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This exhibition is in the past. View our current exhibitions.

Explore the Exhibition

Even when it conceals the body, clothing is revealing.

This exhibition tells a story of fashionable dress through portraiture. It demonstrates how clothing reveals information about both the wearer and the attitudes and values that shaped society of the time.

Exploring fashionable clothing worn during the Tudor and Stuart reigns (1485 – 1714) by members of the royal family, courtiers and the increasingly wealthy gentry, this exhibition compares paintings from the Royal Collection with rare surviving examples of costume, and unstitches the ‘truth’ of dress in art.

The prominence given to clothing by artists demonstrates that personal appearance was central to court life. Fashionable clothing was – above all – a way to display status.

Clothing dictated how someone appeared and how they moved. In their shimmering silks, huge gemstones and complex hairstyles, these people were themselves works of art upon which enormous sums of money and hours of time were spent. This would have been immediately obvious to the contemporary viewer of both the living clothed figure and their representation in paint.

The first section is presented chronologically, and lays out the basic foundations of clothing during the period, demonstrating how tastes changed in garments, colours and shapes. Then, works are grouped according to themes.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.