Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Thursday 06 January 2011

Dress For Excess - King George IV Is Centrepiece Of A New Fashion Exhibition In Brighton

A spectacular coronation robe worn by King George IV will form the centrepiece of a new fashion exhibition at Brighton's historic Royal Pavilion.

Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England, which opens on February 5 and runs for a year, celebrates the life of George IV as Prince, Regent and King, through the fashions of the late Georgian period.

The exhibition, organised by the Royal Pavilion & Museums, also provides an insight into the way these fashions from the late 18th and early 19th century have helped to influence the clothes we wear today.

Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, said:

"More than any other monarch, George knew the power of dress. Whether it was the dandy fashions of his youth or the military uniforms he wore as an adult, as he sought a role for himself while waiting nearly 60 years to be crowned king.

His love of fashion was not merely an expensive indulgence, but a significant part in creating who George was."


Pel added: "The Regency period really was the beginning of modern fashion for both men and women. In men's fashion trousers became the norm, rather than breeches, as did sober colours and hard wearing fabrics such as wool. Women too began to wear simpler styles in practical cotton fabrics.

�Unlike men's fashion this wasn�t to last for women and they would soon revert back to clothes which displayed wealth. Interestingly though, when �modern� fashion re-appeared for women in the early twentieth century it was based on the styles of the Regency period."




George loved fashion and design - the more opulent and extravagant the better - and the exotic, oriental design of the Royal Pavilion, which was his seaside residence, bears testament to this.

His coronation was the most expensive in British history and his huge coronation robe is going on public display for the first time in 30 years.

The silk velvet robe, which is trimmed with ermine, measures more than five metres (16 feet) long and needed eight bearers rather than the usual six to carry it at the coronation.

The exhibition will include men and women's fashions, from a tailored dandy's costume and military uniform worn at the Battle of Waterloo to elegant high-waisted cotton muslin gowns and beautiful silk garments, highlighting style influences from the period and themes from George's life.

The costumes are displayed across a number of rooms, set against the grand backdrop of the Royal Pavilion.

A new exhibition space, the Prince Regent Gallery, is dedicated to George himself.

On display will be items of his clothes, including a beautifully printed banyan (an early form of indoor coat or dressing gown) from the 1770s and huge breeches worn towards the end of his life as his waistline expanded. Alongside his coronation robe will be two costumes worn in his coronation procession.

Councillor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council's cabinet member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said:

"George IV really put Brighton on the map as a fashionable seaside destination and this exhibition, in the amazing surroundings of his holiday home, will provide a fascinating insight into both his life and the fashions of the time."

To complement the costumes there will be popular images of George: caricatures will take a satirical look at his life from his many mistresses, his continual descent into debt, and his love of Brighton.

These caricatures are taken from the Baker Collection, which was recently acquired by the museum.

These will be contrasted with official portraits of George, showing him as he wished to be seen; as a monarch in his garter robes to military leader in hussar uniform. These paintings are taken from Brighton Museum's collection.

The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the Regency Act, which was passed on February 5 1811, passing the powers of the monarchy to George as his father was ill.

It is only the second time a fashion exhibition has been held in the Royal Pavilion and the building's rich collections of furniture, textiles and decorative arts provide the perfect setting to bring the pieces to life.


Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England opens at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, on February 5 2011 and runs until February 5 2012.


by: Mike Cobley




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