Recently I had the good fortune to attend a curator talk at Barwon Park mansion, of beautiful ’20s and ’30s fashions from the National Trust’s collection.
I’m a great fan of their collection and we don’t get to see it on display often enough. The success of the recent Phrynne Fisher costume exhibitions may be the spur for this one, in which case I’m very thankful.
The exhibition is running until the 17th April so if you can, I encourage you to make the trip. This was my first experience of Barwon Park and it reminded me very much of happy childhood visits to see historical houses in the country. It’s in an isolated situation, surrounded by empty land so you can easily feel how it would have been to live here back in the day. Very peaceful and quiet.
The mansion itself is still quite original and has been furnished with similar furnishings to those that would have been here in the 19th century. I loved the small visitor room up a short and steep staircase, it would have felt quite cosy there on winter nights.
The exhibition itself is mostly in semi-darkness; aged textiles require low light to avoid damage and the “night life” theme lent itself quite well to this, creating mood and atmosphere and hopefully reducing the inevitable complaints from people who don’t understand the needs. Each room was created in a particular mood with suitable garments. There were some nice, creative backgrounds too, like the top-hatted silhouettes in one room. My favourites were the ’30s florals (I’m so predictable).
There was a good cross section of styles and fabrics, with all of my favourites represented, lots for the novice and plenty for those of us who know the period quite well. I particularly liked the hands on element of being able try tambour beading for yourself.
I did field one query from two young ladies who were confused about the lack of sexiness and plunging necklines, and wanted to know “where the glamorous dresses were?” It’s a very misunderstood era for fashion and frequently misrepresented in film and TV so hopefully this event will go some way to rectifying that, even if those particular ladies left disappointed.
More details about the exhibition can be found here on the National Trust’s site.
Rumour has it that the exhibition – with some alterations – will be coming to Ripponlea later this year.