Five centuries of fashion on show at Chatsworth

Deborah Devonshire and Stella Tennant, Chatsworth 2006. Photograph by Mario Testino

This spring Chatsworth will present its most ambitious exhibition to date, exploring the history of fashion and adornment, House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth.

The exhibition will bring to life 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 and dance partner of Fred Astaire.

Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the Mitford sisters; model Stella Tennant and John F Kennedy’s sister ‘Kick’ Kennedy will also be central to the show.

Telling the rich history of both international style and the Devonshire Collection, the exhibition will demonstrate the power of fashion to illuminate these extraordinary characters.

House Style will give an unprecedented insight into the depth of the Devonshire Collection and the lives of renowned style icons from Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire to Stella Tennant.

The exhibition will be woven throughout the grand rooms of the house including the Painted Hall; the Chapel and the State Music Room.

Layering art history, fashion, jewellery, archival material, design and textiles, the exhibition will be organised by theme, including Coronation Dress; The Devonshire House Ball; Bess of Hardwick and the Tudor influence; The Georgiana Effect; Ducal Style; Country Living; The Circle of Life; and Entertaining at Chatsworth.

Sally Ambrose, Chatsworth’s Head of Visitor Services and Marketing, said: “House Style is a landmark exhibition for Chatsworth that has been years in the making. Fashion is interwoven into the fabric of the Cavendish family history, and the house itself has been at the centre of international style for decades.

“This exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to see the story of Chatsworth, through the styles and fashions of the people who have lived and stayed here. House Style will stay true to the history and tradition of Chatsworth, whilst also including modern day concepts and designers, appealing to style aficionados, casual observers and those with an interest in heritage and culture alike.”

Highlights of the exhibition will include personal family collections, including items belonging to the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, such as a Givenchy bolero worn on the Duchess’ wedding day.

These pieces will be displayed alongside livery, uniforms, coronation robes and fancy-dress costumes, demonstrating the varying breadth of fashion and adornment from the Collection throughout the generations.

The show will also include exceptional couture designed by Jean Phillipe Worth and Christian Dior, together with influential contemporary garments from designers such as Gucci, Helmut Lang, Margiela, Vivienne Westwood, Erdem, Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Vetements.

Important artworks will also be on display, including rare costume designs from the 1660s by Inigo Jones, Surveyor to the King’s Works and one of the most notable architects of 17th century England.

Contemporary artist TJ Wilcox will be showing his intimate filmed portrait of Adele Astaire, which contains the only surviving film of the star, found at Chatsworth in 2015.

Hamish Bowles, international editor-at-large at American Vogue, will curate the exhibition, with creative direction and design by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, the duo behind some of the most memorable fashion exhibitions of recent years.

Hamish Bowles said: “To be let loose in the wardrobe rooms, the gold vaults, the muniment room, and the closets, cupboards, and attics of Chatsworth, in search of sartorial treasures has been a dream come true for me.Chatsworth is a real treasure house and the characters of generations of Cavendish family members who have peopled its rooms and gardens and landscapes is revealed as vividly through their choice of clothing and adornments, as through the canvases and lenses of the great artists and photographers who have memorialised them through the centuries.

“In House Style, we hope to bring these compelling and fascinating people and the very different worlds they inhabited to life, through the clothes and the jewels that they wore.”

Alessandro Michele, creative director at Gucci, said: “Chatsworth is unlike anywhere else in the world. A place full of charm, history and rituals. It is a piece of England, of Europe and the contemporary world, all at the same time. You can see history everywhere, yet everything is alive. This exhibition proves how much historical objects are an incredible source of inspiration for creating the present. Thus far the house has been speaking, now House Style gives a voice to the wardrobes of its inhabitants and guests.”

To coincide with the exhibition, Rizzoli will publish House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, with a foreword by the Duke of Devonshire. The book includes  photographs by Mario Testino, Cecil Beaton and many previously unseen pictures from the Devonshire personal photograph albums.

The exhibition runs from March 25 to October 22, and is included in the price of entry to the house. To book, go to http://www.chatsworth.org/book-tickets-and-prices

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