The image of Elizabeth I wearing her ruff left an indelible mark on Gareth Pugh. Just look to his archive, it was referenced in SS09's Paris debut, as light emerging from darkness set to Matthew Stone's electronic thwack. A severe regality without the pomp of trinketry is Pugh to his foundation, the galloping mind of his client every bit as intrepid as the aesthetic. Though a collection of leather armour was offered for SS12, the vision is a lot more complex than just history. The clash of his AW13 finale saw Gareth rendering silhouettes entirely from bin bags, culled from a minesweep of Dalston. The neighbours had problems chucking stuff away for a while.
Ahead of In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, opening this week at Buckingham Palace, Pugh let a film crew into his studio to wax lyrical about his love for 'the first power dressers'. The silhouette of power, integral to his handwriting, runs through the exhibition, which includes paintings, drawings and prints from the Royal Collection, as well as rare surviving examples of clothing and accessories.
"You can sometimes be a little lazy when you look at paintings – you focus on the face," says the designer. "This exhibition has much more of an emphasis on what’s happening from the neck down – and as a fashion designer that’s my currency. These garments served a function and are as important as the portraits themselves – it was their language and how they communicated on a non-verbal level. That’s an exciting aspect of the exhibition."
Another is the trickle down effect. In 1666 Charles II introduced a long vest worn under a coat, instead of a short doublet and cloak. The style spread quickly: three weeks later the diarist Samuel Pepys was wearing his own version, what we know now as the three piece suit.
In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion is at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 10 May – 3 October 2013