News | April 12, 2023

Poets in Vogue Exhibition Features Sylvia Plath’s Skirt

Pete Woodhead/National Poetry Library

Sylvia Plath's skirt

Poets in Vogue brings together the fashion worlds and poetic work of seven women poets through a series of displays, including an iconic tartan skirt owned and worn by Sylvia Plath

The displays will also include a reconstruction of Anne Sexton’s red ‘reading dress’, creative interpretations of Audre Lorde’s, Edith Sitwell’s and Stevie Smith’s signature looks, a fabric-adaptation of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, and the clothes-performances of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.

The exhibition at the National Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre, London, is the work of researchers Sophie Oliver and Sarah Parker from the University of Liverpool and Loughborough University. The installations have been made by expert costume-maker Gesa Werner toevoke the distinct style and presence of these poets. The organisers say their aim has been to rethink assumptions about the superficiality of fashion, offering new perspectives on the close connections between language and dress, and emphasising poetry as an embodied practice that includes live performance.

A reconstruction of Anne Sexton's red Reading Dress
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Pete Woodhead

A reconstruction of Anne Sexton's red reading dress

Anne Sexton
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Arthur Furst

Anne Sexton

A fabric adaptation of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks
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Pete Woodhead

A fabric adaptation of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks

Installation of Dame Edith Sitwell's dress
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Pete Woodhead

Installation of Dame Edith Sitwell's dress

Co-curator, Dr Sophie Oliver said: "We want to challenge any simple equation of women poets and clothes, stressing the different – sometimes ambivalent, often celebratory – ways these figures approached getting dressed in their lives, work and politics."

The Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library is the largest public collection of modern poetry in the world and is housed at the Southbank Centre in London. It contains over 200,000 items spanning from 1912 to the present day, extensive resources for poets, academics, schools and families. The library is free to use.

Poets in Vogue runs through 25 June 25, 2023.

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