Wednesday 26 March 2014

Trip to Bath - Part 2

Part 1 of this saw us as far as the Assembly Rooms, where we collapsed, exhausted, and fortified ourselves on a panini and a pot of tea.  The tea worked its magic, as always, and we went downstairs to see the Fashion Museum.  This was something my mum particularly wanted to see, but we both thoroughly enjoyed it.  You have an audio tour which I hadn't done before, but it was really easy, the exhibits have a number to put into your machine, and you just input the number, press go and it will tell you about what you're looking at.

I love history when it can be brought to life, and this is something I really felt in the Fashion Museum, because this is not just the style of clothes that would have been worn at such and such a date, but genuine clothes that date from those times, that were worn by real people and in some cases we even know whose clothes they were. The Fashion Museum's audio tour encouraged me to take photos and I took a lot of them! Hopefully you'll find some of the following of interest.

These are some of the earlier dresses in there.  This one is a 'sack back' dress (that orangey thing you can see in the background is a man's dressing gown!)

This style of dress was another early one. The dress itself is open at the front, the white part is a separate petticoat.

Bit of nightwear here, how glam is this (below)!

Now, you know in historical novels, sometimes they'll mention a court dress, and say what a ridiculous garment it was? Well I saw this (below) and my jaw just dropped. Without exaggeration, I would say that you would be wider than you are tall wearing this dress, it's utterly insane.  The sides were held out with cane in the dress.

To drum up business for court dresses mantua makers would have a sample court dress that they would take to potential customers' homes but since they obviously couldn't take a real dress they had a little mini one, and they had one of those in the museum, in the foreground of the picture below.

You may be forgiven for thinking, from the photos I've posted that it's only ladies' clothes, but there are clothes for the gents too.  These are from the early 1800s I believe.

You can see the dates on the clothes below, let's take a minute to imagine some of Jane Austen's characters in these clothes from around 200 years ago.  The coat on the left belonged to Lord Byron's wife.

I really enjoyed the Victorian clothes, there was a wonderful array on show, including the petticoats Victorian ladies would wear to ensure the shape of their dresses was correct but not too heavy.  I'd heard of crinolines, but I didn't realise that they were basically a cage style of petticoat.

Obviously black was a big thing in Victorian fashion, due to Queen Victoria mourning her husband for fifty years.  They even had a dress that belonged to Queen Victoria herself, which surprised me by just how big it was. I'd seen photos, but it was good to see in real life, helped with scale. Since this is black it was hard to photo, forgive the flash!

The displays go on to show more modern, designer clothes and here are some of Princess Diana's dresses, including her going away dress from her wedding day (the coral one in the middle).  These are owned by her sons, but have been lent to the museum, and the display includes the designs of the clothes and notes that she wrote to the designer.

I so enjoyed the Fashion Museum! They even have a section for you to dress up, so you can try huge petticoats and corsets etc. They have children's clothes available to try on too, but to be honest I think you'd miss out on a lot on a visit here if you had to take children with you unless they were old enough to be engaged by the audio tour. I will leave you with a gratuitous bonnet selfie :)


  1. Nice selfie! When I had to wear a bonnet for the day I felt like I was being strangled lol I really love the night wear maybe not for sleeping in but for walking around the house! The court dresses are hilarious can you imagine trying to walk around in one of those, there would certainly be a few spilled drinks and I would be apologising half the night!

    1. I'm sure I've read somewhere they would practice wearing their court dresses, not just things like making their curtsies, but also things like walking through doorways sideways so they could fit! Mad idea, they really were the most bizarre garments. I think the monarchy was just having a laugh with the ton frankly, getting them to wear something as silly as that :)


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