwalk of course.

the runway

So French: a garter belt with a packet of cigarettes 🙂

Cigarettes on the runway

Not very practical, but still a more stylish onesie than by Juicy Couture.

Haute couture onesie

The runway


God Save the Queen (and King).God Save the Queen

Spot the Dutch punk in this photo.

Punk Dutch Girl in London

punk mannequins

camouflage and denim punk

Overview of the ground floor (the exhibition is over two floors).

Overview of ground floor from upstairs

Neon sign The Oddyssey

This pink dress on the right was my ABSOLUTE favourite dress in the show! I still fantasise about wearing this dream dress and how it would float around me while walking around at a fancy cocktail party. *sigh*

Outfits worn by Madonna (the black dress on the right, exposing the female chest section), left from it you see the outfit worn by The Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto on the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier’s 2011 spring/summer show, featuring the Rock ‘n’ Romantic collection. The other two mannequins in the photo are a stage outfit and evening gown worn by Kylie Minogue. The stage outfit is a metallic corset which she wore on her Aphrodite tour. The poster on the wall opposite the corset features Kylie (La Vierge aux serpents, 2008).

Pop diva dresses

A better shot of the gorgeous purple gown.

Kylie Minogue

Costume sketches for Madonna’s world tour Blond Ambition.

Costume sketches Blond Ambition tour by Madonna

Stunning photo (cropped here) by Sølve Sundsbø Invitation to the Dance with Elena Sudakova (Numéro magazine, March 2008).

Invitation to the Dance with Elena Sudakova

A super cute photo of Jean Paul as a young boy.

YoungJean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier and his grandmother (1958).

Jean Paul Gaultier and his grandmother

When I was little, I thought my grandmother was supremely elegant. She was undoubtedly very old-fashioned, but I considered her style absolutely wonderful. She was different from other people. At her home she had black crepe hats, feather aigrettes, and corsets from the early 1900s. She told me that women would drink vinegar to bring on stomach contractions and then pull the corset laces at precisely that moment to get a smaller waist. That was all food for my imagination. A single thing would start me making up a story.
– Jean Paul Gaultier (quote from the exhibition)

Jean Paul Gaultier on the screen

Installation of TV screens showing pop videos and feature length films for which Jean Paul Gaultier made the costumes, including videos for Beyoncé, Boy George, Depeche Mode, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Neneh Cherry, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tina Turner. He designed film costumes for directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (The City of Lost Children), Peter Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and most frequently Pedro Almodóvar (Kika, Bad Education and The Skin I Live In).


Even Kurt Cobain wore Jean Paul Gaultier for the video Heart-Shaped Box by Dutch photographer and music & film director Anton Corbijn.


Jean Paul Gaultier goes Paris with Marge Simpson, top model Linda Evangelista (and Maggie Simpson in a handbag).

The Simpsons

Influences from all over the world

Elegant and kinky black outfits featuring leather elements and also elements taken from flamenco (as I dance flamenco I especially liked this section).

black dresses

spanish style outfits

spanish style dress

arctic wear

lunar faces Native American inspired wedding dress

African inspired gown

Even the legwear is haute couture.



Neon sign The Boudoir

In The Boudoir you’ll find the famous cone-shaped bra and the signature corset perfume bottles.

Cone bra and perfume

Jean Paul Gaultier’s teddy bear wearing the first cone bra.

Teddy bear

I made my first cone-shaped breasts out of newsprint for my teddy bear Nana; this was more than thirty years before Madonna! I took a round doily from my grandmother’s house and cut out a circle in the middle of it to make a skirt for my bear. I did a bias cut without knowing what it was!
– Jean Paul Gaultier (quote from the exhibition)

Cover up your privates

Let’s end this post in the same playful spirit as the exhibition and the designer: with a laugh and a wink.

Naomi Campbell

Groin protection

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014
On at the V&A till 15 March 2015
Opening times: 10.00 – 17.45 daily
10.00 to 22.00 Fridays

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014
Closed on 27 July 2014 (V&A)

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
On at the Barbican till 25 August 2014
Opening times: Sun-Wed: 10.00 – 18.00; Thu-Sat: 10.00 – 21.00

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