New exhibition to tell the story of Georgian fashion


portrait of Queen Charlotte will be one of the highlights of a major exhibition which aims to reveal life in the 18th century through the fashions of the day.

The rarely exhibited full length painting by Gainsborough, showing the Queen in a magnificent gown, will be part of Style & Society: Dressing The Georgians, a display of more than 200 works from the Royal Collection including surviving clothing and pieces by artists including Zoffany and Hogarth.

The items give an insight into what the Georgians wore – from the practical dress of laundry maids to the glittering gowns worn at court – and chart the transformation of clothing from the accession of George I in 1714 to the death of George IV in 1830.

The exhibition also shows how the Georgians ushered in many of the cultural trends we know today, including the first stylists and influencers, the birth of a specialised fashion press and the development of shopping as a leisure activity.

Anna Reynolds, the exhibition’s curator said: ‘During this period, we start to see court dress lagging behind street style, with people from across a much broader social spectrum than ever before setting fashion trends.

“The Royal Collection is so rich in visual representations from this period and the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to share them with the public.

“Showing paintings alongside surviving items of dress really adds an extra layer of insight, helping us to understand how clothing was constructed, what it felt like to wear, and how artists approached the challenge of representing Georgian fashion in paint.”

As court styles became increasingly outdated in the 18th century, new forums for fashionable display emerged, including pleasure gardens, coffee houses and theatres.

Knee breeches were worn by men for most of the 18th century, with the exhibition featuring a Gainsborough portrait of the famed musician Johann Christian Fischer wearing the fashion.

But by the end of the Georgian period, upper-class men began adopting trousers – including the future George IV and Lord Byron – previously worn by the working classes.

Advancements in haircare, cosmetics, eyewear and dentistry will also be explored in the exhibition being staged at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from April 21 to October 8.

Immensely tall and wide hairstyles became fashionable for women in the latter half of the 18th century, resulting in the development of an entirely new trade – the hairdresser.

The exaggerated fashions of the period were a gift for caricaturists, coinciding with what has become known as the golden age of the satirical print.

In the never-before-displayed cartoon, New Invented Elastic Breeches, 1784, Thomas Rowlandson depicts a large man being manhandled into an optimistically small pair of leather breeches by two tailors.

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