‘Shaping the Body’ – New exhibition at York Castle Museum from 25 March 2016
The sounds of paparazzi cameras clicking will welcome visitors when they step into the new exhibition at York Castle Museum from 25 March 2016 which includes a brand new catwalk where visitors can strut their stuff!
Walking down the steps into the gallery, the sounds of London, Milan and New York Fashion Week welcome them in to explore 400 years of style, with clothes taken from York Museums Trust’s extensive collection – one of the biggest in the country. From a dress worn by the diminutive Queen Victoria, to ‘80s shoulder pads on which you could land a small aircraft, the exhibition shows how fashion and lifestyle has influenced body shape and image over the last four centuries, from the contemporary brassiere to a body-bracing Tudor corset made from iron.
“Clothing and body shape have been intrinsically linked for thousands of years, with men and women choosing different styles in different periods that influence their body shape to reflect the latest trends. This isn’t a new idea that has come about with J-Lo style bum implants, but has been going on for centuries with assorted health risks when the fashions are taken to the extreme,” comments senior curator, Ali Bodley. “Visitors will see in the outfits on display just how diverse the silhouette can be, but the wearers of these clothes would be cinched in, padded out or, in some cases, malnourished to make their garments look good.”
Both children and adults can find out for themselves how it feels to wear some of the historic fashions, with dressing up costumes to try on for selfies! One mirror at the end of the catwalk provides a full length view, whilst a second is designed to create the ultimate supermodel look, with a subtle curve in the surface which lengthens the legs and shortens the torso.
Other galleries in the exhibition focus on different fashion trends and people who have taken their body shaping to an extreme – from transgender men and women to those with piercings and tattoos, and from the protruding shoulder blades that characterised TB chic to the extreme obesity of Daniel Lambert, who used his extreme size (52 stone) to turn himself into a tourist attraction in the early 19th century.
The forerunner of today’s fashion magazines – a dress-up fashion doll – is also on display. “Before the age of Vogue, fashionistas relied upon miniature replicas of the latest styles which were displayed on small dolls to learn what they should be wearing the following season. These dolls could be much more easily transported around the country than a whole wardrobe of outfits, and so played a crucial role in ensuring that the best dressed people remained on trend – very important given the links between clothing, wealth and social status,” adds Ali.
As part of the exhibition, visitors will be able to step into the recreated 1980s kitchen for the first time – the dawn of the fitted kitchen age, which features a new-fangled microwave oven.
The final gallery in Shaping the Body reflects on how lifestyle changes have influenced fitness and body shape, comparing the daily energy expenditure of housemaids, farmers, sportsmen and even bus drivers – perhaps explaining why people living in the 21st century require expensive gym memberships to keep trim when our often sedentary lifestyles are compared to earlier generations.
Shaping the Body is just one of a number of exhibitions at York Castle Museum, which is open daily from 9.30am to 5.00pm. Tickets are £10 for adults and free for children aged 16 or under (with a paying adult). YMT card holders get in free. For more details, please visit www.yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk or call 01904 687687.
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