Bath: fashion & history in South West England
The southwest of England is famed for its rolling countryside, sunny beaches and deep history…. But you would never suspect the southwest to contain a city that is not only stuffed full of history, but also paramount to the fashion scene of England! In this corner of the UK, you can spy the mysterious Stonehenge; explore the stunning Cotswolds; catch great live music in Bristol (where I currently live) and hit up some decent surf in Devon. The list goes on and I am very proud to be a born-and-bred southwest girl as the beauty of this area is impeccable.
However, Bath is the one place that ticks all the boxes for history, beauty and high fashion. This was the city I was born in and I had always taken it a bit for granted, overlooking all it had to offer. Upon moving back to England from Australia, I’ve begun appreciating its unique beauty and now with the Bath in Fashion festival kicking off, I feel it’s my duty to alert y’all about Bath and get you immediately boarding that train/bus/coach to come over for a visit!
The quaint city is rich in Roman and Georgian history and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The likes of Madonna, Nicholas Cage and Johnny Depp (I swear I once saw him in a supermarket) have recognised the city’s grandeur and have lived in or around Bath. There is so much to see and eat in Bath, that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Luckily for all the novice photographers out there, when the sun is shining, any shot you take will look great as Bath is super picturesque.
What to see:
A classic port of call is the Bath Abbey. It has an extensive history of being laid to ruin and rebuilt numerous times since 757AD. The Abbey was built in its current state in 1499 by the Bishop of Bath after he was inspired from a dream of angels! You can wander all around the building to see all the décor, or sit in the courtyard and be entertained by Bath’s famous buskers in the courtyard.
The Abbey is right beside the Roman Baths. Here you can enter the Roman age and see the beautiful green waters of the natural springs that bubble up from beneath the ground. Statues of Roman Governors and Emperors carved in 1894 line the Great Bath and the Sacred Spring has been heating water to 46°C for thousands of years. It was believed to be an act of the ancient gods so the Romans built a temple beside the Spring to the goddess Sulis Minerva, a deity with healing powers.
After soaking up some classic history, pop over to The Pump Rooms next door and snaffle some delicious food in a gorgeous setting with violinists playing in the background.
The Circus (Latin for ‘ring’) is an architectural wonder by famous architect, John Wood. Inspired by the Roman Colosseum, he designed the large townhouses to stand in a perfect circle in three parts and it is considered the masterpiece of his career! Adjacent to the Circus lays the famous Royal Crescent. Designed and built by John Wood’s son in the 18th century, the 30 terraced houses are laid out in a sweeping crescent around Victoria Park – a top place for summer picnics for tourists and locals. The Crescent also contains a swanky five star hotel that The Rolling Stones stayed in during their time at Glastonbury Festival, and a Georgian museum.
Wander Great Pultney Street to see a street that remains as grand as it was back in its Georgian glory days. It is so grand that it was used to film scenes from Vanity Fair (2004). You can wander all the way along to the free Holburne Museum for some art, before reclining in its gardens. It backs onto Sydney gardens which is perfect for picnics and tennis matches, or you can hop on a bike and take a long leisurely cycle along the canal over to the east side of Bath (where I grew up!).
You may have noticed that I keep name-dropping famous celebs and stars that love Bath, and here’s another one to add to the list: Jane Austen. The famous novelist lived in Bath in the early 19th century and featured the city in many of her works, such as Northanger Abbey. Be sure to check out the Jane Austen exhibition and attend the Jane Austen festival in September if you get a chance!
Where to eat & drink:
If you’re in Bath, you’re going to want to try some traditional pub grub and gorge on scones – embrace the English spirit! Be sure to check out the independent smaller eateries as a lot of Bath has seriously been gentrified. Many of the smaller cafes and restaurants that I went to when I was young have been pushed out, shut down and moved on for bigger chain establishments. But some classics still remain, thankfully!
Have a cheeky tipple at The Canary Gin Bar where you can also participate in some Gin tastings! Next door is The Raven which has great local ales and outstanding pies – the place to go for top pub grub and a true English pub experience! The Bridge Coffee Shop on the stunning Pultney Bridge does superb tea, scones and cakes which you can munch on whilst watching the weir below.
Go see some live music at The Bell Inn or Pig & Fiddle. These age old pubs have continuously attracted a loyal following and have become Bath institutions as chain bars slowly spread over the city. The Bell actually nearly closed last year until 536 of its customers banded together and saved it!
What to do in May:
May is a great month for Bath as many events kick off. Museums at Night is where hundreds of museums and galleries across the country unlock their doors for special evening events. Bath is participating by hosting talks and musical events at the Roman Baths and night tours of the Fashion Museum.
The Assembly Rooms is a beautiful 18th Century establishment in Bath and contains the Fashion Museum. Classed by CNN as one of the World’s Top 10 fashion museums, it houses one of the greatest museum collections of historic and fashionable dresses in England, outside of London. It holds classic Georgian outfits that were for the rich ‘polite society’, plus outfits by designers, such as, Vivienne Westwood, Anna Sui and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, whom were inspired by this period. Every year since 1963, the Fashion Museum has invited a famous fashion writer or retailer to select a ‘Dress of the Year’, a look that they feel epitomises the last 12 months of fashion. Previous years has seen the work of Yves Saint Laurent and Prada being featured, but for 2014 Susie Bubble of fashion blog Style Bubble, has selected an outfit from Christopher Kane’s S/S 2013 Frankenstein collection. It is currently on display at the Assembly Rooms.
Bath in Fashion features numerous talks, vintage fashion fairs and workshops by prominent people in the industry. This includes a talk by Linda Watson who contributed to the likes of Harper & Queen and worked with Vivienne Westwood on two collections. Watson is giving a talk on the revolutionary designer which will be illustrated by photographs from the Vogue archives (Tuesday 6th May).
However, one of the biggest attractions to this week of festivities is the fact that BIBA is celebrating their 50 year anniversary. BIBA was synonymous of the Swinging Sixties where they provided affordable fashion during this awesome age. A vintage BIBA catwalk show will be held to display original BIBA vintage, plus Hilary Alexander (former Fashion Director of the Daily Telegraph) will be interviewing the main lady behind BIBA, Barbara Hulanicki, about insights on the cutting edge of British fashion.
Where to shop:
So here I am claiming that Bath is the most fashionable city in the southwest, and I do stick to that! Sure, it doesn’t have an edgy sense of fashion like London or its neighbouring city, Bristol, but it is stocked full of vintage boutiques and independent high fashion retailers. It is the place where people flock to buy those special items that are truly unique. My personal vintage favourites include The Yellow Shop, which is a gold mine for affordable vintage. Vintage to Vogue always has me drooling on everything that is for sale and Bloomsbury is an eclectic emporium of gifts, trinkets and one-off pieces.
I absolutely adore the Sunday Vintage & Antiques market at Green Park Station though as you’re bound to find something real cute!
Not only is Bath uber beautiful and stocked full of history and culture, but its fashion focus is high in quality! Everyone knows that London is the style mecca of England as it’s all about eclectic fashion and strong daring street style, but don’t forget about the little pretty city of Bath, tucked away in the southwest, which is waiting for you.
Image 1 via Travelettes, image 2, 4, 6, 12 via Alice Smith, image 3 via Backpacking Worldwide, image 5 via HiFi Panda, image 7 via Ceriselle, image 8 via Bath Spa Uni, image 9 via Guide2Bath, image 10 via Gastro Pig, image 11 via The Bath Gin Company, image 13 via The Handmade Home, image 14 & 16 via Lily Doughball, image 15 via Illustrate Communicate.