Laura Ashley: Romantic heroine at Bath Fashion museum

I’m down in Hampshire this weekend doing some research for my masters dissertation, but whilst i was down sarf’ I though it would be rude not to take a trip to Bath and view the Laura Ashley exhibition on there (particularly seeing as I am currently obsessed with the brand).

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The exhibition is a fabulous trip into the Laura Ashley brand, perfectly capturing a particularly period during the 1970s when Laura Ashley defined the zeitgeist for a return to floaty Victoriana.

What the exhibition gives you a great idea of is the re-use and readaption of prints. Changing garment shapes and applying the same print, changing colours and actually chaning the complete feel of the dress.

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Personal favouirtes for me were the dresses that featured Bloomsbury -esque prints in zingy lime and hot pink. (the lime dress here features the same print as the dress I wore to the LA press day)

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One of the strongest aspects of the exhibition for me was the labels. These dresses were expertly put into context with the stories of the original owners coming through and making you really examine the dresses. They also helped to give a real idea of the Laura Ashley store experience from a customers point of view.

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I adored this patchwork skirt that was made from scraps of Laura Ashley fabric in the 1970s.

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There were a couple of garments where you could see Laura may have missed the mark and gone too far in re-creating the Victorian look, but these were interesting nonetheless…

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There were even a few garments that showed the slightly sexier side of Laura Ashley (MASSIVE WANT towards the green dress seen here!)

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As you can see from my pictures you could get up nice and close to the dresses, and really have the chance to examine them closely. The space (as you rarely find with fashion exhibitions) was light and airy giving a chance for a real appreciation of the colour and texture of the dresses. A great job on keeping the public far enough away not to be able to touch, yet close enough to be able to see the detail.

Criticism? A few minor niggles really. I would have like to have seen more than just dresses in the exhibition, I feel that there was not enough about Laura’s design process (sketches and fabric swatch books as seen at the archive mini exhibition would have been great). One of my other favourites is the matching mother and daughter outfits, which there was not one of in the exhibition. The few children’s dresses were not matching to adult ones at all. Also, I fully understand that the scope of the exhibition was just to concentrate on a brief period of the Laura Ashley story, but unless you are a fashion history nut like me I’m not sure how interesting it would be to see 90+ very similar dresses. But overall these critiscims are only slight and I passed a delightful two hours looking around, I also had a great chat with the FOH. Top marks Bath Fashion museum for your friendly staff (even if I did have to pay despite having ICOM membership!)

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My advice? Get down to Bath before the exhibiton finishes on the 26th August, it will be moving on to the Bowes museum next.

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Exhibition review: Queen Victoria Revealed at Kensington Palace

In the past week I have gone a bit exhibition mad. Seemingly on a mission to see as many exhibitions as I possibly could in one week. So… This means of course that I can write reviews of the lovely things I saw.

First off was the Queen Victoria revealed exhibition at Kensington Palace. I can’t quite believe that I had never been to Kensington palace before, but I have to say it is a really beautiful place to go and the gardens were very relaxing too (especially on a beautiful day like monday was!).

So the exhibition itself. I will say that it is a hefty price for entry (I think it is about £14 for a tickets to the palace…although if like me you have national art fund membership you get in free). The exhibition has some truly amazing pieces in it including (excitingly for me) the dress worn to Queen Vics first privvy council, her wedding dress and also one of her riding habbits. All of the pieces were beautifully displayed. I liked the way that the cases all had little quotations from Victoria on them which added to the feel that this was an exhibition to really “reveal” more about her.

Although, I have to say I left the exhibition feeling a little underwhelmed. Whilst what was on display was undoubtedly beautiful i just felt like the display didn’t feel sequential. It was quite disjointed with the aim to seemingly show off certain objects without telling a story throughout. I also didn’t like the fact that rather than have what I would call “theme boards” for each room and proper captions for the objects there were pieces of paper dotted around for you to read instead, and with it being very busy it was almost impossible to get a good enough look at these.

Overall I found the exhibition enjoyable but think I would have been dissapointed if I had paid the £14 entry. I knew quite a bit about Queen Victoria before I went but I do feel that you need a background knowledge on her to really enable you to enjoy the exhibition!