A carefully curated exhibition of historical clothing in exquisite condition, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, from the Jacobite’s through to the Victorian era, with some court dresses over 250 years old. The award-winning exhibition features 18 outfits directly from the castle archives, including ballgowns, dresses, jackets and children’s outfits. The exhibition is returning for the 2023 season, showcasing rare and unseen accessories from the castle archive, including hats & fans.
Many of the pieces in the exhibition beautifully reflect the extravagance and flamboyance of George II’s court, often copied from the French through to Victorian opulence. Aristocratic families often showed their wealth and status by following fashions worn by royalty, and the families who lived within Blair Castle were no exception.
Throughout the period on display in this exhibition, the natural evolution of fashion styles is evident, most notably the sacque dress style of 18th-century royal courts with pleated fabric capes flowing down the back to the tiny, pinched waists that were fashionable right through to the mid-19th century and achieved with V-shaped bodices with boned seams above full skirts. Necklines shifted heavily throughout this time period also, from the square shape of the 17th century to the more modern off the shoulder style of Victorian times.
Due to its popularity, Archivist Keren Guthrie curated a new exhibition room for the 2023 reopening, which gives an unprecedented insight into the statement designs, intricate embroidery, innovative textiles and style influences from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The only exhibition of its kind in Scotland, this stunning collection features carefully preserved fans and hats, amongst other artefacts, which were originally owned by the Atholl family through the ages, including Louisa, 7th Duchess of Atholl and her daughters Dorothea and Evelyn. Dating back to the 19th century, intricate fans made of ostrich feather and Brussels lace with beautifully hand-painted designs will be on display from 1st April.
While some items were known to be in the archives, others had sat undiscovered in trunks, simply listed as ‘with clothes’. Nearly three years ago, archivist Keren Guthrie began the process of opening up the trunks to discover what was inside. Here she found the treasures that are now going on display – clothes that had been put away and forgotten about. The biggest discovery was a Jacobite dress, which had been hidden away for possibly 250 years. It has meant a lot of hard work. The Jacobite dress was sent to the specialists at Hopetoun House to carry out any repairs and ensure it was preserved properly. Mannequins have had to be moulded for women in the 17thand 18th centuries who had broader shoulders and men of that era who were less muscular than today.
This exhibition is on display on the first and second floors of Blair Castle from 1st April – 28th October 2023.