Barley Hall in York was one of the museums we knew we had to make time for on our York recent extravaganza. Yes, it is a handsome old medieval building, impeccably restored and full of details of life in the 15th century when it was built. But more importantly, we wanted to see their ongoing costume exhibition.
Hamlet to Hollywood at Barley Hall is an incredible display of period costumes from both film and television. The exhibition is always having new things added to it, so whenever you go you are likely to see something different (recent additions we didn’t see are a dress worn by Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson in WE and Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere in Anonymous).
I was blown away by some of the costumes we got to see – a purple evening dress worn by Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey, a purple bustle dress worn by Nicole Kidman in Portrait of a Lady, Evie’s wedding dress from The House of Eliott, Cate Blanchett’s dress from Elizabeth, one of Keira Knightly’s extravagent gowns from The Duchess, and Helena Bonham Carters grey crepe dress and fur stole from The King’s Speech.
It was fascinating getting to see the construction of the pieces – some were much more detailed than you would expect, and other much less so. Here you really do get to see some of the tricks they use to make things appear magical on film.
In case you become sad that you can’t wear any of these wonderful things, Barley Hall have provided two tables full of reproduction hats from medieval times to the 1950s. I went slightly crazy with hat-trying-on-joy, so will have to share pictures with you in another post some day. It was one of the most fun parts of the whole day.
The best bit though, was getting to see the outfits worn by Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice. WHITE SHIRT. Need I say more?
Hamlet to Hollywood is an ongoing exhibition running until next summer, so you have plenty of time to plan a trip to see it (and I really do highly recommend it). Entry is £4.95, or you can buy a one day York Pass for £34 (£48 for two days) which will also give you entry to 30 other York attractions.