A glimpse at Chatsworth House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion
Fashion blogger Kate gets a taste of new fashion exhibition, Chatsworth House Style, opening on March 25.
Six years in the making, Chatsworth House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion reveals the cast of characters to grace the rooms of Chatsworth, and tells the story of this much loved house and its inhabitants over 500 years. But this is no ordinary history lesson; get ready to see the Cavendish family’s fascinating history from a different angle – through their incredible collection of fashion and costume.
There are secrets and stories waiting to be told in a vast array of exquisite pieces worn and owned by Chatsworth’s society beauties and their smart suitors. A tender collection of family wedding gowns speaks to tradition and femininity and comes full circle with a display of christening gowns worn by each addition to the family.
The unbreakable family thread at the heart of this exhibition is actually the main reason behind its conception. Lady Laura Burlington, wife of William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington, was searching the Chatsworth textiles archive for a christening gown for her son, James.
On seeing the sheer number of boxes in the store, all filled with clothing and textiles amassed over the centuries, she was keen to know more, and asked the Duke and Duchess if she could invite an expert to take a look. The expert turned out to be Hamish Bowles, Editor-at-Large of American Vogue, who visited a number of times over the years until it became apparent that the archive was of such value and scale that it needed to be shared with visitors.
Hamish curated the exhibition with creative direction and design by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, a duo behind some of the most memorable fashion exhibitions of recent years.
Lady Laura Burlington with a Gucci dress designed by Alessandro Michele
Lord Burlington’s christening 1969
Family wedding gowns
There was so much to share that the collection comprises 100 items, many of which hold a new and more personal lens up to some people you might know a little about. Eighteenth century fashion innovator Duchess Georgiana was brought to life by Keira Knightly in 2008 film The Duchess; in House Style, you’ll see on display for the first time some of the items Georgiana treasured.
Painting of Duchess Georgiana, Thomas Gainsborough 1785-1787
Fashion in the family
You can also step inside the wardrobe of powerful and innovative women like Duchess Deborah, one of the Mitford sisters, and get to know Adele Astaire, sister and dance partner of Fred. Then there’s Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, sister of JFK and wife of William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, and supermodel Stella Tennant. Some of the stunning pieces modelled by Stella are on loan to the exhibition, proving that fashion runs through this family’s veins.
Stella Tennant with her grandmother the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth House, British Vogue, 2006 © Mario Testino
Alexander McQueen dress worn and loaned by Stella Tennant, model and the Duke’s niece
Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire, Copyright Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth
Lord Charles Cavendish and Adele Astaire on their wedding day, 1932. Copyright Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth
Assorted shirts owned by Deborah Devonshire
Wool jumpers made by Lords, commissioned by the 11th Duke of Devonshire
Six dresses from ‘the party of the century’ have also been reunited for the first time since they were worn to the Devonshire House Ball in 1897. The exhibition reveals exactly why house parties were quite such memorable events, but this peek at some of the costumes reveals they were rather impressive.
Lady Wolverton as ‘Britannia’ at the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Ball at Devonshire House (1897)
Duchess Louise’s Worth dress from the Devonshire House Ball
Mistress of the Robes gown worn by Deborah Devonshire for Elizabeth II Coronation
The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in the Great Dining Room
Chatsworth House Style: The details
The exhibition runs from 25 March to 22 October 2017, and is included in the price of entry to the house. For full details of ticket types and to book, please visit: www.chatsworth.org/book-tickets
Flash photography is welcome throughout the visitor route (no tripods, lights, etc.). Try on a whole host of hats and headwear and share your photos with #hatsworth.
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