Above image: The Fashion Museum. Photography by Bethan Burnett
Bath is a city known for its museums and heritage sites relating to its Roman past and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. However, the Fashion Museum is an underrated gem that many have yet to discover in the area.
Housed in a section of the city’s grand Assembly Rooms, a building dating from the eighteenth century, the Fashion Museum may be small in size, but it displays an incredible journey throughout the history of fashion. The museum was first opened in May 1963, as the Museum of Costume, by Doris Langley Moore who donated her private collection of clothing and costumes to the city of Bath. Since 2007, the museum has been known as the Fashion Museum and currently displays around 165 items.
This incredible collection of costumes is located in the lower floors of the Assembly Rooms and is fully accessible. The museum is primarily comprised of a permanent exhibit ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’. Accompanied by a free audio guide, this exhibit takes through you time, viewing the most iconic styles of outfits from the last 400 years. These include the grand gowns of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, all the way through to the iconic mini-dresses of the 1960s. Not only does this museum contain full costumes, it also displays accessories, such as shoes, fans and jewellery.
During your journey through the history of fashion, there is the opportunity for both children and adults to try on some replica outfits! This is a great way to allow visitors to fully experience the fashions of previous centuries, as they can appreciate how heavy and constricting these outfits were. It really helps to bring the history alive, especially for children.
The Fashion Museum also regularly holds temporary exhibitions, such as its ‘Royal Women’ exhibition which ran in 2018 and displayed the gowns of prominent female members of the royal family, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Queen Mary. Images from this exhibition can be seen below. In addition, the museum also names a ‘Dress of the Year’, which can be viewed during your trip. For 2019, this was the Pink tulle dress designed by Giambattista Valli for H&M and most famously worn by Kendall Jenner at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019.
Due to the current spread of COVID-19, the Fashion Museum is currently closed. However, its online presence has meant that people can still experience this amazing museum from the comfort of their own home wherever they are in the world! On their website, you can take a 3D tour of the museum, to experience the exhibit for yourself, and can also view images of every ‘Dress of the Year’ that has been chosen throughout the museum’s history! Additionally, on social media the museum regularly posts about items in their collection and engages with their following to know what their audience would like to view next.
The Fashion Museum is a small museum with a big impact. Its collection takes you on an interactive journey throughout centuries of fashion and allows you to immerse yourself in the experience. The museum’s online presence has meant that despite the museum currently being closed, its collection can still be experienced by fashion fans from all over the world.
Please note that the Fashion Museum is currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown. Please check on the museum’s website for opening information before attempting to travel to the museum
Entry Price: £8.55 online or £9.50 on the door for adults, and £6.53 online or £7.25 on the door for children
Address: Assembly Rooms, Bennett St, Bath BA1 2QH
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Zoe will graduate in summer 2020 with a BA degree in History from Aberystwyth University, Wales and hopes to go on to study an MA in Heritage Studies. She is passionate about the heritage sector, and museums in particular. As a keen writer, Zoe also runs her own heritage blog at www.zoeatmuseums.blogspot.com