From Corsets To Costume At Snibston's New Fashion Gallery

By Joel Turner | 20 June 2005
Shows a photograph of one of the displays at the new Fashion Gallery at Snibston Discovery Park. It has sloped pink and red walls, with mannequins in glass cases.

Snibston now boasts the largest display of historic and contemporary fashion outside London. Courtesy Snibston Discovery Park.

24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer Joel Turner slipped into a sharp suit and followed the trail of fabulous garments to Snibston Discovery Park.

Fashionistas descended on Leicestershire for the glamorous official opening of a new gallery on Tuesday May 14 2005.

Snibston Discovery Park in Coalville now boasts an exciting fashion gallery, which was opened by renowned designer Bruce Oldfield OBE and Leader of Leicestershire County Council David Parsons.

Fittingly, examples of Oldfield’s work are on show alongside that of other designers such as Chanel, Yves St Laurent, Biba, Paul Smith, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Mr Oldfield said of the new gallery. “The breadth of it and the scope of it - it’s absolutely lovely.”

The £800,000 museum was made possible through a £680,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and sponsorship from retail giant Next. Since opening on May 28 the gallery has attracted over 4,000 visitors and Snibston curator Philip Warren has noticed a change in the museum since it opened.

Shows a photograph of a rigid black and red corset from the late 19th century.

Breathe in... red and black Safeen, straight-back corset, c.1890. Courtesy Snibston Discovery Park.

“We have seen a new audience coming because of the exhibition,” he said. “Our target audience is 18-25, not just to visit but to choose items from the collections for future displays.”

The striking gallery was designed by Philip in conjunction with Objectives - a company that specialises in interpretative design for museums. The exhibition space is divided into five areas, each exploring a different aspect of clothing and fashion’s history and influences.

The Body Transformed looks at how fashion has focused on different parts of the female body over the past 300 years and includes items from the Symington collection of corsetry and foundation wear.

The Fabric Lab details the different types of man-made and natural fabrics that are used in the production of garments, outlining the history and treatment of the materials and displaying swatches to make the experience more interactive.

However, the Fashion Theatre is the main interactive area and contains creative displays that help all visitors, but especially children, uncover the structure of fabrics and how clothes are made.

Shows a photograph of a mannequin dressed in a 1970s suede outfit, complete with floppy hat and sunglasses.

She's got the look... suede outfit from the 1970s. Courtesy Snibston Discovery Park.

The emphasis is on graphic exhibits that simply and effectively display the ideas involved - the function and design of safety clothing is revealed at that touch of a button by an X-ray slide. Ideas of identity and gender in fashion are also explored.

Fashion Works looks at the different manufacturing and retail methods used to produce and sell clothing over the past 200 years and explores the different tiers within the industry from couture to high street.

The final space - Changing Room - could prove to be the most exciting. The room will house a variety of different exhibits drawn from Leicestershire County Council heritage service’s collection of around 20,000 historic and contemporary pieces. It’s also expected that important national and private collections will be displayed.

Philip anticipates local community groups will help select pieces from the vast archive amongst other plans for the space. He expects all the displays to start changing within around six months.

“We will get contemporary designers to exhibit so they can be on display in Leicestershire,” he said. “We may also deal with controversial issues like the use of animal fur.”

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.

Joel Turner is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the East Midlands region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

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