Gallery Dressing: How to look the part for art

Georgia O'Keefe scarf by illustrator Rob Phillips for Jigsaw
Georgia O'Keefe scarf by illustrator Rob Phillips for Jigsaw

Planning a trip to the new Tate Modern this weekend? Obviously you will have your mind set on higher things than what to wear. Or... maybe not. We are all works of art, no? And is it not a compliment to both the art and the artists to consider your appearance before you consider their work? Sure it is. Also, we’ve long regarded ‘looking arty’ as a big compliment. Being mistaken for a female architect is another aspiration.

The interior of The Switch House, the new extension at London's Tate Modern Credit: Iwan Baan

But what is the arty look? One might say that the currently very trendy Gucci look is art-student-gone-wild-in-a-charity-shop. However, at a press preview on Tuesday of The Switch House, the impressive new Herzog & De Meuron extension to the Tate – the Switch House - on Tuesday we studied the audience carefully and can report that the Gucci vibe was distinctly not in evidence, apart from a plethora of spectacles. 

This might be more because your average artistic person,  like most of us, can’t actually afford to pick and choose from the Gucci pre-collection. But there wasn't a sniff of even copy-cat chintzy florals and clashing jewel colours. Black, navy, bottle green and blue and white striped tops were more the thing.

It seems the current artistic type is more concerned with stealth style and uniform

It seems the current artistic type is more concerned with stealth style and uniform – Celine’s minimalism with a bit of Hedi Slimane’s rock’n’roll black. A  leather biker jacket seemed to be an essential. Together with cropped black and navy trousers or A-line skirts, flat or platform loafers or white lace-ups, a block heel here and there or plimsolls. Jewellery was a stack of skinny bangles and mix and match earrings.

Where might you shop for this style? Given that Uniqlo is sponsoring the opening weekend and, from October, a series of events called Uniqlo Fridays, you'd think this might be your first port of call. In fact, something from the store’s collaboration with French designer Christophe Lemaire would be exactly the kind of thing to waft around in – a feminine take on utility – but you need to be quick - only the tail end of the collection is left in the sale. Short sighted, Uniqlo! Let’s hope they remedy that before October.

Cotton belted dress, now £14.99

Oddly, it’s Jigsaw that has marked the Tate occasion with a new collection inspired by the American artist Georgia O’Keefe  - a major retrospective begins at the gallery on 6 July. As well as incorporating soft floral prints inspired by O'Keefe's blown-up flower paintings, Jigsaw has looked to the artist’s own distinctive sense of dress – a take on soft tailoring with knitted kimono jackets, suede slippers and wide trousers.

Belted knit kimono jacket, £149,

Next month, the Serpentine’s annual artist-designed summer pavillion will open  - this year a glacier like structure by Bjarke Ingels. For the fourth consecutive year COS will sponsor Serpentine Park Nights, but this time releasing a limited edition collection of  t-shirts for both men and women, with proceeds going back to the gallery.

COS X Serpentine Nights T-Shirt, £49, from July 12 at

The minimal Scandi look that COS has made its own and is loved by fashion editors, gallerists and art students alike, probably would have gone down a bomb with Georigia O’Keefe too.