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Two models wearing 19th century style gowns. The left dress is inspired by butterflies, the right dress is inspired by wasps.

Strange Nature: Costumes Inspired by Punch Magazine

Curated by Suzanna Hall, Victoria Adams and Wayne Martin


  • Event
  • |
  • AUB Library
  • |
  • MoDiP
  • |
  • TheGallery
  • |
  • AUB Campus


An exhibition by AUB Library and TheGallery in partnership with BA (Hons) Costume, AUB Costume Archive and MoDiP. Supported by BA (Hons) Textiles and AUB Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.

Dates: 19 February – 30 April 2024

Location: AUB Library, AUB Campus

In 2023, BA (Hons) Costume students took inspiration from Edward Linley Sambourne’s satirical cartoons published in Punch Magazine between 1867 and 1890. At this time, Victorian fashions were full of peacock feathers, fish scales and beetle wings, and Sambourne used his Designs After Nature series to transform women into the animals they adorned themselves with.

The cartoons ridiculed the vanity and excess of Victorian fashionable ladies: bustle skirts became snail shells, extravagant hairstyles resembled coiled serpents and plumed hats metamorphosed their wearers into birds.

In their own recreations, BA (Hons) Costume students interpreted Sambourne’s animal imaginings as Victorian gowns. In the exhibition, the gowns are presented alongside historical artefacts from the AUB Costume Archive, demonstrating the animal-obsessed fashion cultures of the time, and original cartoons from Punch that poke fun at the women who dressed this way.

Please note: This exhibition contains materials created using animal products to educate and inform on past fashion practices and critically examine the human impact on the natural world.

Meet the curators

TheGallery works with courses right across the university on a variety of exhibitions, events and projects. We provide advice and support on the curatorial and technical aspects of exhibitions, and on event and project management. Strange Nature: Costumes Inspired by Punch Magazine is another example of a collaborative project – this time with the BA (Hons) Costume course as well as the Library and MoDiP.

As well as being a national and international public platform for the arts within the sub-region, we promote the University’s shared passion for excellence in education, industry and the sector.

BA (Hons) Costume at AUB

BA (Hons) Costume offers a comprehensive approach to the study, interpretation and creation of costume. Throughout the course, students learn the art of tailoring and couture dressmaking, become skilled at producing accurate historical recreations of costumes, and are encouraged to express imaginative flair through creative and conceptual costume making.

The current BA (Hons) Costume and Performance Design course has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its ‘distinguished degree-level education in costume design for the UK’s leading creative industries’.

AUB Costume Archive

The AUB Costume Archive includes garments, accessories, sewing patterns and ephemera spanning four centuries. It is utilised regularly to inform teaching, learning and research. Access to extant garments provides students with first-hand knowledge of period cut and construction methods, fabrics, decoration and aesthetic detail, which is vital to historical costume reconstruction.

Our collection includes items donated by theatrical costumier, Paddy Dickie, elite garments from the Hooton Pagnell family and a teaching collection belonging to Shelagh Lovett Turner. Items range from a Pearly King jacket to a Victorian mourning bodice made by the court dressmaker to Queen Alexandra.

Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP)

MoDiP is the only accredited museum in the UK with a focus on plastics. It is the UK's leading resource for the study and interpretation of design in plastics and a specialist research resource at AUB.

MoDiP works collaboratively with AUB staff and partner organisations, including schools and museums, to maximise opportunities for people to be inspired by the collection and become more informed about plastics in design. Key learning techniques practiced at MoDiP, including object-based learning and primary research, encourage students to be curious about museum objects and ask questions to further their understanding of the collection. Inspiration from museum objects can be found in their design and shape, or their original context and setting. Ideas can be sparked to inform pattern, purpose or colour for designers and makers as well as narrative, poems and compositions for writers and artists.

TheGallery and MoDiP, two of AUB’s cultural assets, work collaboratively to find new ways to connect with communities at AUB and beyond. Through their own mission and purpose, they come together to support learning, teaching and research for all, as well as providing spaces for inspiration and contemplation. Their exhibitions, events, publications, projects and collections contribute to the Southwest’s cultural community and are made accessible to everyone.

Something to think about

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