House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth opens up for the summer months
March 24, 2017: The most lavish and ambitious exhibition to be staged at Chatsworth opens this weekend (March 25) starring a stellar roll call of iconic women connected with Chatsworth throughout the centuries.
The grand rooms of the house are dressed with couture designer dresses; tiaras and headdresses; christening and wedding gowns; coronation robes and 19th century fancy dress; livery and uniforms along with a wealth of ephemera. The effect is to reveal the cast of characters that have graced the rooms of Chatsworth, from 18th century fashion innovator Duchess Georgiana and Duchess Deborah, one of the famous Mitford sisters, through to Adele Astaire, sister and dance partner of Fred, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, sister of JFK and former model Stella Tennant.
The inception of House Style came about when Lady 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 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 America 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.
Six years in the making, House Style features a timeline spanning the length of the Chapel Corridor boasting more than 100 items alone from personal letters; a gold brooch belonging to Duchess Georgiana; gloves and silk evening bags to miniatures, photos and the 11th Duke’s crocodile shoes. Among the many highlights along the visitor route is the Painted Hall’s juxtaposition of a Coronation Gown from 1937 with the wedding dress of Stella Tennant, granddaughter of Duchess Deborah.
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. Every season, the 8th Duke of Devonshire and his wife Duchess Louise hosted a number of parties. For Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, they staged the costume ball of the century. The London photographic firm of Lafayette was invited by the Duke of Devonshire to set up a tent in the garden behind the house to photograph the guests in costume during the ball, and many of these wonderful photographs are on display in House Style.
The Derbyshire jewellers C W Sellors has recreated the headdress worn by Duchess Louise based on one of these photographs, which now completes the display of her costume. Huntsman, the Savile Row bespoke tailors, has recreated a hunting ensemble originally made for Adele for the exhibition based on the original order found in their archives.
The exhibition culminates in the Great Dining Room with an impossibly glamorous costume finale evoking the end of the evening with more than 30 guests beautifully attired in a host of designer names from Chanel, Balmain and Vivienne Westwood to Dior, Tom Ford and Erdem.
Other sponsors and partners for House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth include Gucci, Investec, Sotheby’s and Wedgwood.
To coincide with the exhibition, Rizzoli has published House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, with a foreword by the Duke of Devonshire; an introduction by the Countess of Burlington; edited by Hamish Bowles. Available from the Stables and Orangery shops at Chatsworth.
The exhibition runs from 25 March to 22 October 2017, and is included in the price of entry to the house. For details and bookings, visit the Chatsworth website.