House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion

The UK is hosting the biggest fashion exhibition ever. Opening last weekend and sponsored by Gucci, ‘House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion’ is set to be the largest and most anticipated event to be held at the Devonshire’s family home, Chatsworth House. The prestigious list of previous tenants include Bess of Hardwick, one of the most powerful women of the 16th century; the 18th century ‘Empress of Fashion’ Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; and Adele Astaire, the sister and dance partner of Fred Astaire. All will be a pinnacle part of the showrooms displayed.

Organised by Hamish Bowles, fashion journalist and editor of Vogue, USA, the idea to create the exhibition originated when Lady Laura Burlington (wife of William Cavendish, the Earl of Burlington, son and heir of the 12th Duke of Devonshire and current resident of the home) was rummaging through the Chatsworth archives, searching for a Christening gown for her son and stumbled upon a huge collection of clothes and textiles that had amassed over the centuries. Lady Burlington commented, “It is so exciting to see the designs become a reality for this complex and layered exhibition. House Style has developed over the last six years to encompass far more than we originally envisaged when we first started delving into the Chatsworth archive. In some cases, clothes that haven't seen each other since the 19th century are being reunited. I hope visitors will appreciate the scale and ambition of the exhibition, and enjoy exploring the stories that this clothing and memorabilia reveal about the Cavendish family.”

The exhibition has been six years in the making and is showcasing the captivating lives of all its previous tenants, including all the names mentioned above plus the likes of Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the Mitford sisters; model Stella Tennant and John F Kennedy’s sister Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy. The clothing on show includes garments dating back 500 years; such as wedding gowns, couture pieces, coronation robes and 19th century fancy dresses. The grand rooms of the house, including the Painted Hall; the Chapel and the State Music Room are also presenting family letters, photographs, examples of textiles and design as well as the famous collection of bug and insect jewellery. The most intriguing collection in my personal opinion, however, is the six dresses from the house's legendary ‘the party of the century’, which have been reunited for the first time since they were worn to the Devonshire House Ball in 1897. Gucci’s sponsorship will see two dresses, designed by creative director Alessandro Michele, feature at the exhibition too. Inspired by the Merian books in the Devonshire Collection, The Duchess’s dress can be found in the State Closet while Lady Burlington’s heavily beaded dress is on show in the State Music room.

As you can see, the exhibition is entwining art, history, fashion, jewellery, design and textiles. The rooms are organised by theme including Coronation Dress; The Devonshire House Ball; Bess of Hardwick and the Tudor influence; The Georgiana Effect; Ducal Style; Country Living; The Circle of Life; and Entertaining at Chatsworth. The exhibition will be running until October 22nd so make sure you give yourself a day to see this stunning and exclusive collection.

Three more fashion events you must see this year!

Disobedient Bodies at the Hepworth Wakefield
Exploring human form in fashion, art and design, J.W.Anderson uses sculptures alongside fashion pieces and objects of craft to see how the human form has been reimaged by artists and designers across the 20th and 21st century. The sculptures include those by Lousie Bourgeois, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and will also feature a new collection of photographs by Jamie Hawkesworth; capturing 123 Yorkshire school children wearing clothing made by a variety of designers, including Issy Miyake.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A
Cristóbal Balenciaga’s legacy, dubbed by Christian Dior to be the ‘master of us all’, will be showcased at the V and A in May. Presenting over 100 pieces crafted by the designer, the exhibition will be a celebration of the Spaniards 100th anniversary since he opened his first fashion house. The exhibition also features sketches, photographs, films and fabric samples plus looks in detail at the craftsmanship and techniques that earned him the reputation as one of the most groundbreaking designers of the 20th century.

The World Of Anna Sui at the Fashion and Textile Museum
The history itself behind this exhibition makes it an unmissable event; The World Of Anna Sui held at the Fashion and Textile Museum marks the first time an American fashion designer has been the focal point of a retrospective in the UK. The exhibition, including more than 100 of Sui’s notorious goth, pink and bohemian pieces, will examine her many deign methods and collaborations including those with Zandra Rhodes, Barbara Hulanicki, Naomi Campbell and Pat McGrath.