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For Dedicated Followers of Fashion
Museum of Costume (Bath)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Museum of Costume (Bath)
Advantages: Some real gems - historical dresses and Dress of the Year
Disadvantages: Messy and poorly laid out.
The former Museum of Costume changed its name in July 2007 and became the Fashion Museum. It is located within the Assembly Rooms in Bennett Street, not far from the Royal Crescent. Standard adult admission is £7.00 and there are discounts available for seniors, students and children. Group and Family tickets can also be purchased and you can buy a saver ticket for £15 that includes the Roman Baths (which is what we did), giving a saving of £3.50. The price includes an audio guide.
After you have arrived and purchased tickets, if they are open you can have a look at the Assembly Rooms where Bath society came to dance, take tea and gamble three nights a week. Sometimes they are closed for functions however. The Fashion Museum is downstairs (there is a lift) and you pick up your audio guide at the top of the stairs. The audio guides, for me, were upside down! The strap seemed to be at the wrong end, so if you put them around your neck (as you can normally) you would end up strangling yourself when you tried to hold it to your ear. Not ideal, and an odd attention to detail to miss. My other frustration with the audio guide is that it didn't cover every section, there were parts that were missed out - usually ones I really wanted to know more about!
It has been a tradition of the museum since 1963 that a Dress of the Year is chosen. 2009's winner was by Antonio Beradi and is currently on display as you enter the museum along with a selection of men's and women's outfits that have won in past years including Kate Moss's dress for Top Shop and some key designers such as Karl Lagerfield, Alexander McQueen and Mary Quant. Whilst we were there a new exhibition had just opened, 'Photographing Fashion'. However I only really discovered this since checking the website on my return home - when we were there, we just walked past some nondescript black and white photos. Not much was made of this at all, and I would like this to have been highlighted more if it was as significant as they claim.
There is an interesting section on corsetry and under-garments in one cabinet. You have the option to try a corset and a crinoline on also. Other interactive parts include a children's dressing up corner. I did try a corset on (they have straps for speed so you don't have to spend hours getting your friend to lace you up) and a crinoline - I don't think the crinolines would be a hit on public transport, but corsets do wonders for your posture as long as you don't mind not breathing. It was certainly an interesting way to demonstrate that period in fashion. There was also a cabinet featuring gloves from around the 17th Century - they were decorative gloves that would have been worn only for ceremonial or special occasions, which is the only way they survived this long and looking this well. I can't say I was particularly interested in this section. There was also a small collection of swimwear.
One of my favourite parts is the Dresses from History section which features a variety of styles of dresses from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods. The lighting was quite subdued in this section to protect the delicate fabrics, in fact in one section the lighting was practically completely out and it was difficult to see. In each case the background fitted in with the era and there were decorative articles - vases, chairs and other items setting the scene. There was also a time-line on the cases stating historical events that were occurring at the time the dress would have been worn - such as famous books published, important pieces of music composed and various world events. The definite highlight for me was an actual dress worn by Queen Victoria - an all black, long sleeved dress.
Outside this section there is a display case with day-wear and another with evening-wear (both genders) but it seemed very messy. The cases were opposite each other so there wasn't much room between them, they didn't seem to be laid out in any particular order (i.e. chronological) and the audio tour seemed to discuss random selections from the middle or the opposite end so it took you a while to actually find the garment you are supposed to be looking at. This section was full of bemused people with audio guides milling about and not being a hundred percent sure what they were looking at. I think the idea was to demonstrate the difference between day and evening wear, and it certainly did, but in a most indirect and confusing way. This was followed by four influential British designers from the 1970s and 80s, none of whom I'd actually heard of. Maybe I'm a tad to young (I doubt it), but if that's the case that would include the vast majority of visitors who would come here. I was disappointed again, its not like there weren't plenty of influential British fashion designers over this period. Saying that the displays looked interesting, reminiscent of the period, and the audio guide was informative.
I remember visiting this museum as a teenager and loving it, but I felt a bit disappointed by my return visit. The museum seemed a bit of a mess - badly laid out as far as a cohesive visit was concerned, you wandered into random rooms and I was concerned I may have missed something. It seemed very bitty and confusing. As mentioned before, the audio guides, whilst informative when available, didn't cover every section of the museum. All in all we were there only 45 minutes and I felt a bit let down. I would like to have seen more of the dresses from history coming forward towards the present day as I think that section was very well thought out. Recommended hesitantly.
Summary: A potentially interesting museum that has room for improvement.
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