Still going strong after 50 years, the Bath Fashion Museum was founded as the Museum of Costume by Doris Langley Moore, a writer, costume designer and collector of historic dress. The museum was moved to its current home in the Assembly Rooms in 1963 and has been showcasing the very best in both historic and up-to-date fashion ever since. It was even listed as one of CNN’s top 10 fashion museums in the world – well done them!
It is fitting that the museum should celebrate this significant milestone with an exhibition of dresses; that most changeable and fashion-forward of apparel, dresses are perhaps more representative of their time than any other type of clothing – from the ankle-length flapper styles of the 1920s to the fun and flirty super-short minis of the 1960s, an era is immediately identifiable by its hemlines.
Rather than being arranged chronologically, dresses from different periods are displayed together as a nice reminder of the way the fashion world constantly references, re-imagines and reinvigorates past trends. The biggest names in couture are all here, including Dior, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Erdem, alongside some stunning garments from as early as the 1600s.
Here is a sneak peek at a few of the pieces on show:
Also on display is the Dress of the Year 2012 (above), chosen by Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Editor of The Financial Times. An embroidered and appliquéd silk cut-off ballgown with black slim trousers from the House of Dior in Paris, this haute couture piece was put together by Raf Simons, who took the helm at the iconic design house last year.
Raf used a ballgown pattern from the Dior archives and updated it for the fast-paced life of a modern woman by shortening the length and adding some simple trousers. The amount of work put into this is astonishing – all of the tiny pearls, petals and gemstones were painstakingly sewn by hand. Alongside it are previous Dress of the Year winners, including a gorgeous white gown by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen (thought to be part of the decoy collection for Kate’s wedding dress!) and a fab star-print Chanel number.
This wonderful museum is always a delight and Bath residents are very lucky to have it on their doorstep. The 50 Fabulous Frocks exhibition runs until the end of this year. I urge all fashionistas, home-sewers and fashion students to take a look – I guarantee you’ll feel inspired (I know I did!).