Wednesday 1st March 2023 to Sunday 4th June 2023

Venue: Chawton House

Visit the Library this spring and find a beautiful artist’s takeover by historian, writer and illustrator Dr Eleanor Houghton. Brontë’s wardrobe is stunningly captured in eight original illustrations, displayed alongside Chawton House’s treasured piece of Brontëana, as well as contemporary fashion plates. 

Charlotte Brontë’s 1850 ‘Thackeray Dress’ worn to meet William Makepeace Thackeray. Copyright Eleanor Houghton

This exhibition, previously on display at the Brontë Parsonage, places focus on some of the remarkable garments and accessories worn by Charlotte Brontë. These brightly coloured, fashionable, even exotic items boldly challenge the preconception that Brontë and her famous protagonist Jane Eyre were, at least in terms of dress, one and the same. The illustrations draw attention to both Charlotte’s ordinary and extraordinary lives but also remind us that she was an active participant of the fast-changing mid-nineteenth century.

Eleanor has also created four original illustrations for Chawton House, taking their inspiration from fabrics found in Jane and Cassandra Austen’s quilt, made c.1811 and now held at Jane Austen’s House.

1805 gown inspired by fabric found in the c.1811 Austen Quilt. Copyright Eleanor Houghton

About the Artist/Curator 

Eleanor Houghton, BA Hons (Oxon) MA, PhD, is a historian, writer and illustrator. 

Eleanor read English Literature at the University of Oxford before working for some years in the fashion industry. In 2014, she returned to academia and gained a first-class MA degree in History, before being awarded a full Wolfson Doctoral Scholarship for her research into Charlotte Brontë’s surviving wardrobe. Her expert knowledge of eighteenth- and nineteenth century social history, fashion and literature mean that she is often called upon to work as costume consultant for film and television (Gentleman Jack, To Walk Invisible, The Gallows Pole, Emily), novelists, museums and curators. Her upcoming book, ‘Material Witness: Charlotte Brontë’s Life Through Clothes’ will be published by Icon Books in 2024. 

You can find out more about her work via her website or on Instagram. @eleanorhoughtonhistorian 


Admission to the exhibition is included with ticket price.