Display matters

I love browsing through the internet looking for historical dresses. There’s such richness out there, so many gorgeous examples. I find that it’s also very important how a dress is presented though. I recently found some photos of dresses on the hanger, or laying flat, and it’s such a shame. Clothing is 3-dimensional, and not meant to lie flat. I often tend to skip over badly photographed items, which is actually a shame, because the dresses themselves can be quite gorgeous.

In this post, some images on how much presentation matters.

Dress, ca. 1810-1815

Dress, ca. 1810-1815


The same garment, one on the hanger, with bad lighting. The other on a proper mannequin, with studio light. Look at the difference this makes!

Some more regency examples:


Dress, ca. 1800-1810

Gown, ca. 1810

The same two gowns. The studio lighting does so much more for the fabrics!


Gown , ca. 1800-1810

Gown , ca. 1800-1810. The bow in the front adds so much!


While for these regency dresses the difference is big, it becomes even greater when considering other silhouettes. Regency dresses are supposed to fall straight, but when hoops and bustles and corsets come into play, the silhouette is very different.

Bodice, 1873/1874

So much prettier when it’s filled out!



The left dress is the same. Look at the difference a good bustle makes!


This post is mostly a note to myself: to not dismiss dresses just because they’re not photographed well. And let’s just hope that all museums will make good inventory images in the future!



2 thoughts on “Display matters

  1. Too true! You are so right, it makes a huge difference and I’ve never really stopped to think about it. I love that pretty pink regency dress, and the red bustle dress made me drool! I would have had no idea that the striped pink and white dress was Victorian when it was hung up – it really is amazing the difference correct presentation makes.

  2. I love this post and agree 100%! This is a bit of a soapbox issue for me. I especially dislike the photographs taken while the garment is lying flat on a table – who can tell what it really looks like. (Of course, some garments are too frail to be hung or displayed on a mannequin and I get that. But it would be nice to have that noted.) These are three-dimensional creations, after all, and they tell a story. So, to all the museums out there – flat and/or poorly lit photos help neither costumers nor historians nor the general public understand a garment beyond its superficial features. Please, please document your collection with photos that can explain and instruct, not just show. Thank you from the bottom of my pin-pricked fingertips.

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