MUSEUM OF LONDON
‘I loved working with Yasemen on the Pleasure Garden project at the Museum of London. Never losing her sense of humour, Yasemen was not thrown by the many procedures and conservation requirements we threw at her.
The metal wigs she designed and created for our figures were beautiful, providing the perfect setting for Philip Tracey’s fabulous hats.
My favourite was her antler wig for Diana, which did not just look amazing, but also worked super-well on a practical level’
Beatrice Behlen Senior Curator of Fashion & Decorative Arts at Museum of London
MUSEUM OF LONDON: THE VAUXHALL PLEASURE GARDENS (2009)
In 2009, I was asked to make a series of wigs, beards, and moustaches out of copper for figures appearing at the Museum of London’s exhibition, The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, at their new wing within the Barbican Centre.
In the 19th century, the Royal Vauxhall Gardens in Lambeth were London’s most famous pleasure gardens. Famed for their artificial illuminations, these Victorian gardens hosted musical events and spectacular entertainments, like a combination of a modern nightclub and a theme park.
“[The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens exhibition] will be an enchanting place that transports visitors back in time… In two large display cases we will show 16 original male, female and children’s costumes from around 1740–1840 … with theatrical masks and headdresses evoking the flair, wit and intrigue of the period. To make the display more enchanting and introduce a surreal and fantastical element the display will include 6 figures outside the display cases dressed in replica clothing.”
APPROACH & PROCESS
As part of the brief, the Museum of London provided me with ‘biographies’ for each of the 22 figures whose wigs, beards and moustaches I had been asked to make, including names, ages and costumes. This level of detail allowed me to develop wigs that I felt suited each personality.
In addition, the brief suggested the wigs should be informed by historical styles but need not be strictly historically accurate. This freed me up to make unusual, magical, and surreal works, always ensuring these did not overpower the historic costumes these characters would wear.
My main challenge was technical. While most of the figures in the exhibitions were presented inside glass the traditional cases, half a dozen would appear outside, amid the public. This consideration informed my designs. I had to consider public safety, so the work had to be more substantial. I used thicker copper so the wigs were more robust and was happy this did not sacrifice their beauty.
Having created each wig, I then worked closely with milliner Philip Treacy, who was making a number of new hats for the exhibition figures. In fitting sessions at his studio, we assembled our creations for each character. Minor amendments ensured that my metalwork married both visually and practically with Philip’s creations.
For the exhibition, the mannequins were dressed in a unique combination of original 18th century costume, Philip Treacy’s beautiful hats and my copper hairpieces – “the perfect example of when fashion worlds collide” (Daily Telegraph).