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New exhibition at Biltmore combines literature, fashion and film

“Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics” opens Feb. 10, 2017

ASHEVILLE, N.C.  – The artistry of great literary works, costume design, and movie making comes together in “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics,” Biltmore’s new exhibition premiering in Biltmore House on Feb. 10, 2017. Inspired by George Vanderbilt’s love of literature, “Designed for Drama” showcases more than 40 award-winning movie costumes from films based on favorite books in his collection. The exhibition will run through July 4, 2017.

George Vanderbilt: A well-read man
Once recognized as “one of the best read men in the country” by New York media, Vanderbilt amassed a library of more than 22,000 volumes at his North Carolina home. A reader from an early age, he began at the age of 12 keeping a record of the books he had read, including the title and author of each work. By his death in 1914, Vanderbilt had logged 3,159 books. He also counted leading authors of the era as personal friends, including Henry James, Paul Leicester Ford, and Edith Wharton—all of whom stayed at Biltmore House as guests of George and Edith Vanderbilt.

That literary connection is a central theme in the exhibition, with the original books from Vanderbilt’s library that inspired the films accompanying the costumes. This also marks the first time most of the volumes have been displayed to the public.

Wide-ranging fashions in Biltmore House
The exhibition features elaborate costumes from 14 recent films that bring literary characters to life, from the entertaining detective duo of Holmes and Watson in “Sherlock Holmes” to the creation of  the Peter Pan story in “Finding Neverland.” The grand fashions of 19th century Russia are strikingly portrayed in “Anna Karenina,” while the simpler attire of Jane Austen’s characters in “Pride and Prejudice” portrays one of the BBC miniseries’ most memorable scenes.

The costumes on display reveal the attention to detail involved in period costume design, and represent the work of costume designers at the highest level of their profession, numbering Academy Awards and Emmys among their honors.

“We have an exquisite dress that Nicole Kidman wore in ‘The Portrait of a Lady,’” says Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s curator of interpretation. “It’s black and gold, embroidered with flat sequins correct to the time period. This stunning and spectacular dress comes alive in Biltmore House.”

A collaborative effort
This is Biltmore’s third costume exhibition, all of which brought together the estate’s Museum Services team and Cosprop Ltd., London, an award-winning costumier that has designed countless fashions for film and television productions around the globe. Work leading up to “Designed for Drama” has involved a new collaboration, this time with Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Carolyn Jamerson, the institute’s collections manager and chief mount maker, traveled to Biltmore to create wigs on-site for the costumed mannequins. Jamerson is one of a handful of paper wig designers and makers in the country. While she uses simple tools to construct each wig, the precision and attention to detail results in a life-like yet ethereal effect. The wigs, she says, are meant to provide texture and structure without distracting from the costume.

Admission to “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics” is included with a visit to Biltmore.

Winter Stay Pricing Specials and Packages
While taking in the new “Designed for Drama” exhibition, why not make it an overnight visit? This winter, both The Inn on Biltmore Estate and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate are offering their lowest rates of the year. From Feb. 1 through March 19, weekday rates start at $179 at The Inn, and $149 at Village Hotel.

The Inn will also offer Valentine’s Day Packages, Feb. 1 – 28. Biltmore’s premiere property offers a four-star luxury experience with a three-course dinner featuring estate-raised ingredients served nightly in The Dining Room. No detail is overlooked in creating the perfect setting for romance, including a special delivery of Biltmore red wine, chocolates, and a dozen red roses to your room upon arrival. Guest room accommodations are also included, as well as Chef’s Breakfast Buffet in The Dining Room or breakfast delivered to your room daily; estate daytime admission valid for the length of stay; Audio Guides to Biltmore House; valet parking at The Inn; and complimentary estate shuttle service. Gratuities are included for all package meals.

Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate offers an ongoing Bed & Breakfast Package that includes accommodations; breakfast daily at Village Social; souvenir guide book; admission to Biltmore House and the “Designed for Drama” exhibition for the length of stay; Audio Guides to Biltmore House; and complimentary estate shuttle service.

To make reservations at either property, call 866-336-1245, or visit online at

For general estate information, visit

Editor’s Note:  Resources for Media Only
Designed for Drama Online Media Kit
Designed for Drama Photography
Designed for Drama B-Roll
Biltmore Social Tags

About Biltmore
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt.  Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques.  Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture.  Today, Biltmore has grown to include Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm;  The Inn on Biltmore Estate; Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; and Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division. To learn more about Biltmore, go to or call 877-BILTMORE.

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