Sunday, 15 March 2015

Georgians at the Fashion Museum

It's March, which means I've been down to Somerset for the ever-fabulous Majma dance festival. It's been a looong time since I last danced (Majma 2014, to be precise), so I wasn't sure how this would go, but I had a great time.

As usual, while I was in that part of the world, I went to Bath and visited the Fashion Museum. The current (until 3 January 2016) main exhibition is Georgians – Dress for Polite Society, and contains over 30 examples of dress from the period 1714 - 1830.

Warning - what follows next is a picture-heavy post! Unfortunately there were some very distinctive images on the outer wall of the room, so some of the pictures include strange reflections on the glass cases. I did my best to take photographs at angles which kept this to a minimum, but some were unavoidable.

The exhibition opens with this 1750 open robe and matching petticoat.

Robe and petticoat of yellow woven brocaded silk

Display case

Silk damask garments, 1730s to 1760s

Red woven silk damask gown, about 1750, displayed with stomacher

The yellow silk damask of this dress was woven in the 1740s, but the style is from 20 years later. At more than 10 shillings a yard the fabric was expensive, so it made sense to remodel the gown as fashions changed. From the distinctive mark above the hem, it looks as though it was also lengthened.

1760s gown with stomacher

Whereas these dresses were made from plain damask fabrics, the next set were patterned, either with embroidery or a woven pattern.

Set of three gowns, all altered at some time

The dress closest to the camera is made from embroidered linen, and dates from the 1730s. It was designed to be worn over panniers, but has been altered to be a negligée or nightgown.

Nightgown, and two open robes

The silk of this distinctive gown was woven in the 1740s, but the style is from the 1780s. The dark colour is unusual, and suggests a link with Germany, as most fabrics in Britain at the time had a cream-coloured background.

Black woven brocaded floral silk robe - front view

. . .  and back view

Most of the men's clothing on display up to this point had been in plain fabric. But then came this.

Embroidered silk waistcoat, about 1747

This case ended with a sack-back dress in a brocaded silk with metal threads.

Dress, about 1750

Close-up showing the metal thread and coloured silks

The next case contained several examples of mantuas.

Court mantuas, 1760s

And also some more sack-back gowns. (Note: the lighting seemed to get worse at this point, so it was difficult to get reasonable pictures.)

Open robe, about 1760, and sack-back gowns and petticoats, 1770s

Front view of the pink striped woven silk open robe

Close-up of the bodice, showing the trim

Cream printed cotton gown, 1790s

I couldn't find any printed information about these two dresses, but they were allegedly worn by sisters at a ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo (1815).

Almost identical dresses

Two gowns, about 1825

Purple woven silk gauze gown, about 1825, hem detail

The main part of the museum's costume collection starts from 1800, so pretty much carries on from where the Georgians exhibition finishes, but that is the subject for a separate post.

1800 display case


  1. What lovely gowns. What fun to be able to see so many at once!

    1. Yes, it was a bit of a child-in-a-sweet-shop experience!