Earlier this year in in March, Chatsworth launched its most ambitious exhibition to date – exploring the history of fashion and adornment: House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion.
The Cavendish family who has resided at Chatsworth since 1549 is also the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, with the 5th Duke being a huge influence on Buxton’s development in the 18th & 19th century – so were really excited to see this exhibition announced and decided to visit a couple of weeks ago.
The exhibition brings to life the captivating individuals from the Cavendish family, including 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 of Fred Astaire. Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the Mitford sisters; model Stella Tennant and John F Kennedy’s sister ‘Kick’ Kennedy are also central to the show. Telling the rich history of both international style and the Devonshire Collection, the exhibition demonstrates the power of fashion to illuminate these extraordinary characters.
The entire exhibition is both visually stunning and superbly displayed with much thought going into how the public can really make the most of it and see as much detail as possible. It’s as if the exhibition belongs to the house itself and the finer details such as labelling (lovely hand written labels and easy to read) of all the items and objects means nothing looks out of place in this 16th century stately home.
The backdrop of the interior of Chatsworth House is without doubt magnificent. The Painted Hall lends itself superbly to the exhibition and it’s hard not to gasp when you enter the hall, regardless of how many times you’ve visited. We particularly loved the Alexander McQueen black dress (1993) very effectively displayed on a stand of mirrors. The outfit worn by the wife of the Duke of Devonshire as Mistress of the Robes for the coronation of the HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 is stunningly displayed.
A huge amount of artifacts were on display in a long hall and there were as letters, diaries, invitations to state functions, keep sakes and more – this was fascinating to look through but we particularly liked the 6th Duke of Devonshire’s travel diary.
Sound and lighting used in the exhibition is particularly effective and bought to life both the costumes and the stories behind them. It was also good to see costumes from all era’s – so there should be something to suit all tastes. We did rather like the glittery Union Jack trouser suit worn by Stella Tenant at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.
The exhibition is superb value for money being included in standard entry price into the house (with various ticket options if you wish to visit the garden, farmyard & playground or enjoy a traditional Afternoon Tea).
The gardens are well worth visiting if you have time because you can enjoy views of the house outside and the gardens which always feel like an adventure as you wind your way round the maze, pretty rockeries, the huge fountain and lake, modern art installations and more. The Masterplan, which began in 2005 costing £32.7 million means the house has been completely cleaned and gold guilt replaced so it really does look even more spectacular now. Let us know if you visited the exhibition, we’d love to hear from you!
For more information and online ticket bookings, go to: www.chatsworth.org