A History of Fashion in 100 Objects

19 Mar 2016 – 1 Jan 2017

Event times

10.30am - 5pm

Cost of entry

Free to Bath and North East Somerset residents with a discovery card

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The Fashion Museum

Bath, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Bath Spa train station
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Celebrating fashion throughout history, from the 1500s to the present day, this headline exhibit will showcase 100 star objects drawn from the Fashion Museum’s world-class collection.


The Fashion Museum, Bath, will unveil a major new exhibition called ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ on March 19, 2016. Celebrating fashion throughout history, from the 1500s to the present day, this headline exhibit will showcase 100 star objects drawn from the Fashion Museum’s world-class collection.

The exhibition, which will run until January 1, 2018, will feature 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 will present iconic and influential garments and accessories spanning five centuries of innovative fashion design.

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 (Object 2) – 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 visitors to the exhibition will also be able to see another embroidered jacket (Object 75), 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 (Object 53) worn by Mary Chamberlain, an American by birth and wife of British politician Joseph Chamberlain.

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 (Object 61) 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 (Objects 74) from 1947, worn by British ballerina Margot Fonteyn, as well as a cream silk shantung halter-neck dress (Object 77) 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 (Object 96) by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. 


The exhibition will also include 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.


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