On a recent visit to Bath (in southern England) I couldn’t resist having a look in the Bath Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms, and it was definitely worth it. The stunning collection featured pieces from the early 1700s to the modern-day. And with the handheld audio guides given to you before you enter the museum, you have the opportunity to learn about every piece in the museum, giving you an insight into fashion of the past and present day. It was fascinating to see how fashion has progressed over these three centuries as society’s beauty standards have changed, in particular the silhouette of the dresses. Here are a few of my favourite pieces from the museums, starting from the 1700s…
Firstly, apologies for the poor quality photos, but the lighting in the museum was rather dark. This beautiful red patterned dress is one of the oldest pieces in the museum. The structured bodice and the simple square neckline contrasts with the large flamboyant skirt, creating a very strong silhouette. I love the rich red colour of this dress, and the cream-beige patterns add interest, making this an incredibly eye-catching piece. The shape of the dress would create rather an unnatural looking figure, however strong shapes and patterns were classes as aesthetically pleasing during this era.
Next is this white floral dress from the early 1800s. Although the skirt is still equally eye-catching, this piece is a little softer, and perhaps more feminine. The white and pastel flowers paired with the soft bodice create a more natural figure, but also make this dress more subdued. The neckline is also incredibly different, with it reaching the base of the neck, which makes this dress less revealing than the last, suggesting that a less outgoing look was now the fashion ideal. The soft floral design on this dress is stunning, making it a symbol of traditional femininity, and the enormous skirt is truly incredible in comparison to modern-day dresses.
The museum also had a collection of shoes from the 1700s and 1800s, such as these harlequin like boots. Although the shoes are beautiful, its shocking to see how tiny they are compared to today’s shoes. Many of the shoes had only a very low heel, if any heel at all, which is hardly suprising as it was not until the 1900s that the high heel became popular.
Now this piece from the late 1800s is absolutely stunning. The elaborate ruffles and beading make it more like a piece of art rather than simply a dress. The silhouette has changed dramatically now, with a tiny waist and exagerrated behind, this shows the beginning of how ‘skinny’ became to be the ideal figure. This dress is also reasonably revealing compared to the past dresses, with the neck and arms fully exposed. Although this dress must be incredibly uncomfortable, no one can deny that it is absolutely beautiful and very eyecatching.
Moving onto the early 1900s, this creamy yellow knee length dress probably makes you think of The Great Gatsby. This era marked a new found freedom for women’s fashion, with more revealing outfits and simple, comfortable silhouettes. I love the delicated beaded patterns on the dress which add a touch of glamour, and many still love this retro style today.
Finally there are pieces from the late 1900s and 2000s. Bold colours and statement jewellry are commonly seen in the 70s and 80s, such as this yellow dress with the bold geometric pink necklace, which makes it like a more modern, simplistic version of the previous dress. And I absolutely adore the sparkly zig-zag patterned jumpsuit. Its simple silhouette would make it comfortable and flattering, but the pattern adds interest and the sequins make it ideal for the disco era.
I hope you enjoyed reading and seeing a few pieces from the fashion museum. I would definitely recommend a visit there, its perfect for fashion and history lovers, not to mention being located in such a beautiful city.