Exhibition | The Regency Wardrobe at the Royal Pavilion

Posted in exhibitions, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on February 25, 2022

From the press release for the exhibition:

The Regency Wardrobe at the Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 19 March — 11 September 2022

At the Royal Pavilion a display of costumes inspired by Regency history tell stories of seafront promenading, grand balls and musical evenings. Each unique piece is created by artist Stephanie Smart, using only paper and thread. The Regency Wardrobe is a collection of imagined garments whose design reflects the fashion, style, and history of the Regency era. With decoration directly inspired by aspects of its interiors, ball gowns, walking dresses, parasols, and bags bring life to the beautiful rooms of the Royal Pavilion.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a new dress created for the Royal Pavilion and on display in the magnificent Music Room. Symphony of Stars is a stunning life-sized court dress inspired by the architecture of the Music Room and the Chinese wallpaper in the palace. Stars made of rolled paper decorate the border of the train, platinum in colour in honour of the platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

The show taps into the current obsession with Regency fashion inspired by hit Netflix series Bridgerton, which returns this year and will fascinate fans of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. The exquisite and complex nature of the items on display spans the divide between historic research, fine art, and costume design to create unique works of art which are enhanced by the glorious setting of the Royal Pavilion.

Artist Stephanie Smart said: “The Regency Wardrobe has taken nearly three years to design and make. Throughout that the decoration and history of the Royal Pavilion has been a corner stone of my research. I’m very excited to be seeing the pieces on display in rooms that sum up the possibilities of the time and would have been known intimately by the Prince Regent himself.”

CEO of RPMT Hedley Swain said: “We are so pleased to have these beautiful, ethereal works of art at the Royal Pavilion, particularly as some of them were directly inspired by the interiors where they will now be on show. Stephanie’s creations not only complement the Regency history of the Royal Pavilion but add to its magical nature.”

In 2017 Stephanie formally established The House of Embroidered Paper, a unique fashion house/fine art studio. Each piece produced is a work of paper textiles, created using only paper and thread—inspired by period and place, history and story.

Developing her use of paper as a medium for garment construction, with embroidered and applied decoration, The Regency Wardrobe is Stephanie’s second major collection. It includes pieces which re-interpret the popular two-dimensional Regency art form of the paper cut silhouette as three-dimensional garments. Each one linked to a real woman from the time. By working closely with volunteers from The Regency Town House Heritage Centre, Hove and with special access to The Royal Pavilion Stephanie has created a collection that’s broader in scope in terms of its relationship to a particular area, and historical era, than any she has worked on previously.

Whilst the collection as a whole reflects social and cultural influences from the longer Regency era (1795 to 1837) and celebrates the bicentennial of the end of the formal Regency in 1820 the finale piece Symphony of Stars links directly to the year in which it will be displayed, 2022. Stars made of rolled paper decorate the border of the train, they are platinum in colour in honour of the platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and placed in lieu of the notes of a symphony by British astronomer William Herschel, the bicentennial of whose death it is this year.

In order to inform her understanding of the pieces she makes Stephanie visits museum stores and private collections to see real garments from different periods of history. These are documented on her website under the title ‘The Hidden Wardrobe’.

Stephanie began working with heritage sites in 2016 when she began her collection titled Maison de Paier. As inspiration she collected stories from some of the present residents of the Grade 1 listed Elizabethan mansion, Danny House in Hurtspierpoint, Sussex. With WWII veterans amongst their number and with the history of the house itself to draw on, this collection included a 17th-century court dress, a 1950s swing dress, and a pair of gauntlets. The Victorian era dress from this collection Lady of the House can be seen on the Royal Pavilion’s upper floor. Based on that experience Stephanie has set up an ongoing research project The Talking Wardrobe with the ambition of collating stories over time from individuals regarding garments once worn as a basis for her future work. Stephanie’s work has twice been featured on the BBC’s South East Today.

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