The other day, while it was a bit drizzly outside, I went to the Bath Fashion Museum. The museum is located in the basement of the Assembly Rooms, which I visited during my Bath Tour.
I arrived just as the museum was opening (everything seems to open quite late here – around 10:00 or 10:30am!), and there weren’t very many people there with me, so I was able to get nice and close to the exhibits.
Please excuse any glare in my photos, almost all of the pieces are set behind glass, for obvious reasons, and the lighting in there casts a unique glare on the glass. I tried to block most of the glare out, but I couldn’t get it all, so hopefully it’s not too distracting.
The exhibit is quite interesting because it walks you through the history of fashion in 100 different items of clothing, shoes, or accessories.
The oldest piece in the exhibit is this tunic from 1590, which is quite beautifully preserved!
It was quite amazing to see all the beautiful embroidery on these pieces of clothing. Of course, at this time only the truly wealthy could afford such extravagant clothing, and this can be a failing of historical research; we often have more information about the wealthy and privileged, even though they were not reflective of the larger population.
This piece was hand printed! An astounding feat for the 1780’s – which this banyan (dressing gown) was worn!
You can see that fashion really started to experiment with colour, and material as they entered the reign of Louis the Sun King. The white dress below is called a Dress Francais, and is obviously heavily influenced by the dress of the ladies in the court of the Sun King.
One of my favourites aspects of the exhibit was to see the beautiful accessories, like these fans, and the stays in the photos below. They are so intricate and stunning, though the stays were not even seen in public!
Moving into the 1800’s a simpler dress with an empire waist came into fashion, and as you can tell from the photo below – the colour white was very much in vogue! These are the dresses of the Jane Austen heroines, so I was particularly delighted to see them!
Mid-century, the introduction of new material, dyes, and techniques brought some of the elaborate designs back into fashion!
It also brought some truly unnecessary fashion oddities into vogue – like the bustle, which I will just never understand…
Moving into the 1900’s, beautiful materials continued to be used, and the shape of the dresses changed again. Although I love the beautiful materials and embellishments, I’m not fond of the shapeless cut of many of the early 20th century gowns.
Mid-century, some more familiar items of clothing came into fashion, and the cut of dresses moved up the legs!
I’m not going to lie, I skipped past the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s section pretty quickly – because I’m not a big fan. It was interesting though at the end of the exhibit to see which modern pieces the curators had included. There were some oddities from the runways (particularly in the early 00’s), but I quite liked this piece for 2015 from the designed Sarah Burton who designed the wedding gown of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
There was another exhibit at the Fashion Museum – the History of Lace! It was a smaller exhibit but it was very interesting to trace the roots of lace as an extreme luxury item, hand designed, through to the invention of sewing machines, which made lace commercially available, until the present day when it is ubiquitous on every red carpet in Hollywood. (The blue dress in the last photo was worn by Lea Sedoux in the latest James Bond film!)