Dressed for Best

Clothing for Formal and Royal occasions: 1700s to 1900s

Yellow damask sack back gown, c.1740 - 1760

Yellow damask sack back gown, c.1740 - 1760

22 September 2018 - 31 August 2019

Dressing for best is an important part of the way we mark significant events, and donning one’s smartest clothes in order to attend a special function can be an extremely enjoyable if sometimes daunting experience. The wearing of suitably smart clothing which conforms to expected codes is often central to the theatre of such gatherings. Viewed ‘en masse’, best dress can create a spectacular overall impression, and to the individual wearer such garments can bring a sense of status, belonging and confidence.

‘Best dress’ is all about making a statement. It is a key aspect of celebrating a momentous occasion, and perhaps most importantly it allows individuals, adorned in the most impressive way possible, to mark themselves out as special.

This year's fashion exhibition explores the social statements behind some of the Olive Matthews Collection's most lavish and iconic pieces. 


Exhibition booket available to purchase from our online shop

Coming Soon: Folded and Moulded - Pleating and Draping in Fashion

21 September 2019 to 5 September 2020

Evening gown by Madame Grès about 1945 Copyright The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum. Image by John Chase Photography

This exhibition will examine beautiful examples of pleating and drapery in women’s fashions from the Olive Matthews Collection at Chertsey Museum. Themed sections relating to wealth and status, ancient influences, decorative appeal and practical pleating and draping will allow exploration of this subject from all angles. Hands on interactives and visual media will also feature. Garments date from the 18th century to the 2000s and include a beautiful evening gown by Madame Grès, pieces by Issey Miyake, Mariano Fortuny, Balmain and Ossie Clark as well as a rare and lavish Aesthetic tea gown by Liberty of London. Our important 1780 wedding ensemble, featuring dress, petticoat, hat and shoes will also be included.