Fashion Museum: A History of Fashion in 100 Objects – Part Two

I had the pleasure of visiting Bath Fashion Museum recently. In this second post I will once again showcase their ‘treasures’. In ‘Part One’ I focused on items that the museum displayed from before the nineteenth century in ‘Part Two’ I will take you on a fashion journey from the end of the eighteenth century through the nineteenth century.

You can read my earlier post on the special exhibition at the Fashion Museum, Royal Women: Public Life, Personal Style here.

You can read Fashion Museum: A History of Fashion in 100 Objects – Part One here.

Once again, the reflection is not my friend, but thankfully the volume of photographs that I take always ensures that the odd good shot sneaks through.


The pair of stays above is from the 1780s. Stays (or corsets) were worn by women of all social classes over a linen shift. This is the rear view of the garment demonstrating the laces that were used to tighten the corset. Whalebone was often used to stifften stays and the front would be reinforced commonly by wood or occasionally ivory or bone, known as a busk.

The über-fashionable man’s suit from the 1780s (left) is comprised of a cream silk-satin embroidered coat, waistcoat and breeches was possibly influenced by the flamboyant macaronis from a decade earlier. The man’s frock coat from the 1790s (centre) has turn-down collar and lapels. Originally coats of this sort were worn by working men and the fashion for such coats was frowned upon when fashionable men adopted the style for themselves. To the right is a pair of trousers that were a new fashion for the early 1800s, the example above is from the 1820s. The change from breeches to trousers was gradual but by 1825 trousers were regular daywear for men.

The dress on the front right of the first picture is a simple muslin gown dating from around 1800. Muslin is a lightweight cotton fabric that originated in India. The neo-classical gown on the rear right of the first two pictures is also from around 1800. The fashion for Neo-classicism around the turn of the century was influenced by the archaeological discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii. To the left in the first two images is a two-piece cotton gown with a short bodice in the style of a spencer, a fashionable short jacket worn for warmth. The frock at the rear of the third picture is from 1816, the word frock replaced gown in the early 1800s and this style of frock fastened at the back and was popular in the regency period.


Above is a frock from 1817 made of transparent silk gauze called Madras lace, with silk satin details. Dresses made entirely of lace were very fashionable at this time.

This woven silk wedding dress with lace of embroidered silk net is from the 1840s. White wedding dresses were popular from early in the century and Queen Victoria reinforced the trend when she married in white.

Striped woven wool dress is from the 1840s

This 1860s dress (left) would have been worn in the day. It is comprised of a separate bodice and skirt. Lightweight printed cotton dresses were fashionable in the 1860s. The separate skirts were held out by a cage crinoline which benefitted women and released them from the weight and heat from countless petticoats and underskirts. The dress on the right is a silk day dress from 1865 it is comprised of a separate bodice and skirt and decorated with machine made black lace. The collar is hand made Bucks Point lace.

The dolman, a mixture of cape and coat was worn over the bustle dresses of the 1870


This woven silk evening dress from the 1870s comprised of a bodice, skirt and overskirt. The rear bustle can be seen to the left the the mirror, as can the bustle of the blue striped dress in the rear. Overskirts that were looped up were called polonaises. A low décolletage was fashionable in the evening.

Mary Chamberlain wore this grey silk dress for her portrait with John Millais in 1890
Woven silk corset stiffened with whalebone. Made in Brussels in the 1890s its waist measures 21 1/2 inches


Fashion Museum, Treasures, 2009


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