Sunday, 2 August 2009

Ballgowns in the Ballroom

Himley Hall is an 18th Century Palladian style Grade II listed building, once the family home of the Earls of Dudley. Set amongst 180 acres of 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland, it's currently hosting a dazzling collection of ballgowns in - where else? - the ballroom :-) .

The Ballgowns in the Ballroom exhibition features dresses from film and TV productions. The costumes include gowns from The Duchess, Little Dorritt and Casanova, and have been loaned by Cosprop, one of the leading costumiers to the film, theatre and television industries.

It's only when you have the chance to see costumes like this up close and personal that you can appreciate the amount of work and detail that goes into them. Amazing. The Ballgowns in the Ballroom exhibition is particularly good because it allows visitors access all around the costumes so the back detail can be seen too. Here's a few of my favourites (the quality on the pictures is not brilliant, I'm afraid, as the light in the room is limited to protect the interior and I wasn't allowed to use a flash)

From 'Phantom of the Opera'.

Dress worn by Emmy Rossum, playing Christine Daae. Military outfit (style circa 1870) worn by Patrick Wilson, playing Raoul, Viscounte de Chagny. This is in the style of the colourful miliary uniforms of the Hussars, worn from 1700 onwards and inspired by the Hungarian fashions of the day.

From 'Casanova'

Circa 1750 coat worn by Heath Ledger made from woven patterned silk mixture with gold lace. The complimentary silk waistcoat woven with flowers and paisley motif has gold thread running throughout. Circa 1750 dress worn by Sienna Miller. More understated than the flamboyant outfit worn by Casanova, this dress is made from brocaded silk with a shot silk taffeta lining.

From 'Jefferson in Paris'

Dress circa 1785 worn by Charlotte de Turckheim. A great deal of time, money and effort went into creating the opulent look of this dress. The shimmer of the metallic threads in the tulle is enhanced by the satin underskirt. The effect would have been increased by the movement of the wearer and probably enhanced by the candlelight. Note the long velvet train, too.

From 'The Duchess'

Dress circa 1785 worn by Keira Knightley who plays Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire. In the scene in which this dress features, the Duchess is decidedly drunk and manages to catch her wig alight by standing too close to a candelabra! The dress has been cleaned since, but you could still see the marks on the fabric.
Green dress circa 1780 worn by Hayley Atwell who plays the Bess, mistress of the Duke of Devonshire. Outfit worn by Ralph Fiennes who plays the Duke of Devonshire.

From 'Little Dorrit'

Dress worn by Amanda Redman. This dress is not typical of the period (1850) as it was worn to a fancy dress party. It's a cross between Victorian and Georgian. Lurve the shoes!

There's more coming up soon on the blog on costumes from The Duchess - I've just got back from a visit to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, where scenes from The Duchess were shot and an exhibition of costumes is currently on show. Details and pictures to follow!


  1. Oooh, these are FABULOUS! Did they have to drag you out kicking and screaming at closing time?

  2. Liz - they are gorgeous and I've never been to Himley Hall - you've just given me a great idea for an afternoon out. :)

  3. Jan - er, yes they did! I went towards the end of the day and they were waiting for me to finish browsing so they could shut the house *g*

    Phillipa - it's worth a visit, and they are offering guided tours through to October. You have to pre-book though.