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Fashion Unpicked: red velvet dress and elegant organza grand boubou | V&A

Published on Tue, Nov 22nd 2022 Entertainment Rectangular HD

Join Curator Elisabeth Murray as she examines an embroidered 'grand boubou' and velvet dress from the wardrobe of adult education specialist and women's literacy advocate – Professor Lalage Jean Bown OBE (1927 – 2021).

Lalage Bown spent her career working to establish and expand adult education programs in Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria, with a particular focus on the empowerment of women through literacy. She was also instrumental in promoting the incorporation of work by African authors into university curricula, which led to the publication of her book Two Centuries of African English in 1973. A woman of sartorial flair, whilst living in Africa between 1949 and 1981 she amassed a large wardrobe. Typically purchasing clothes from popular local tailors and dressmakers, she'd take recommendations from her students and wear the fashionable styles of the moment.

Made by a local tailor in Dakar, Senegal, Lalage Bown's elegant organza grand boubou features machine-embroidered silver flowers, and has a head-tie in the same fabric. Accompanied by a dark green pagne (skirt) along with a sleeveless peplum top, this piece was designed to make a statement. Her made-to-measure red velvet dress was created by Nigerian fashion designer, Shade Thomas Fahm, to receive her OBE at Buckingham Palace. Complete with a matching hat styled to look like a gèlè (head wrap), Shade recalled the cold English weather and swapped her usual soft silks, for a rich, red velvet.

Find out more about Professor Lalage Bown: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/a-life-through-clothes-professor-lalage-bown-obe

Meet iconic fashion designer Shade Thomas Fahm: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/nigerias-first-fashion-designer-shade-thomas-fahm

See more Fashion Unpicked films: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLe2ihXndm5jvJsAP3AOHQz4FcgUki-nLx

See her outfits in the Africa Fashion exhibition until 16 April 2023: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/africa-fashion

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Lalage Bown professor grand boubou senegal dress Shade Thomas Fahm Maison Shade zip gele head tie organza embroidery chain stitch velvet adult educationist OBE Africa Fashion exhibition V&A Victoria and Albert Museum London v and a v n a gèlè pagne flower headwrap lalage jean bown dakar fashion clothing education Two Centuries of African English women literature fashion unpicked

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