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Playing by the rules: Childhood, dress and imagination

Fashion plate from Petit Courier des Dames, 1841, at Killerton, Devon
Fashion plate from Petit Courier des Dames, 1841, at Killerton, Devon | © John Hammond

The new fashion exhibition will draw on the Killerton collection and explore children's clothing of the 19th and 20th centuries, many of them part of the Margaret Bodley collection of children's clothes which was acquired by the National Trust in the early 1980s.

The 'Playing by the rules' fashion exhibition at Killerton

The fashion exhibition opens daily with the house from 10 February until 3 November 2024.

Children's fashion

‘What I envy the little girls of today is the fewness and simplicity of their garments...’ (Eleanor Acland, Goodbye for the Present, 1935)

As well as 19th and 20th century children’s clothes drawn from the extensive Killerton collection, there will be a chance to spot dolls, toys and games from more than a century ago, there will even be activities for the little ones to get involved with too.

The exhibition outlines how attitudes to children’s fashion has changed over two hundred years, including dressing boys and girls almost alike in petticoats until the age of four or five. We also tell some astonishing stories connected to the some of the children who wore the clothing on display, one grew up to be Admiral of the Fleet, another a star of West End musicals and movies!

Detail of stitches on child’s smock.
Detail of stitches on child’s smock from the collection at Killerton | © National Trust / Steve Haywood

Young curators

This year we've been helped by local Girl Guiding Units - our Young Curators. Broadclyst and Cranbrook Brownies, aged from six to ten, share their designs for Future Fashion for children, while the Guides and Young Leaders, aged ten to sixteen, select photographs from the collections reflecting children’s clothes for different occasions.

Visitors exploring the fashion exhibition at Killerton, Devon
Visitors exploring the fashion exhibition at Killerton, Devon | © John Millar

The free is exhibition is included with entry.

Entry prices for non members are displayed on our home page. National Trust members visit for free.

The fashion exhibition is on the first floor of the house which is only accessible via the main staircase (no lift).

Two visitors admiring a laid table in the Dining Room at Killerton, Devon

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