icons of british fashion exhibition at blenheim palace.

Icons of British Fashion exhibition at Blenheim Palace

I love an exhibition, and the most recent at Blenheim Palace is their largest yet, Icons of British Fashion. It’s on until 30th June 2024, so get booking to visit before it’s over if you’ve any interest in fashion.

icons of british fashion exhibition at blenheim palace.

As usual if you’ve got an annual palace and grounds pass you can get in free to the exhibition without having to book. There’s no specific slots either, so choose when you want to go.  I’d avoid dates with other events on, or go during the week, unless you fancy a long walk from any overflow parking.

I couldn’t make the first weekend, so ended up making the mistake of going on Good Friday at the same time as all the Easter events. Luckily I arrived not long after opening, so managed to get a space in the normal car park. Others were being directed off to whatever grass parking they could find that wasn’t too muddy after all the recent rain. As I headed out for the exit it was evident they were struggling, as would be a lot of cars who were on grass as more rain was coming down.

There’s a short walk up the drive to the entrance itself, although there is a shuttle buggy for those who struggle to walk from the car park.

With palace and gardens tickets you can visit where you want, but I was just focused on a quick trip to the exhibition so headed straight there. 

blenheim palace pillars

There was no queue for the palace, although being later than I’d planned to be, it was busier.  I still managed to be able to see everything I wanted to and photograph it.

entrance to Blenheim Palace Icons of British fashion

Icons of British Fashion exhibition

The exhibition is a celebration of Icons of British Fashion with displays by designer in different rooms and areas of Blenheim Palace. It’s on the normal visitor route, so if you’re visiting to find out about the palace, you’ll maybe find it weird to be mixed up with people visiting only for the exhibition. 

The only part I found a crush was when everyone was sent up to the Churchill bedroom and display route. I wasn’t interested in this particularly as I’ve seen it many times before. It was really packed in there and hard to move through everyone.  There is a nod to the exhibition with a loan of an original Churchill Siren Suit by Turnbull & Asser and couple of other items in keeping with the history of the room.

The rest of the exhibition is by famous designers, those I’ve heard lots about through the years. Many of the clothes are easily recognisable by the designers.

On arrival in the Great Hall are stunning dresses by Vivenne Westwood. They looked amazing in the grand hall.

Vivienne Westwood gowns on display in the great hall at Blenheim
Dame vivienne westwood white gown

Moving through the exhibition we could see beautiful clothes, handbags and hats, creations from names such at Bruce Oldfield, Jean Muir, Galliano, Temperley London, Zandra Rhodes, Barbour, Stella McCartney, Lulu Guinness and Terry de Havilland.

Jean Muir clothes display up stairwell
Bruce Oldfield gowns display
Stephen Jones hats for Dior display

Everything was well displayed to suit both the rooms and the clothes themselves. I loved how the displays also reflected the personalities of how I expect the world renowned designers themselves to be.

As well as the fashion, there were also articles, celebrity features, background of garments, the designers process, and more to find out about. 

The Terry de Havilland shoes were curated in cabinets with lots of information and facts about them. From who wore them in the past and more recently, including the original Rocky Horror Show boots and shoes worn in Netflix’s Emily in Paris.  

terry de havilland cowboy boots display

In contrast Barbour had black and white photography of famous users of their coats to compare to their country display. 

barbour clothing on display
Barbour photo display of people wearing their coats

Zandra Rhodes’ mannequins were lifelike with full on faces made up. Certainly less creepy than standard mannequins used throughout.

Zandra Rhodes dresses display in Blenheim

In the Temperley display there was a bespoke gown created for the exhibition, the Blenheim Crystal Filigree dress. It took 10 artisans 30 days to create the dress with its tens of thousands of beads and crystals.

Temperley London gowns on party display
Temperley London Blenheim crystal filigree gown
Temperley London behind the scenes display

Several rooms featured Dresses of the Year, from various years that had won the award. Showcasing simple to totally outlandish designs.

Others had a nod to historical dress periods these Galliano gowns.

Galliano gowns in the hall at Blenheim

One of my favourite rooms was the Lulu Guinness bags hanging from tree branches that were rotating. I loved the various red lips to make the display.  It was a lot of fun, where some of the designers are more serious. 

lulu guinness bags on display trees with red lips
giant pink flower display in lulu guinness blenheim palace display

The Library had the final Stella McCartney designs. Her nod to The Beatles, flowing evening gowns, and explaining how she’s developing alternatives to leather in line with her beliefs.

Stella McCartney designs on display down the long library at blenheim
Stella McCartney flowing evening gowns on display

The verdict

I really enjoy seeing Blenheim Palace with these different exhibitions. They often bring history up to date, or reflect the more modern history and culture.

It’s a good excuse to keep returning with my annual pass, although the weather wasn’t good enough this time to spend time walking around the gardens and estate. Maybe next time.

If you missed previous exhibitions, they’ve included outfits from Queen Charlotte and Crowns and Coronets.

Tips for visiting the Icons of British Fashion exhibition:

  • Arrive early, or later in the day. Parking will be easier, and you’ll avoid the coach tours (we were held up by a massive group in one of the rooms who were there with a tour guide.
  • Make the most of your tickets. You’ll need a palace and gardens ticket to get in (buy in advance), but you’ll have all day to spend there. Pray for a dry day to make the most of it.
  • Wear comfy shoes, avoid large bags. There’s a walk from the car park so be prepared, and don’t turn up in your fashionable finery.
  • Bring a picnic if the weather’s nice. There are small lockers in the back of the shop. The food is pricy, and fairly limited from the cafe near the palace. In the summer there may be more on offer up at the walled garden, or try afternoon tea in the Orangery (book ahead for that).
  • Avoid visiting on days when other events are on otherwise it will be super busy.

If you’ve visited, how did you enjoy it?

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