Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms, Bath
My next stop on my Jane Austen tour was a detour to visit the Fashion Museum. The Fashion Museum is AMAZING! They have a collection of popular dresses from the 1680s to modern times.
They also have a display of 17th century gloves which are on loan to the museum. Each glove was a piece of art and no two are exactly alike.
Then they have a historic dress collection set up to show their archives. Each room showcases a different decade of the 19th century showing off not only the dresses, accessories and hats but also the archival storage methods. The audio tour went into more detail about what was popular when and with quotes from popular novels of the day. I really liked this section because my nerdy archivist self loves seeing behind-the-scenes how things are stored. I also loved seeing the dresses and accessories on display. The muslin dresses are to die for gorgeous. So dainty and delicate.
They had Queen Victoria’s mourning dress from the 1880s when she was elderly. She was about as wide as she was tall, poor dear, I can relate. She set the fashion for black dresses.
They have a dress-up area and I tried on a Victorian corset and crinoline. The corset was SO tight. I could hardly breathe. It does give you a cute little waist though. The crinoline was heavy! It was impossible to put the dress on over the crinoline so I removed it and tried the dress on. It was too big and the waist was in the wrong spot to be flattering. They didn't have another dress closer to my size. Like good Queen Victoria, I'm short but not willowy.
The Assembly Rooms are in the same building. These were known as the Upper Rooms in Jane Austen's time. This is where Catherine Morland goes her first night out in Bath and sits around without a partner all evening. The rooms must have looked amazing in candlelight but been very hot and stuffy with everyone crammed into small spaces. I looked at their computer guide to learn more about the Assembly Rooms. The Assembly Rooms were bombed during WWII and have been reconstructed. They’re just as beautiful now as they must have been in Jane Austen's time. Take a look at their website to learn more and do a virtual tour. Imagine you're Catherine Morland searching for a dance partner or Anne Elliot come to a concert in the tea room. It's so easy to do standing there.