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Dress through the Decades at the Museum of Costume – Bath


The Museum of Costume first opened its doors in 1963. Designer, collector, historian and museum creator Doris Langley Moore got the ball rolling by donating her own personal collections. Moore was known for her immaculate attention to detail. This, twinned with her theatrical background brought a dramatic feel to the costume displays, a creative trait which the museum continues today.

The next four decades saw the arrival of yet more original costumes, and now the museum has expanded to become one of the largest collections of fashionable dress in the country. Only a proportion of the collection is displayed at one time, allowing the exhibits to be changed regularly while preserving some of the delicate historic garments.

Back in the 1700’s Bath was known as the chic place to go amongst ‘polite society’. Festivities included Dress Balls, concerts, card games and tea parities, providing plenty of opportunities to dress up and show off in your latest finery. Walking into the museum you get a sense of this bygone era with a glimpse of the a-joining Assembly Rooms all rich decoration, grand columns and chandeliers.

Downstairs, with audio-guide in hand, fashions historic trip begins in Elizabethan times with a man’s long shirt and woman’s shift dress, both used as undergarments and both holding up very well indeed. Made of linen, intricate embroidery covers the neck, front, arms and wrists, strengthening areas of wear and tear. Embroidery from this period was incredibly detailed and skilful and everything from gloves, jackets, dresses and cuffs featured embroidered patterns of flowers, insects and animals.

{mosimage}It is interesting to see the styles of dress change as the years press on. Noblemen of the 1720’s would show-off in the most flamboyant three-piece suits lavishly embroidered with gold or silver thread. Moving into the 1760’s court dresses widened the silhouette to extraordinary proportions with the use of hoop petticoats worn over each hip. And not just focusing on dressy occasions there is daywear and lounge wear on display too. The fashion journey continues with an array of styles that span the ages, from the crinoline and bustle right through to a flesh revealing gown from Versace in the year 2000.

Additionally, the museum likes to stage regular exhibitions that highlight a particular area of fashion. This season it turns its attention to ‘Fashion & Film’ in particular costume dramas adapted from the novels of Jane Austen. On display are a range of garments from key scenes as seen in the likes of: Emma, Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility.

Museum of Costume and Bath Assembly Rooms

Where: Bennett Street, Bath BA1 2QH.
+44 (0) 1225 477789

Fax: +44 (0) 1225 444793

Web: www.museumofcostume.co.uk 
Adults = £6-
Senior Citizens + Students = £5-
Children = £4- (5 years & under = free)

JoJo Iles

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