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Making More Mischief: Folk Costume in Britain

Start Date 09 April 2024
End Date 22 June 2024
Venue London College of Fashion
Location Eastbank, London
Curator Simon Costin, Amy de la Haye and Mellany Robinson
Designer Simon Costin
Pearly Kings outfits and Queens on exhibition mannequins
Lion suit on display - Hackney Carnival
Somali costumes on display in exhbition installation by Numbi Arts

London College of Fashion is pleased to announce its next major exhibition; Making More Mischief: Folk Costume in Britain opening 9 April – 22 June 2024 at LCF’s East Bank campus.

Making More Mischief is the highly anticipated sequel to Compton Verney’s 2023 exhibition, Making Mischief: Folk Costume in Britain, which was the first of its kind to explore the pivotal role of costume in folk customs thriving across Britain today and the rich tapestry of people bringing them to life.

Now, in collaboration with the Museum of British Folklore, and as part of the same project supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, LCF, UAL’s Making More Mischief builds on this narrative by zooming in with a London lens to further explore class, sexuality, ethnicity and identity to challenge preconceived ideas that seasonal folk cultures and customs need to be fixed, nostalgic or predominantly rural.

Traditions such as London’s carnivals, Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, Swan Upping and Somali May Day traditions come together in Making More Mischief unified through the shared values of folk dress rooted in identity, non-conformity and subversiveness. Full outfits will be displayed across LCF’s three floors of public showcasing areas alongside many voices of the wearers and/or makers as written or oral testimonies. These communicate the deeply personal individual and community expressions of lives lived and desires, which permeate all folk culture.

Highlights of LCF’s Making More Mischief thus far confirmed, and celebrating the diversity of London’s cultural expression, include:

PXSSY PALACE: An immersive installation acknowledging the roots of PP (an arts platform rooted in intentional nightlife, celebrating Black, Indigenous and People of Colour who are women, queer, intersex, trans or non-binary (QTBIPOC)) and its humble origins as a house party just off Brick Lane, ten years ago. Visitors will discover the evolution of folklore in and through this intentional party movement, wherein archetypes are reimagined and remixed. Key PP outfits will be displayed within an immersive space featuring a commissioned film and original PP field recordings comprised of recorded toilet, door, and smoking area conversations, therein encapsulating the world of PP.

London Carnivals: Costumes and items from Notting Hill Carnival and Hackney Carnival, which includes Hackney’s Paracarnival where each year over 100 costumes are created, many of these made with and for people with different abilities and vulnerabilities. These widely attended events are rooted in folk culture through shared themes and desires of people coming together and celebrating collectively to express themselves through music, dance, theatre and costume. One of the pieces featured in Making More Mischief includes Zimba the Lion, created by Yaram Arts for Hackney Carnival, who have been participating in the event for over a decade. Zimba performs a masquerade dance rooted in connection and spirituality of the wearer.

Pearly Kings and Queens: Original and brand-new oral histories, garments and films highlighting the rich history of London’s iconic ‘Pearlies.’ Recognised by their distinctive suits and accessories covered with mother-of-pearl buttons, since the mid to late 1870s, the Pearlies have been an iconic part of London with many boroughs now having their own established Pearly royal family. Making More Mischief will delve into this living history by exploring the background of the pearl button itself and its relationship with mudlarking and the River Thames and will also feature original designs created by LCF’s MA Fashion Design and Technology (Womenswear) students inspired by the Pearlies themselves.

“LCF’s Making More Mischief explodes static notions of folklore, celebrating its inherent dynamism as lived culture. PXSSY PALACE, a QTIBPOC club night founded collaboratively by Nadine Noor, embodies this evolution, fearlessly reimagining archetypes through a global-majority lens to forge a vibrant, inclusive folklore that mirrors the pulse of East London. The installation dissects the transformative power of PXP, from its house party roots to global resonance. With recently captured club night field recordings, we unveil the ephemeral – moments of queer joy, love, liberation, and resistance that redefine our cultural narratives.” – Dr. Leila Nassereldein, Cultural Producer at LCF.

“Folk customs are so often overlooked by museums and the Museum of British Folklore (MoBF) aims to address this by producing exhibitions that present British folk traditions in unexpected ways. MoBF has an expansive approach to the seasonal customs of the UK. For example, Notting Hill Carnival has over 2 million people attending every year and Hackney Carnival involves diverse groups who reflect the rich culture of East London. The Pearly Kings and Queens are a great example of a long-standing tradition which still thrives today. Folk customs are constantly changing and evolving, and we hope Making More Mischief at LCF captures that.” – Simon Costin, of the Museum of British Folklore

Opening 9 April – 22 June 2024, Tuesdays – Saturdays.

London College of Fashion,105 Carpenters Road, Stratford, E20 2AR.

The exhibition is free with no need to book in advance.

Images courtesy of Jack Elliot Edwards.