Wednesday 8 March 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

We’re thrilled to welcome Claire Wilcox to Quay Words to discuss her book Patch Work for our Threads season. Throughout March and April we’ll be delving into text and the textile, pulling at the threads of Exeter Custom House’s history of fabric trade and its relevance today.

Claire Wilcox has been a curator of fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum for most of her working life. In Patch Work, she steps into the archive of memory, deftly stitching together her dedicated study of fashion with the story of her own life lived in and through clothes. From her mother’s black wedding suit to the swirling patterns of her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds in spare, luminous prose the spellbinding power of the things we wear.

In a series of intimate and compelling close-ups, Wilcox tugs on the threads that make up the fabric of our lives: a cardigan worn by a child, a mother’s button box, the draping of a curtain, a pair of cycling shorts, a roll of lace, a pin hidden in a seam. Through the eye of a curator, we see how the stories and the secrets of clothes measure out the passage of time, our gains and losses, and the way we use them to unravel and write our histories.

You can also save a seat here to watch the live-stream online.

About the Author

Claire Wilcox is Professor in Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion and was Senior Curator of Fashion at the V&A where she curated many exhibitions including Radical Fashion (2001), Vivienne Westwood (2004), The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (2007), From Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s (2013) and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2015). She was co-curator of Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up (2018) and her most recent show was Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear (2022). She instigated Fashion in Motion (live catwalk events in the Museum, 1999 – present) and was Lead Curator for the refurbishment and redisplay of the V&A’s Fashion Gallery in 2012. She has authored numerous publications and in 2021 won the PEN Ackerley award for biography for her memoir Patch Work: A Life Amongst Clothes (2020).

This event will be in-person at Exeter Custom House. We have increased capacity at Quay Words events, so you may be sitting next to someone who is not in your household. We are still taking precautions to ensure our audiences are protected from Covid 19. We will be keeping windows open to ensure good ventilation in the building so you may want to bring an extra layer. Please do not attend Quay Words events if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or are feeling unwell. This event is going to be filmed for live broadcast on Crowdcast. You may appear on screen. Please only book if you are happy with this.

You can find out more about the accessibility of the Custom House here. If you have any access needs you’d like to discuss with us before the event you can contact us on