Even without the stunning collection of costumes the setting is well worth a visit. The Assembly Rooms were opened in 1771. Known as the New or Upper Rooms, they were designed by John Wood the Younger. The rooms were purpose-built for an 18th century form of entertainment called an 'assembly'. A large number of guests met together to dance, drink tea, play cards and listen to music - or just walk about. There are four rooms: the Ball Room, the Tea Room, the Octagon Room and a Card Room. The Ball Room is the largest 18th century room in Bath. Dancing was very popular and balls were held at least twice a week, attracting 800 to 1,200 guests at a time. The high ceiling provided good ventilation on crowded ball nights and windows set at a high level prevented outsiders from looking in. THe Tea Room was used for both refreshments and concerts in the 18th century, and was sometimes known as the Concert Room. During the evening entertainments there was an interval for tea, the cost being included in the price of a ball ticket. On Sundays there were public teas when admission cost sixpence per person. The Ball Room and Tea Room are linked by the Octagon Room which was originally intended as a circulating space which could also be used for music and playing cards. On Sundays, when cards were not allowed, visitors could listen to the organ, which once stood in the musician's gallery. A new Card Room was added in 1777 but the architect is not known. Today this room is used as a café.
The collection was started by Doris Langley Moore, who gave her collection to the city of Bath in 1963. It focuses on fashionable dress for men, women and children from the late 16th century to the present day and has more than 30,000 objects. The earliest pieces are embroidered shirts and gloves from about 1600. The museum displays chronicle the story of fashionable dress over the past 400 years and feature more than 160 dressed figures. There’s a dressing-up room (for both children and grownups!) where you can try on coats, hats, corsets, dresses and bonnets and have your photo taken against a Victorian backdrop. There are also special exhibitions. Historic fashions from the time of Jane Austen to the First World War are presented in ‘Behind the Scenes’, a gallery display with a difference. A century of fashions for women, from delicate white muslin Regency dresses to a khaki drill uniform worn for war work, are all on view set against a backdrop of the stored collection giving a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into the Fashion Museum’s extensive archives.
The Fashion Museum Bath presents 100 ‘star’ objects from its collection in the headline exhibition ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’. Taken together, these objects showcase a history of fashion from the 1600s to the present day. Fashion touches everyone’s life – it is intrinsically linked to society - and A History of Fashion in 100 Objects references moments in history, as well as more personal stories. One of the earliest garments on show is an intricately embroidered waistcoat worked in coloured silks and glittering metal thread worn by an aristocratic woman from the time of Shakespeare. Fast forward over 300 years, and the exhibition also includes an appliqué embroidered jacket by Paris couturier Lucien Lelong, worn by ‘Gone with the Wind’ actress Vivien Leigh in 1948. Graceful silk robes and embroidered and tailored coats for men, the styles fashionable during Bath’s Georgian heyday are also on display, along with Regency fashions from the time of Jane Austen. Big names of fashion history feature in the exhibition. The House of Worth was the ‘go-to’ designer in the 1890s, and the exhibition presents a grey silk Worth gown, worn by Mary Chamberlain, an American by birth and wife of British politician Joseph Chamberlain. This is the dress that Mary wore for her portrait by Sir John Everett Millais in 1891. A History of Fashion in 100 Objects includes ten shoe ‘moments’ throughout history, from Georgian silk shoes to trainers. There is also a children’s trail showcasing ten ‘historical fashion’ looks for kids, from the 1700s to the 2000s.
Everyday there are free guided tours of the Fashion Museum run by staff. These are held at 12:00 and 16:00 and last approximately 30 minutes. Please note there will be occasions when tours are not available. The building is accessible to wheelchair users. There is level access to the ground floor Assembly Rooms and a wheelchair is available for use. There is a lift from the ground floor to the Fashion Museum on the lower ground floor, and an emergency exit ramp. There is also a specially adapted toilet on the lower ground floor. The nearest accessible car parking spaces to the Assembly Rooms are : 1 either side of Bennett Street where it joins Lansdown Road (approx 100/150m away), 1 on Alfred Street opposite the Assembly Rooms Pub (approx 80m.). Admission to the Fashion Museum includes the audioguide available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish. The audioguide, which includes the Assembly Rooms, is self-guided and can be as long or as short as you like – but allow at least one hour to view the displays. They are compatible with the 'T' switch on hearing aids. Assistance dogs are welcome and water can be provided upon request.
Location : Fashion Museum, Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, Bath BA1 2QH
Transport: Bath Spa (National Rail) 20 minutes. Bus Routes : 2, 7, 20C, 31, 620, 700 and 701 stop very closeby.
Opening Times : Daily 10:30 - 17:00
Tickets : Adults £8.75; Seniors £7.75; Children (6 - 16) £6.75; Local Residents Free
Tickets + Roman Baths + Victoria Art Gallery: Adults £21.00; Seniors £18.00; Children (6 - 16) £11.25
Audioguide : English
Tel: 01225 477789