The dining room was the pièce de résistance of the House Style – Celebrating Five Centuries of Fashion exhibition we saw during our recent visit to Chatsworth whilst staying at the Hunting Tower. Not only was the table beautifully, set, the entire room was staged with manikins clad in sumptuous evening attire. Happy swoon!

Called “Shall We Go Through?” the dining room vignette harkens back to the time of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, where people dressed very formally for dinner, even when dining alone. You may recall a scene in Downton Abbey where the despicable Barrow has taken a job at a neighbouring estate, and his elderly employers, with nary a guest in sight, insist on very formal service each evening, 

The dresses entailed everything from evening gowns with full trains to sparkling cocktail dresses.

The figures were staged around the central dining table set with a full-scale silver centrepiece complete with a reflective, galleried undertray, candelabra and large epergnes.

Before the advent electric light, a lot of candles were necessary to light the room. I think they’ve got that covered with these candelabra!

The colourful cranberry glass repeated down the length of the table was simple but eye-catchingly effective.

The shorter stemmed glasses would work equally well as champagne cups or small compotes for fruit or sorbet. The taller glasses could serve as wine or water glasses. 

The gilded, reticulated plates were from two different patterns. One had pink (transferware?) design with swags and flowers and the other had a small central motif. The border colours were green and cobalt. I hesitated to pick one up and look at the back, for fear of immediate removal from the dining room, likely with the assistance of a security guard. And the docents were more knowledgeable about the fashions than the tableware. Rats.  

Coloured glass goblets, a boatload of silver and fruit in footed compotes. Just lovely.

Speaking of fashion, one of the gowns was a very effective vehicle for the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s insect brooch collection. 


Elsewhere in the house, another display featured some of the brooches against a backdrop of rare porcelain. Another blog! 

The fabrics featured in the dresses on the little girl manikins were stunning. Such rich colours!

There were dresses with feathers…

Brocade bodices in an Elizabethan style…

Draped satin…

Embellished satin…


And art deco flapper style.

It was an amazing display of haute couture from many periods.

This one was…interesting.

And this one had lots of sparkle!

One last look at the whole table.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. What do you think of the fashions? Likes and dislikes?

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.