Dressing up in the Fashion Museum – in Bath

My sister came to visit this wet Bank Holiday Monday, so we decided to visit the Museum of Fashion in Bath. You can find it on the north side of Bath, near the Royal Crescent and The Circus, where you can see some of the grandest Georgian houses of the city.

It’s housed in a building that was once the Assembly rooms of Bath where fashionable society gathered in the 1800s to dance, drink tea and socialise and were imortalised in the novels of Jane Austen. There’s the Ballroom which is also used for concerts and weddings, so not always open, the Tea Room and the Octagon and Card rooms, which is now house the café. The chandelier in the Tea room was under restoration when we visited – all the chandeliers were enormous. You don’t need to pay to take a look at these rooms, if they are open, but the Fashion Museum costs £7.

Many of the dresses had royal connections including the two below. To the left you can see an evening gown by Hartnell, the couturier of choice in the 1950s which was worn by the actress Margaret Leighton at a ball given by Queen Elizabeth in 1960 to celebrate the marriage of her sister Princess Margaret. To the right are costumes worn at the coronation of King George IV in 1821 which was a splendid affair.

There were costumes from different eras – these are from the reign of Queen Victoria in the 1860s …

… and evening dresses from down the ages. The pink one was made around 1900 by the French couturier, Worth of Paris for the American heiress, Mary Curzon wife of the Viceroy of India. The gold is from the 1980s, by Bruce Oldfield who made dresses for Princess Diana. Which would you choose? – I’d be happy to wear either.

… and these from the Regency period in the early 1800s when Bath was in its heyday and ladies fashions were modelled on the flowing styles of Ancient Greece and Rome.

If you fancied pretending you were a Victorian lady there were some corsets and crinoline to try on, with intructions on which was the front and back – I noticed that no female passing through, including me, could resist trying them.

Trying on a crinoline at the Fashion Museum in Bath
But I’m not sure I could compete with these bathing beauties from the 50s before lycra had been invented. These ones had a certain retro glamour to them, but I didn’t fancy the heavy knitted woollen ones, which were like something your granny would have knocked up.

Bathing Costumes at the Fashion Museum in Bath
Every Year since 1963 the Museum has asked a leading fashion expert to choose a Dress of the Year to add to the collections – you can see the choices down the years here and play the Dress of the Year game here.

After our visit we had some tea and cakes in the café which anyone can visit – you don’t have to be visiting the museum. The drinks and cakes were reasonably priced compared to many places in Bath and I’d recommend it as a pleasant alternative to the Pump rooms which has become a popular but expensive tourist haunt for afternoon tea or lunch in Bath.

Fashion Museum, Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, BATH, BA1 2QH

Check for the best hotel prices in Bath and book here.

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