A Vanderbilt House Party – The Guilded Age

This spring, the Biltmore Estate added several new characters to the house. Mannequins sporting re-created costumes of actual clothing worn at Biltmore House are scattered throughout the rooms. They set the stage for a house party circa 1905. There is also a new audio tour to accompany the costumes. Your tour begins in the breakfast room and carries you throughout a typical day as you progress through the rooms. You pass mannequins dressed for a leisurely stroll on the grounds, dressed for a swim in the indoor pool, and servants dressed for the work they performed, finally emerging in the grand banquet hall just in time for a formal dinner complete with entertainment by a rising opera star.

Costume designers scoured old photographs of the Vanderbilts and their guests in order to re-create every detail of the period attire. They even brought in an Oscar winning costume designer, John Bright who worked on Downton Abbey, to consult. I was pretty impressed with the outfits. The exhibit runs for 2 and a half months (ending May 27), which surprised me as I meandered from room to room. They clearly spent a lot of time and money making these costumes and recording the new audio. It seems a shame to take them down and hide them in a storage room somewhere after just a couple of months. Maybe they will stay longer and the end date is just for show to generate interest now. I guess we’ll see.

Going for a stroll. I loved the boot laces and the belt detail.
I noticed that Edith, in the original photograph had a corset and extremely cinched waist, while the mannequin with her dress looks much bulkier (normal) through the waist. Interesting that they chose not to cinch up the mannequin. It feels a bit less authentic this way.

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