Posterity

What single outfit defines 1996 fashion for you? A pair of Gucci velvet flares, a Diesel jacket as worn by our Liam? For The Independent's fashion editor, Tasmin Blanchard, asked to choose for Bath's Museum of Costume, there was no contest ... Photographs by Sheridan Morley

It's not the first time the Bath Museum of Costume's Dress of the Year has not been a dress. In 1969, Prudence Glynn of The Times chose a trouser suit by the late Ossie Clark; in 1991, Liz Tilberis, then editor of Vogue, chose a Chanel jacket and denim skirt suit; and in 1992, Liz Smith, then fashion editor of The Times, chose a Ralph Lauren pinstriped city trouser suit. And for 1996, the choice made by The Independent, and presented to the Museum last Wednesday, is a pair of shiny red builder's bum "bumster" trousers, complete with a red-and-black brocade tunic, by London loud boy and Givenchy couturier, Alexander McQueen.

The museum's collection has been growing since 1963, when members of the Fashion Writers' Association chose a Rex Harrison cardigan dress by Mary Quant. This year the choice was easy: the designer had to be McQueen. It has been his year, after all, with two highly acclaimed collections in London, a show in a New York synagogue on a snowy night last April, and the crowning glory when he finally accepted the job as chief designer at Givenchy in Paris - not to mention his recent Lloyds Bank British Designer of the Year Award. Not since McQueen's mentor Yves Saint Laurent was appointed chief designer at Christian Dior at the tender age of 21, has one designer achieved so much in so short a time.

The decision for a man's outfit (because men wear clothes, too, and have been undergoing something of a fashion/ shopping revolution over the past few years) was less straightforward. Should the choice have been a pair of Gap jeans and a polo shirt? Or a velvet suit with flared trousers, by Gucci? Or even a Liam Gallagher quilted jacket from Diesel? I opted for a single-breasted Paul Smith suit, in shiny Yves Klein blue, from his spring/summer '96 collection. Unlike McQueen's, Paul Smith's clothes have universal appeal to men around the world. With his jeans line, his underwear and his tailoring, he has become one of our greatest fashion exports, with more than 165 stockists in Japan alone. And while becoming an international fashion name, he has maintained his own particular, sometimes peculiar, Englishness.

So it was that I settled down for a full English breakfast on the 8.40am train to Bath last Wednesday with Tizer Bailey, the model who wore the brocade-and-bumster outfit on McQueen's catwalk at London Fashion Week more than a year ago, and her partner, Jimmy Pursey. The Sham 69 punk rocker has a part-time career as a model, appearing on the very same McQueen catwalk as Tizer. Since then, he has been photographed for Uomo Vogue for Katharine Hamnett and by David Sims for The Gap. With a new album in the offing, he likes to carry pockets full of safety pins, punk fashion accessories he will gleefully pin on unsuspecting victims.

Tizer turned up at Paddington Station dressed from head to toe in Vivenne Westwood, complete with a hat from Westwood's 1981 Pirate collection which is a now a museum piece in itself. It is strange that Westwood has been overlooked, and has not once been chosen for Dress of the Year over the past 20 years.

Tizer and Jimmy were to model the outfits by Smith and McQueen for the last time, before they were assigned an archive number and put on to their specially commissioned Adel Rootstein mannequins for posterity. As Tizer pirouetted around the grand ballroom of the 18th-century Assembly Rooms in her cheeky bumsters and closely tailored tunic with hanging sleeves, Jimmy pondered whether to tuck or untuck the matching blue shirt. They both looked and felt quite at home in their museum pieces. "It's a shame it's going into a museum," said Tizer, "I'd have got good wear out of it."

Local journalists who came to the museum to cover the event were predictably fascinated by the bumsters slashed along the inner thigh seams, with Tizer's pert bum cleavage peeking over the top. "Who on earth would wear these?" asked one bemused reporter. When Liberty put its summer stock of 10 pairs of wool bumsters on to the shop rails last spring, they sold out within a week. Anyone proud of their rear end - and with a fair streak of exhibitionism - would kill for a pair. And since McQueen first showed his pubic bone huggers three years ago, the catwalks and indeed the chain stores have been overflowing with hip-huggers.

The Dress of the Year programme is the Museum of Costume's way of keeping its collection up to date. The clothes chosen are supposed to represent the newest and most influential ideas in contemporary fashion. The museum has more than 30,000 pieces of clothing and accessories in the collection, dating back to the 16th century, most of which - including the Dress of the Year collection - are in storage. Appointments can be made to see pieces not on display, and there is a steady flow of designers and students camping out in the Fashion Research Centre on research missions. Go there to see the Dress of the Year and you may well be rubbing shoulders with the designer himself

The Alexander McQueen `dress' and Paul Smith suit will be on display from Thursday at the Museum of Costume and Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, Bath. Open daily, Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, 11am-5pm. Admission pounds 3.50 adults, pounds 2.20 children (enquiries, 01225 477752).

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Design, Marketing and Media Manager

    £27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

    £17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

    £15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence