A new exhibition showcasing Glasgow Museums’ stunning 19th century European Costume collection is set to open at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. A Century of Style: Costume and Colour 1800-1899 will run from Friday 25 September 2015 until 14 February 2016.
This beautiful show, arranged thematically by colour, brings together highlights form the city’s extensive collection, displaying rarely seen and meticulously conserved examples of womenswear, menswear and children’s clothing.
Delicate embroidered cottons, elaborate woven silks, beautiful wedding dresses and opulent evening gowns, created by leading Glaswegian dressmakers sit alongside exquisite beaded couture dresses designed by their international contemporaries. Supporting the collection is a striking selection of accessorises including delicate jewellery, embellished shoes, original draping Kashmir shawls, purses and parasols.
The accompanying interpretation explores how, where and in some cases for whom the clothes were made, together with the many elements which influenced the style, material and colour that dominated at different times throughout the century. It reflects the city’s important role as a leading textile manufacturer and Glasgow’s dominance as a major retail centre.
While showing Glasgow Museums exquisite collection in all its sumptuous glory, the exhibition also researches behind the scenes of key inventions such as the sewing machine, aniline dyes and paper patterns. Together these discoveries helped revolutionise the fashion industry, leading to the mass production of clothing and in time the high-street department stores which came to characterise much of the 20th century.
Scottish New Designer of the Year, Judy R Clark, who Vogue tipped as ‘one to watch’ was given a preview of the exhibition by curator Rebecca Quinton ahead of its public opening. Judy R Clark said: “Nineteenth century European costume has always been a time of great inspiration to me and is something I love to gaze at. It’s a real treat preview such an ornate showcase of beautifully tailored garments at the iconic Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.
“The exhibition has been beautifully put together and I think the public will really enjoy the journey from exploring the exquisite couture collections to discovering how paper patterns and sewing machines helped revolutionize the industry; it’s a fascinating story.”
Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor Archie Graham, said: “During the 19th century, Glasgow played a huge part in both the textile and retail industries and we are delighted to welcome the fantastic exhibition to Kelvingrove. As well as allowing visitors to Kelvingrove to marvel at the magnificent outfits on display, this exhibition will significantly add to our knowledge and understanding of the collection.
“Our experience shows that clothing and costume shows are very popular. Many Glaswegians will remember Dancing through Time at Kelvingrove in the early nineties and in more recent years the Kylie exhibition which proved to be one of the most popular exhibitions we’ve ever staged. The treasures on display at this new show will shine a fascinating new light on our shared history.”
Rebecca Quinton, Glasgow Museums’ curator of European Costume and Textiles, added: “Glasgow Museums collection originally developed thanks to the generosity of a great many donors and it now comprises around 15,000 objects.
“This exhibition is the culmination of more than 3 years work. The project has enabled a small team of specialists to painstakingly research and conserve over 40 outfits. A Century of Style showcases the cream of the city’s amazing collection in all its splendour and I hope it will spark an interest in costume and clothing among the many people we look forward to welcoming to Kelvingrove over the coming months.”
The exhibition focuses on womenswear, a real strength of Glasgow Museums Collection. It is thematically arranged by colour, looking at the use of colours within a political, economic, social and technological context. Beginning with Dreich it starts with the premise that many people’s impression of clothing during the 1800s was brown or grey, possibly because of the black and white photography of the day. It then beings to look at which colours were available via techniques used for creating colourful patterned fabric and different fashions and fabrics to suit different incomes.
The group of red costumes encourage visitors to consider red as a primarily male colour in the early 1800s, as illustrated by the inclusion of a men’s hunting coat in scarlet wool broadcloth, about 1841-43, worn by George Houston of Johnstone Castle. Pink, a shade of red, which is not yet exclusively associated with feminitiy is represented by a girl’s dress in pink wool, about 1857.
Visitors continue to move through a rainbow of colours exploring jewellery fashion and imitation gold under yellow and the type of material chosen to make a costume depending on its use, under green. A gorgeous going-away dress made by London court-dressmaker Madame Hayward and worn by Elizabeth Holms-Kerr, the daughter of wealthy Glaswegian stockbrocker, 1899, explains the popularity of blue as a feminine colour due to its connotations of fidelity.
Miss Armour’s wedding dress made for Jessie Morrison Inglis, 1878 (the mother of John Logie Baird) demonstrates the growing tradition of wearing white to be married after it was worn by Queen Victoria. While the inclusion of a women’s bodice with mauveine trims, about 1858-60, illustrates the discovery of the world’s first synthetic dye, which was coloured purple, meaning choice of colour was no longer dependent on budget.
A young English man, Charles Frederick Worth, is credited as one of the first to design and make dresses for sale alongside the fabric people traditionally purchased to have made into a garment. When Worth reopened his business in Paris in 1871 he became the first true couturier, showing his own label designs each season for clients to select from. A stunning black French jet beaded dress from one of his Parisian contemporaries, Merlot Larchevêque, is included to represent the apex of French couture. Leading Glasgow dressmakers and department stores quickly picked up on Parisian styles, including Simpson, Hunter and Young who created a stunning purple velvet dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves in about 1895
A book entitled Introducing European Costume will be published to coincide with the exhibition. The 76 page publication, written by Rebecca Quinton, will focus on 42 key objects and includes stunning new photography. It is part of Glasgow Museums ‘Introducing …’ series and is the first publication to provide an overview of Glasgow Museums’ European Costume Collection.
Glasgow Museums is launching an app for Apple and Android tablets to accompany the exhibition. The free app allows users to make full use of the technology inherent in these devices. Pinch/zooming, of detailed object and archive photography bring the objects to life giving users a real sense of each object’s texture and form allowing users to gain.
The app will enable visitors, both in-gallery and those not able to view the exhibition in person, to fully appreciate the beauty, history and significance of key objects in Glasgow Museums costume and clothing collection, and find out more about the stories behind key objects.
A Century of Style: Costume and Colour 1800-1899 opens on 25 September 2015 and runs until 14 February 2016. Tickets cost £5 per adult and £3 per concession. For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com