Dozens of outfits and accessories worn in popular films and television productions are featured in Jane Austen: Fashion & Sensibility, currently on display through September 4, 2022 at the Taft Museum in downtown Cincinnati. Think Colin Firth, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson. I kinda felt like I got to hang out with them a little bit.
I do love needlework, and believe me, the beauty of the exhibit is in the details. The lace, the fabric, the buttons, the embroidery, the trims – and the hats! When you think about what the costume designer is charged to convey about a character’s life and station through fashion, you can really appreciate the annual Oscar winners in this category.
By now, my readers know I love me a clothing exhibit! I love textiles, but It’s more than mere textiles. It’s the context of the fashions – the actors who wore them and the well-loved characters they portrayed – that trigger our emotions. A favorite movie or series episode, a favorite author, an endearing portrayal. We’ve bonded with on-screen personas, and we love the chance to see the costume designers’ character creation magic up close. Thanks to Cosprop Ltd. of London, we have the opportunity to see incredible costumes at many wonderful exhibitions.
And who doesn’t love the Edwardian wardrobes of the Downton Abbey clan! Friends Georgie, Michele and I attended the Dressing Downton exhibit at Cincinnati’s Taft Museum in 2016. The photos and gowns were terrific. Then in 2017, Ken & I followed up with a visit to the Downton Abbey Exhibition in NYC where room reproductions and exquisite table settings really brought the show to life.
I’m also a huge fan of vintage wedding attire. In 2016, girlfriends and I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to visit the Biltmore House’s wedding gown exhibition, Fashionable Romance. Oh, the lives of the rich and famous! What a story of the beautiful wedding dress and family veil of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy. And how can I forget seeing the beautiful gown from Princess Diana’s wedding on a roadtrip with girlfriends in 2012 to the Frazier Museum in Louisville during their Diana; A Celebration exhibit. #simplystunning
Design and craftsmanship aside (which are pretty hard to ignore), I keep going back to what takes me on the road to view these iconic costume and fashion exhibits: Make my memories real. Show me the fabric of my favorite film characters’ lives – in 3D living color with all the trimmings. Conjure those romantic moments in silk and lace so I can feel they’re real. Lift the gilded lives of the rich and famous off the pages of history and make them mortal again, albeit well beyond my station. This is what dreams are made of.
If like me, reading the fine print of exhibit interpretive signage is challenging, be sure to ask Taft Museum security for the Jane Austen: Fashion & Sensibility Large-Print Labels booklet. It was a big help!