Last weekend we headed to Killerton House in search of an entertaining day out and a bit of vintage fashion history. The National Trust property was exhibiting The Nature of Fashion, a showcase of luxurious antique clothes from its collections.
The focus was on the development natural fibres including silk, wool, cotton and linen from the eighteenth – mid nineteenth century.
The silk section showcased the glamour a 1924 silk velvet flapper dress covered with beads and motifs from Ancient Egypt, the dress was inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus in 1923.
There was also a silk Jean Patou dress from the 1960s and a taffeta wedding dress in a jewel like shade of blue from 1861.
The exhibition had a strong focus on historical making processes from the south west, it also showcased the antique garments alongside work from current fashion students.
It’s enthralling to think that the sight, touch and smell of these antique garments have inspired future makers. In a world where we are often so far removed from the making process it is interesting to consider the intricate items that were once made on our doorstep.
One wall panel talked about the mythology of the origins of silk and why the first yarn was spun. As a huge fan of myth and storytelling that is something that i will definitely look into for a future post!
The curator did a wonderful job of bringing the garments to life, film footage of historical dress was running alongside similar items from the collections. Interestingly visitors could also handle raw materials such as unspun fleece and silk coccuns before walking around the exhibition.
This was our first visit to Killerton House, a modest property with a reputation for it’s expansive dress collection. It was inspiring to see vintage displayed in a way that had visitors in awe, chatting about quality garments.
Many people were sharing memories of their mothers and grandmothers wearing things similar to the graphic print day dress below. As someone who is surrounded by beautifully constructed vintage garments, I’d say that a day out in a 1960s dress is definitely something that everybody should experience!
The pattern on one particular dress inspired the print on a National Trust scarf. It’s fabulous that the energy from vintage dresses are continuing to inform contemporary garments.
The eighteenth century house has a huge garden, a great coffee shop and a new exhibition opening soon. It’s clear to see that there’s plenty to go back for. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton/ for more information or follow Killerton on Twitter @ntkillerton