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The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

Photo of selection of dresses in a glass exhibition case

The first exhibition to explore the challenging but utterly compelling territory of taste in fashion, from the renaissance through to contemporary design

Potent, provocative and sometimes shocking, the word vulgar conjures up strong images, ideas and feelings in us all. 

Examining the constantly evolving notion of vulgarity in fashion whilst revelling in its excesses, visitors were invited to think again about exactly what makes something vulgar and why it is such a sensitive and contested term.

Drawn from major public and private collections worldwide, The Vulgar showcased over 120 stunning objects, ranging from historical costumes to couture and ready-to-wear looks, with contributions from leading contemporary designers such as Walter van Beirendonck, Chloé, Christian Dior, Pam Hogg, Charles James, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Moschino, Miuccia Prada, Agent Provocateur, Elsa Schiaparelli, Philip Treacy, UNDERCOVER, Viktor & Rolf, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood.

Tagged with: Art Gallery Archive


‘Brilliantly over-the-top couture from the past 100 years is paired with historic items to give a history of 'bad' taste.‘
‘A dazzling, thought-provoking show and a feast for the eyes‘
Time Out
‘The brash and the blatant can be boundary breaking as this look at the idea of vulgarity through the lens of fashion suggests‘
‘The Barbican Centre’s latest brilliant exhibition celebrates all things weird and wonderful in the fashion world‘
‘Prepare to be amazed‘
‘A chance to revel in the best of the flamboyant and brazen that the fashion has to offer. After all, who wants to be a wallflower?‘


Photo of Zandra Rhodes

Watch: Talking Vulgar

Using psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’ definitions of ‘vulgar’ as a guide, we hear from some of the designers in The Vulgar, including Walter van Beirendonck, Manolo Blahnik, Hussein Chalayan, Stephen Jones, Christian Lacroix and Zandra Rhodes.

Visitors entering The Vulgar exhibition at the Barbican

Introducing The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

Barbican associate curator Sinéad McCarthy talks to Judith Clark and Adam Phillipsabout the inherently challenging but utterly compelling territory of taste in fashion, as explored in their exhibition The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined


The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined exhibition toured to:

Winterpalais, Vienna 
3 March–25 June 2017 

Modemuseum Hasselt, Belgium 
29 September 2017–14 January 2018

With thanks

Logo for Agent Provocateur