We Need to Go Back to Bath

“We need to go back to Bath.”

That’s what I told DH when I saw on Facebook that the Fashion Museum of Bath (England) was opening an exhibit called “Little and Large”, featuring people-sized 19th century fashion alongside dolls dressed in clothing from the same period. 

Of course he said, “okay”. But it’s really not possible for us right now. I truly wish it was. 

When we visited Bath in 2015, we loved the town. And while details of all the many museums we visited on our Embroidery tour of Scotland and England have begun to blur together, the Fashion Museum of Bath is still vivid in my mind. It is a lovely place, set up so that your walk through the hallways is a walk through a historic timeline of fashion. 

Today something wonderful happened. I know I should play it cool, but I was thrilled this morning when I received an email from a PR person for the Museum asking me to write about the exhibition which opens tomorrow May 17, 2019. 

She sent me a Press Release and extensive photos of the 5 dolls and 4 full-size costumes featured in the exhibit. 

I’ll start with the “intro doll” who stands alone and, over the next few days will share each of the other dolls and full-sized dresses.

Here’s the Museum’s write up on her:

Measurements: 32.5cm head to foot x 13.5cm elbow to elbow x 16.5 skirt width

Object number: BATMC VIII.01.42

Object: 1870s bisque head fashion doll. 

Description: 1870s bisque head fashion doll. German. Wearing checked silk dress, with handkerchief in pocket.

Original catalogue: Doll 13” long, China head, forearms and lower legs. Long blonde hair and blue eyes. Dressed in drawers, blue and white woollen petticoat, long white cotton petticoat, plaid silk skirt and jacket – blue being the main colour. Grey boots with side buttons moulded with the china legs. c.1880

A typical doll of the 1870s / 1880s, manufactured in large quantities in Germany, smaller versions were popular for dolls houses. The outfit is probably bespoke to the doll, possibly later and made from contemporary fabric as plainer versions and examples in regional French or German costumes are common.

Collection History: Gift of Mrs Cynthia E. Chellini. The dolls were with Mrs Chellini’s daughter in Italy when she visited the museum and decided to donate them and were then sent over to the museum in 1966.

Since the primary focus of the Fashion Museum is Fashion, the description focuses on the clothing, not the doll. The descriptions of the dolls are sparse. For example, they don’t tell whether her body is cloth or kid. Her head and arms are what we refer to as bisque, while her shoes are China or “porcelain”.

Click on the photos to get a larger view. I’ve discussed in the past how charming an oversized print can be on a doll. This is a perfect example.

Here’s the oh so rare pic of the back of the dress. I love her unique hairstyle and the fringed plaid.

And the even rarer side view showing the distinct bustle profile.

I’ll be posting the other dolls and fashions over the next few days. They feature even more detailed views.

I feel honored to be able to share this fascinating exhibit with you. If you can go see it in person, I’m jealous. Please tell me what you think.

If not, I hope you enjoy my pictorial tour of Little and Large.


We Need to Go Back to Bath — 5 Comments

  1. I am so glad to see this. I am so glad they shared it with you. I would fly over right now if I could. Did you take the waters while you were there? Or did they stop offering that? I did visit the UK, but did not have a chance to visit Bath. Thank you for this. Will be looking forward to the rest.

  2. We never visited the baths in Bath. We went to the Fashion Museum and the Holburne Museum, strolled through the town and had a lovely lunch riverside.

    • They haven’t announced an end date. My PR contact said that she thinks it will be on for at least a year.

  3. How delish to see such a beautiful doll! The seamstress did such a fantastic job with the placement of the plaid ink the dress.
    Thanks for sharing this treat!!c