City Profile: Fashion Museum Bath – A History of Fashion in 100 Objects

Named as one of the world’s top fashion museums

The Fashion Museum is consistently named as one of the world’s top fashion museums. ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ celebrates fashion throughout history, from the 1500s to the present day showcasing 100 star objects drawn from the Fashion Museum’s world-class collection.

The exhibition features a wonderful range of garments and fashion accessories that created the look of history or hit the headlines. From a late 1500s ‘blackwork’ embroidered man’s shirt, dating from the time of the Spanish Armada, to a ‘body-con’ Galaxy dress of the early 2000s, a time when the world was facing economic downturn, the exhibition presents iconic, influential garments and accessories spanning five centuries of innovative fashion design.

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Big names of fashion history

Fashion is defined as the latest style of dress, decoration or behaviour, and the new exhibition will showcase artefacts that tell personal stories or are symptomatic of moments in world history.  

One of the earliest fashion garments to go on display is an intricately embroidered woman’s jacket – known at the time as a waistcoat – worked in coloured silks and glittering metal thread and dating from the time of Shakespeare.

Fast forward over 300 years, and you can also see another embroidered jacket, this time from 1948, by Paris couturier Lucien Lelong and worn by major film star ‘Gone with the Wind’ actress Vivien Leigh.

Graceful silk robes and embroidered and tailored coats for men, the styles fashionable during Bath’s Georgian heyday, will also be on display, along with Regency fashions from the time of Jane Austen.

Big names of fashion history will feature in the exhibition. Visitors will see gowns by the first fashion designers in history, including the Houses of Worth and Lucile, through to names that are more familiar today, such as Christian Dior and McQueen.  

The House of Worth in Paris was the ‘go-to’ designer in the 1890s, and the exhibition will present a grey silk Worth gown worn by Mary Chamberlain, an American by birth and wife of British politician Joseph Chamberlain.

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‘Dress of the Year’

British designer Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon (1863-1935), was one of the first women’s fashion designers, an astute business woman, and also a Titanic survivor. ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ will feature a Lucile embroidered silk chiffon wedding dress  worn by Mabel Chappell on her wedding to Robert Fuller in 1907. Mabel and Robert went on to live at Great Chalfield Manor, a medieval manor house in Wiltshire near to Bath, now managed by the National Trust.

Christian Dior (1905-1957) is one of the most famous fashion designers in history; the work of this master couturier is represented in ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ in an original New Look suit from 1947, worn by British ballerina Margot Fonteyn, as well as a cream silk shantung halter-neck dress from the mid-1950s.  

The finale of ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ is a selection of the most recent choices in the Fashion Museum’s noted Dress of the Year collection, commencing with the Dress of the Year 2011, a magnificent dress in ivory silk tulle embroidered with tiny silver bullion eagle motifs by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. 

Each year the Fashion Museum invites a fashion expert to select a ‘Dress of the Year’ that epitomises – for them – the year in fashion, and the chosen ensemble becomes part of the museum collection. ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ ends with the Dress of the Year 2015, two outfits by visionary British menswear designer Craig Green, giving an up-to-the-minute, contemporary take on historical fashion.

Visitors to ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ can engage with 10 ‘shoe moments’ throughout history – from Georgian silk shoes to Air Jordan trainers – plus a children’s trail showcasing 10 fashion looks for kids, from the 1700s to the 2000s.

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Exquisite accessories

The exhibition includes four collections of exquisite accessories to dress – gloves, fans and jewellery – amassed variously by an artist, an expert collector, and passionate enthusiasts, all of whom have directly or indirectly gifted or loaned their collections to the Fashion Museum. This includes, from the 1600s, a collection of historic gloves collected by artist Robert Spence now owned by the Glove Collection Trust and loaned to the Fashion Museum through the generosity and support of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, one of the City of London’s ancient livery companies.

Find out more on Twitter – you can follow @Fashion_Museum or use the #HFx100 hashtag.

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