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Autumn/Winter 1988/89

Harris Tweed suit, Time Machine collection

Harris Tweed, satin lining

Vivienne Westwood, London, UK

Follow the thread


Vivienne Westwood’s Time Machine collection, Autumn/Winter 1988/89 was inspired H. G. Wells’ novel and was part of a series of five collections later known as Britain Must Go Pagan. Westwood married eclectic elements such as traditional British fabrics, Fair Isle sweaters with computer game patterns, ‘Miss Marple’ suits, metallic corsets and articulated suiting inspired by medieval armour.

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In a career spanning over four decades, Vivienne Westwood has repeatedly delved into the past for inspiration, taking cues from art history, fashion history and literature.  Never content with merely following what has gone before, Westwood re-interprets elements from the past in irreverent ways, from combining traditional British tailoring with fetish wear, to reimagining the crinoline dresses of the mid-19th century.

Social Culture

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A contradiction exists within her work between respect for tradition and culture, and her talent for gentle parody of the British establishment. In the Time Machine collection of 1988, Westwood took Harris Tweed, a traditional British textile, and created suiting with detachable elements inspired by medieval armour.


The beginning of Westwood’s career coincided with the punk fashion phenomenon of the mid-1970s, in which she played a pivotal role. Much of her work is rooted in English tailoring, but she reinvents British heritage with her radical pattern cutting and subversive use of traditional fabrics such as tartan and tweed, successfully marrying cutting edge and classic design.

Craft Skills

Harris Tweed is the only fabric in the world protected by its own legislation and due to its exceptional quality it has been embraced by the world of high fashion. Harris Tweed is defined as, Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

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A self-taught tailor, Westwood learned her craft through practical exploration. In the 1970s she taught herself how to make Teddy-boy clothes by deconstructing 1950s originals, explaining: ‘I am a great believer in copying – there has never been an age in which people have so little respect for the past.’  She has studied first-hand the structure of historical dress in museum archives to enrich her ever expanding design vocabulary.

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