Costume is a very evocative part of any collection. It provides a very personal insight into the lives of the individuals who wore them, and can often be linked to key phases in their lives. An example of this that we have mentioned before is our collection of 1953 Coronation Robes, which we were able to reproduce and have on display for the ‘Hidden Lives: Royalty, Glamour and War’ exhibition. In contrast with this formal costume though, the pieces in this blog are from a more light-hearted occasion exemplifying the 8th Lord Berwick’s playful side.
As alluded to in previous posts, the 8th Lord and Lady were fond of dressing up. We have multiple photographs showing some of the many occasions upon which they donned their glad rags for a do. The particular costume and occasion in this blog however are from before the marriage of the 8th Lord and Lady.
From the dating and description of this portrait in our archives, we have been able to deduce that the event in question was probably the Chelsea Arts Club Ball in 1910. The Chelsea Arts Club Ball was held on New Year’s Eve, and was generally a theme based costume event. The Ball was described as ‘the most scandalous event on the social calendar’, although as a man in his early twenties it may not be unusual that the 8th Lord attended such an event. The photo, visible above, shows the 8th Lord in costume along with Diana Brougham, née Stunt, wife of Hon. Henry Brougham 3rd Baron Brougham and Vaux.
We are fortunate to still possess nearly all of the components of this costume and with some details of its origin (also visible on the National Trust Collections Website). The set of hat, jacket, coat, and breeches are attributed to the costume designers and suppliers B.J. Simmons and Co. of Covent Garden, London. B.J. Simmons and Co. designed and produced theatrical costumes between 1889 and 1959, further examples of their work can be seen via this link.
The quality of this Russian style costume, as well as the others which we are aware of – the Medieval Pageant at Ludlow and the 1780s formal wear – demonstrate a certain dedication to fancy dress. A dedication that I doubt many of us could match with our own fancy dress or Halloween costumes, although I doubt we have the same budget. Regardless, these items and photos give us an insight into the Berwicks’ private and social lives, and greatly help us to better understand and connect with them and their story.