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Fashions of the Gilded Age recreated by Oscar-winning designer highlight Biltmore’s new exhibition

A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age opens Feb. 8, 2019

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Elegant fashions worn by the Vanderbilts recreated by Oscar-winning designer John Bright will fill the grand rooms of Biltmore House when Biltmore’s newest exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age, opens Feb. 8 and runs through May 27, 2019.

In collaboration with Biltmore curators, Bright and his team at Cosprop, London meticulously recreated fashions favored by the Vanderbilts and their guests at turn-of-the-century celebrations known as house parties.

Throughout his career, Bright has received 12 Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Costume Design in 1985 for the Merchant Ivory adaption of “A Room with a View.” The film starred Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

 An immersive experience

“This exhibition is unlike any we’ve ever done before,” says Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s curator of interpretation. “You will get a sense of what life was truly like at Biltmore.”

That sense of the Gilded-Age era is enhanced by a new Premium Audio Guided Tour. This component of the exhibition combines innovative 360° sound techniques with stories told from the perspectives of those who lived and worked at Biltmore in the early 1900s. This creates a unique, immersive audio-visual experience for guests.

Klingner and Ellen Rickman, Biltmore’s director of museum services, traveled between London and Asheville over the course of two years to work with Bright to recreate the Vanderbilt wardrobe, researching fashion magazines of the era and studying archival photography and portraits from Biltmore’s collection in great detail in order to create the designs found in the exhibition.

“To bring these photographs that have been in black and white for more than a century into vivid, living color representations has been incredible,” says Klingner.

Among the artwork, tapestries, and antiques in Biltmore House and the Vanderbilt collection, there are few pieces of clothing from the Gilded Age-era. Clothing tends to deteriorate through the years.

“This exhibition is like we’re replacing a piece of the collection that was missing,” said Dini Cecil Pickering, great-granddaughter of George Vanderbilt who was Biltmore’s founder.

Biltmore and Bright

This is not the first time Biltmore and Bright have teamed up. The collaboration dates back to when the estate began making plans to display a selection of costumes Bright created for the wildly popular PBS series “Downton Abbey.” Biltmore hosted the premiere showing of Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times in 2015. The exhibition then traveled to several U.S. cities.

A Vanderbilt House Party is included in Biltmore daytime admission.  The new Premium Audio Guided Tour is free only with online ticket purchases at, or can be purchased at Biltmore for an additional fee.

Guests visiting the estate may also tour the estate’s gardens, explore hiking and biking trails, dine at one of seven restaurants, and spend time at Antler Hill Village & Winery.  The Winery offers complimentary tastings from among more than 20 of Biltmore’s handcrafted award-winning varieties.  Additionally, Biltmore’s winemaker has created a special red dessert wine, Mariporta, for the new exhibition.

Stay over, just like a Gilded Age-era guest of the Vanderbilts

Just as the Vanderbilts’ guests did, guests today may extend their visit with an overnight stay at one of Biltmore’s lodging properties. Both The Inn on Biltmore Estate and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate are offering A Vanderbilt House Party packages throughout the exhibition’s run.

For information about visiting Biltmore, go to, or call 800-411-3812.

Read more about the Vanderbilts’ love of entertaining on our blog

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.

About John Bright

John Bright was born in 1940 and trained as an actor at London's E15 drama school. Working as an actor on the stage he became interested in theatrical costumes and, in 1965, began to establish Cosprop, a company which would supply period costumes for films, TV and the stage. He developed his career as a Costume Designer from the 1980s, achieving 12 Academy Award nominations and a win in 1985 for the Merchant Ivory adaption of A Room with a View. He has also designed costumes for the stage and worked with many of the leading Directors in British Theatre. In the 21st century much of his energy has been directed into running Cosprop which has expanded and developed into one of the world’s leading costumes houses. In this role he continues to oversee the making and fitting of costumes for leading actors in many important period costume productions. His vast knowledge of costume from the 18th Century to the 1950s is second to none and his influence on the development of period costume design over the past 50 years has been considerable.

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