Breaking the internet, 1890s style: Museum channels Kim Kardashian in genius photoshoot

Breaking the internet with a bustle and a nice cup of tea (beat that Kim Kardashian)
9 Mar 2016 @ 7.27 pm
| News
Tea up… the remarkable photograph for York Castle Museum's Shaping the Body exhibition. Photograph: Anthony Chappel-Ross
Tea up… the remarkable photograph for York Castle Museum’s Shaping the Body exhibition. Photograph: Anthony Chappel-Ross

If this image doesn’t make you break into a grin as broad as that bustle, we don’t know what will…

This Victorian version of Kim Kardashian’s famous pose has been created for York Castle Museum to promote its new Shaping The Body exhibition – and it’s a work of genius.

Reality star Kim famously “broke the internet” when she adopted a very similar posture for the cover of US magazine Paper. Only she skimped on the Yorkshire Tea and used champagne instead.

Dreamed up by Lee Clark, acting head of communications at York Museums Trust, and York PR agency Pyper, the photograph was shot by award-winning former York Press photographer Anthony Chappel-Ross.

The picture draws parallels between the outrageous fashions of today and those of the Victorians and earlier. Turns out our forebears were less demure than we sometimes think.

“Since Elizabethan times, with a few notable periods, women’s fashion has been obsessed with highlighting and accentuating a woman’s curves, with corsets used to shape and cinch the waist, and from around 1580, a padded roll that was tied around the hips,” said senior curator for the Shaping The Body exhibition, Ali Bodley.

However, the Regency period did not signal the end of the bum roll, with Victorian fashions taking the concept of padding the rear end to more elaborate extremes.

The legendary original
The legendary original

Ali explained:

On display, and available for visitors to try on, we’ll have a number of original and replica dresses that feature a cushion that is tied to the waist to add extra volume, or even a shelf-effect, to the rear of women’s dresses.

Prudish Victorians would not have liked using the vulgar term of ‘bum-roll’ and so it became known as a ‘bustle’.

Other fashion throwbacks

The killer dress


Here’s an example of a killer frock – literally. “Ingredients that we now know to be toxic were regularly used during the dying of fabrics or in cosmetics applied directly to the skin, but often in relatively low concentrations during each wear or application, so it is not until much later that the devastating effects would have been experienced,” said Ali.

One example of this is a stunning Victorian green gown, which will be on display in the new exhibition.

Part of the treatment process to produce its vibrant colour involved arsenic, and traces of the poison remain in the dress today – so curators wear gloves when handling it.

The Georgian Zoolander


Derek Zoolander, who recently returned to cinemas for Ben Stiller’s sequel, Zoolander 2, may have made a career out of looking really, really good looking in the most outlandish fashions of the day – but men were donning even more outrageous styles 400 years ago.

“In the 21st century, women’s fashion is more widely celebrated than men’s, but if you look back a few hundred years, it was gentlemen who used increasingly elaborate clothing to stand out from the crowd,” Ali said.

“Gentlemen at the cutting edge of fashion would be wearing higher heels and frills on their clothes than some of the women. These gentlemen were known as ‘fops’.”

Exhibition details

Alongside fashions from the last 400 years, Shaping The Body explores body modification – from Victorian ear straighteners to modern gender reassignment, tattoos and piercings – and the relationship between food and body image, from the original Sugar Tax to modern diets.
Shaping The Body: 400 years of food, fashion and life

York Castle Museum

Opens March 25, 2016

York Castle Museum website