Entertainment & Arts

V&A Museum denies rejecting Margaret Thatcher's wardrobe

Margaret Thatcher - from Forty Minutes: The Englishwoman's Wardrobe
Image caption The V&A said no formal offer of Baroness Thatcher's clothes had ever been made.

The Victoria and Albert Museum said it was "stupefied'" by reports that it had turned down the chance to exhibit Margaret Thatcher's clothes.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the London gallery had turned down the opportunity to acquire some items from Baroness Thatcher's wardrobe.

The museum was quoted as saying it only collected items of "outstanding aesthetic or technical quality".

But Nicholas Coleridge, chairman of the V&A, said no offer had ever been made.

Coleridge, who took up the role of chairman on Tuesday this week, said there was "stupefied surprise" at the V&A about the Daily Telegraph story.

He told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme there had been "no letter, no meeting, no judgement... no overture of any kind... and no turning down of her clothes at all".

He added that neither he, nor the previous chairman, nor the museum's trustees knew anything about it.

Coleridge said that while there had been "some sort of informal conversation" in 2011 or 2012, there had been no follow-through.

He said Carol Thatcher, Lady Thatcher's daughter, had called him to apologise about the story, confirming that the family had never offered anything to the museum.

After the story broke, senior Conservative figures, including London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, came out in support of preserving Lady Thatcher's collection for the nation.

Speaking to Radio 4 on Thursday, Coleridge agreed. He said "it could be well worth considering" acquiring pieces and the museum's team were "keen" to see what they could get "if there really are some available".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lady Thatcher's wedding outfit has an estimated value of £10,000-£15,000
Image copyright AP
Image caption The raincoat and headscarf worn while riding in a British tank in Germany in 1986 are also up for sale

More than 300 items are due to be sold at auction next month instead. Lady Thatcher died two and a half years ago.

She was the longest-serving premier of the 20th Century and Britain's only female prime minister to date.

The clothes, to be auctioned by Christie's, include her blue velvet wedding dress and various power suits worn during her tenure in Downing Street, plus handbags and jewellery.

"Lady Thatcher was an iconic figure who used fashion as a political weapon and certainly knew the power of clothes", said Coleridge.

"It seems to me rather appropriate that one or two of those power dresses and Thatcher handbags should be there alongside Elizabeth the first's clothes and Charles the first's execution shirt".

In recent years the museum, which described itself as "the world's leading museum of art and design", has put on crowd-pleasing shows of fashion by designer Alexander McQueen and clothes worn by pop legend David Bowie.

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