Paxton House, Berwickshire Reviews

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“Review of Re-Dress Exhibition”


written by Luis.Schneiderveldtmaanstein on 15/08/2012

I was a member of a party of four who attended a fashion show on a pleasant summer evening on Saturday 11th August 2012. Was it in London at the Dorchester ?, was it at the Savoy ? did it feature John Galliano, Yves Saint-Laurent, Vivienne Westwood or perhaps Christian Lacroixe?, no is the answer to these questions, it was held in Paxton House, Paxton, Berwickshire and featured period costumes integrated with modern designs exhibited in an original format to amazing dramatic effect!!. Paxton House is an imposing Palladian house set in its own grounds adjacent to the River Tweed, and is located just five minutes from the A1 main trunk road and a ten minute taxi ride from either Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station or town centre. Paxton House boasts one of the finest collections of Chippendale and Trotter furniture. The current forward looking management team at Paxton House have embarked on a programme of original and inventive events to attract a broad based clientele. Paxton House does not conform to the stereotypical image of a country house; this is best left to other establishments. From the moment my party and I ascended the imposing entrance stairway to the house, that featured a very competent young lady singing wistful songs whilst accompanying herself on guitar, I knew the evening would be pure theatre. There was a buzz of expectation in the air as we were served some excellent white wine in the tastefully decorated reception area of the house. The event was attended by a fairly representative cross section of local society together with the management, volunteers and participants from Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design in Edinburgh. Karen Page, Costume Co-ordinator, made a welcoming speech outlining the aim and visionary content of the Re-Dress exhibition before inviting the assembled audience to commence the tour of the exhibition. The background and subsequent concept of the exhibition was to showcase in the appropriate setting of the Picture Gallery with an additional display in the Hayloft Gallery, some recently discovered costumes which had lain undisturbed for over two hundred years, in a closed room within Paxton House. Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design were invited to participate in collaboration with Paxton House in October 2011 with the aim of using the discovered costumes to provide inspiration to third year students to produce a collection of costumes which would be modern in their content but show a historical lineage to the discovered costumes. When one visits museums featuring period costumes, one is struck by the quality of the workmanship in the production of such garments at a time before any appreciable mechanisation of the production processes, however there can be a disappointment when the clothing appears to be lack-lustre in terms of colour. The reason for this phenomenon is that the costumes have been worn both indoors and outdoors and as such, subject to wear and the sun’s Ultra-Violet rays and can appear perhaps, a little faded. The costumes on display at Paxton House, however, had not been handled for over two hundred years and had been cleaned by Maggie Dobbie, textile conservator prior to the exhibition and a consequence of this, is that the colours are as vibrant today as they were when the costumes were new. When the assembled audience made their way into the Music Room it was like having a catwalk display, the difference being the mannequins stood still and the audience moved along!!. The exhibition was brought to life by the imaginative use of direct and indirect lighting and wonderful Avant-Garde music. To add to an already intense atmosphere, there was a monochrome silent film, projected on a wall, depicting costumes, students and models in a context which in my opinion, echoed the more Avant-Garde moments in some of the Beatles films of the mid nineteen-sixties. The discovered costumes were first to be seen on entering the Picture Gallery to provide visual impact, whilst the new costumes were further along. As someone who has lived through the sixties and as a musician who was interested in style, I recognised a ghost of a theme in the styles of the costumes from the nineteen-sixty two vision of jet-set wear through Mary Quant, BIBA, Punk and New Romantic interpretations to present day styles. The additional display in the Hayloft Gallery featured work-in-progress portfolios of the third year student’s from Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design. Another novel feature was the provision of a “dress-up” basket that allowed members of the audience to don items of clothing of the period. The exhibition started at 6.00pm and ended all to soon at 8.00pm. In closing, my party and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend anyone with even the slightest interest in fashion to visit the Re-Dress exhibition that runs from 6th to 31st August 2012.

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