WHAT IS LUXURY? at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Two days after I was knocked off my bike, sustaining a broken collar bone and extensive bruising, luxury would be the ability to type with both hands.  Strangely that isn’t one of the options put forward by the V&A.  Extraordinary, non-essential or exclusive items are the suggestions put forward.  Stuff that takes time, expertise or simply very expensive materials to make.

What is Luxury?

One of the first things you see is a church vestment adorned with a froth of handmade lace.  The basic ingredients of lace – cotton thread, parchment pattern, pins and scissors – are not expensive: it is the hours of labour it takes to transform thread into trimming that generates “luxury”.  Right next door is an ecclesiastical crown, all precious metals, rare stones and once again exquisite workmanship.

What is Luxury?

Ecclesiastical crown, ca. 1750
© The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Military tailoring in the form of a Royal Lancers Mess uniform, all stiff brocade and fine stitching, made in Savile Row is on display.  It is beautiful, but does imply that you need a private income to be an officer in the Royal Lancers.  The object that I covet most here is called Bubble Bath.  Nora Fok spent hours knitting fine nylon thread around marbles and then joined all the husks together to make a necklace.  It is my birthday at the weekend, just in case Mr CW is reading this.

What is Luxury?

Necklace, Bubble Bath, Nora Fok, 2001
Photo: Heini Schneebeli, Courtesy of the Crafts Council

Tea, coffee and sandwiches present no problems at the V&A, the only problem is selecting which of the in-house cafes to choose.  On a rainy day the main restaurant housed in a splendid Pre-Raphaelite suite of rooms beckons, sunny days the coffee stall in the central garden is an ideal place to while away half an hour.

WHAT IS LUXURY? 25 April – 27 September 2015

Free admission

Open daily 10am – 5.45pm (until 8pm on Fridays)



  1. May 22, 2015 / 2:09 pm

    Sorry to hear you were hurt, I hope you’re ok now.

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