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Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, 2007/02/16 - Celebrating a new wave of feminine independence set amidst an iconic era of love, money, self-deception, treachery and social climbing - AmericanMuseum.org.
Making its debut in March 2007, The American Museum in Britain will unveil their most highly anticipated exhibition yet, Dollar Princesses – American Heiress to Peeress in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. The cast being a very special roll call of poised leading ladies that married into the aristocracy in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. The Dollar Princesses - a term, even adopted by the ladies themselves – were the new bold feminine ideal where cash meant a marriage of convenience and a desirable title and situation to secure her planned destiny.
In the 1870s, London was recognised as the social capital of the world and Britain offered a wealth of history that was the envy of America. To reach such lofty heights was the goal of many a bourgeois American mama, whose rich daughters would look to British high society to satisfy social aspirations and claim a title. It was an invasion with such social impact that contemporary artists and writers on both sides of the Atlantic often reflected upon the winning abilities of the Dollar Princesses chronicling their triumphs and travails. The museum’s curator Laura Beresford explains, “We will explore what prompted these women to invade British society, what their influence was both upon society and fashion, and we will follow the lives of several well known Dollar Princesses.”
The exhibition layout is set to have a unique theatrical presentation. Upon entering the exhibition, visitors will be greeted by an extensively illustrated ‘Cast of Characters’ and a stage set staircase on which costumed mannequins will be arranged as if descending down directly into the exhibition space. The dresses were designed for film adaptations of Henry James and Edith Wharton novels. Once worn by Nicole Kidman and Uma Thurman, they will be put on open display.
Dollar Princesses is set to be more than just another show of elaborate frocks. It will acknowledge that a grittier reality of lies and surprises often existed in their personal histories beneath the glitter – a point well documented in the personal histories of some Dollar Princesses.
The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to experience a treasure-trove of private evocative portraits, letters, film clips, photos, jewels and press cuttings. The leading players include Winnaretta Singer, the banjo-wielding Consuelo Yznaga (Duchess of Manchester), the sassy Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill and mother of Winston), Lord Curzon’s devoted Mary Leiter (vicereine of India), the swan-necked Consuelo Vanderbilt (Duchess of Marlborough) and the feisty Cara Rogers (Lady Fairhaven) - great aunt of the museum’s founder, Dr. Dallas Pratt.
Laura Beresford believes Dollar Princesses were the supermodels of their era: “The Gibson Girls were the glamour models of their day. Every lady wanted to dress like them, but few could afford to. Those that had the looks and finances to stay abreast of fast-developing fashion trends enjoyed great privileges.”
Dollar Princesses includes exhibits coming from Blenheim Palace and the National Trust. The museum has also been fortunate in securing on loan, precious items from public collections and private individuals – most notably members of the Churchill family. The Churchill connection looks set to prove a considerable draw to the public.
The American Museum in Britain, based in Claverton on the outskirts of Bath, opens this exhibition on 17th March 2007. The exhibition runs until October 28th, entry is included with a museum’s ground ticket £7.50 adults, £6.50 Seniors/Students, £4 Children. Further information on the exhibition can be found on the American Museum in Britain’s website or by calling the museum on 01225 460503.
Laura Beresford, Curator, is available for Interview. Images available on request.