Isabella Delves Broughton was born into aristocracy in the 1950s. However, despite her seemingly privileged family and upbringing she had in many ways a difficult childhood. Her young brother drowned at the age of two, and the cash-strapped family lived in a cottage on the family estate as they couldn’t afford to live in the house itself. After leaving school, she worked at various jobs before moving to America; she ended up working for magazines including Vogue and Tatler. She married Detmar Blow in 1989, wearing a headdress by Philip Treacy – one of the first to recognise his talent. She also discovered Alexander McQueen, as well as the models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant.
Blow loved fashion and had a highly individual and unusual style. This exhibition, after an initial exploration of her early life, showcased some of her unusual outfits and accessories, including several hats by Treacy and clothes by McQueen. I particularly loved the hats and hair accessories – I’m not sure how wearable they would be, but they were so amazing to look at that I didn’t care. I especially loved the castle house, and the ship headdress made of feathers. Blow wore her own clothes frequently and with love: scratches, cigarette marks and tears reveal the person behind the amazing clothes. I’ve always seen high fashion as rather out of reach, but this exhibition made it human.
The exhibition focused on Blow’s life, career and relationship to fashion, and doesn’t say much about the fact that she sadly committed suicide in 2007, aged only 48. On the one hand, it seems to gloss over the truth of her life; on the other, I would imagine her friends and loved ones would rather focus on the happy times of her life than on her death. I’d never heard of Isabella Blow before seeing this exhibition advertised, but I wish I had – she sounds like she was an amazing lady.
On my way out, I purchased this little beauty from the gift shop. I had my eye on the large, crystal-studded version, but that was £180. This was only £40 and it was the last one left – clearly, it was fate! I am something of a Tatty Devine obsessive and this pink lobster is exclusive to this exhibition so I was very happy to snap it up (pun not intended).