Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life



The latest fashion exhibition to feature at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, or Powerhouse Museum as we have all grown up knowing it, is an intimate celebration of the late fashion great, Isabella Blow.

Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life presents a smaller curated selection of the 500 pieces purchased by Daphne Guiness after Blow’s passing. Guiness couldn’t bear the thought of her close friend’s clothes being auctioned off and split up so she purchased the collection in full. ‘It’s the story of a life lived in these clothes’ said Guiness of the exhibition at a talk held at the museum to celebrate its launch.

Isabella Blow was creative, passionate and eccentric. She championed young designers and nurtured the careers of Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Julien Mcdonald. Blow’s personal wardrobe houses many important treasures including the entire graduate collection of Alexander McQueen and bespoke headpieces by Philip Treacy. She had a strong sense of personal style and collaborated with designers to make what she wanted.

Guiness initially wasn’t sure what to do with Blow’s collection. ‘I couldn’t deal with it, some of the clothes smelled of her. Every time I looked at them I wanted to cry’, she revealed. After a chance meeting with curator Shonagh Marshall at an event, together they set about preserving Blow’s wardrobe.

‘We decided to start by finding out what was there’ said Marshall. ‘There were often four things to a hangar, I went through it all. Two thirds of the collection is McQueen and because I’ve worked with McQueen before [Marshall worked on the McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art] I could date that, but some of the other pieces don’t have labels and that’s harder. The nice thing is the more we display the more we learn about the collection.’

Perhaps the most moving aspects of this exhibition are the intimate details; the little rips and tears, a broken heel found in the pocket of a jacket, eyelashes with the glue still on. Guiness was adamant that these things should be preserved. ‘She wore her clothes because she loved them but she wasn’t particularly careful’ said Guiness. Marshall agrees ‘I love the memories, the friendship and the intimacy [of the small faults]. Those are the most beautiful things to share,’ she said.

This exhibition doesn’t celebrate a particular designer or theme, it celebrates a life lived in clothes, the life of one very special person, Isabella Blow. The exhibition is intimate; it’s moving and provides a representation of high fashion worn in real life. The craftsmanship of each piece featured is incredible with pieces made to be worn, loved and remembered.


Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life

Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris St Ultimo Sydney

14 May – 28 August

Buy Tickets here.


Read more about Daphne Guinness and the story of this exhibition here.

Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.


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