Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review

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Two things I love in life are history (History graduate, thanks very much) and TV/film. Ergo, I especially love historical TV and film. So Preston Park’s new ‘Behind the Seams’ exhibition is RIGHT up my street. From 22 December 2018 to 3 March 2019, Preston Park is displaying an exhibition of costumes from the world’s longest established and largest professional costume house, Angels Costumes. The exhibition includes a handpicked collection of 35 costumes from the big and small screen. We went along in it’s first week of opening so I could tell you all about it.

Highlights include:

  • Costume worn by Aidan Turner in Poldark
  • Dress worn by Dame Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love
  • Dress worn by Claire Foy in The Crown
  • Costumes created for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones, Only Fools and Horses, Dr Who, Indiana Jones, Titanic, The Great Gatsby, Bohemian Rhapsody and more…

Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review
Dresses from the recently released Nutcracker and the Four Realms

About Angels Costumes

Spanning seven generations, Angels Costumes are one of the world’s leading costume houses. They have been dressing the stars of stage, screen and TV for over 175 years. The research library at Angels dates back to 1842! The history geek inside me would love to nose through that research library! Angels have provided costumes to 37 films that have received an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. More than a million costumes hang on eight miles of rails, all under one roof. The company never throw anything away, adapting costumes so they can be used again. Its just all so rad!

The costumes

I had so much fun looking at the costumes. I loved the really elaborate dresses. They were stunning – like nothing I’ve seen in real life before.

The Crown

Clare Foy’s dress from the Crown was so sparkly (probably because the replica coronation dress was commissioned by Swarovski to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee).

Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review
Claire Foy’s dress from the Crown


The dress from 1998’s Elizabeth as worn by Cate Blanchett was stunning and had a teeny tiny corseted waist. The dress was recreated from paintings that depict Queen Elizabeth I’s robes on her coronation at age 25.

Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review
Cate Blanchett’s dress from Elizabeth

Shakespeare in Love

I think that the most impressive costume was Judi Dench’s dress from 1998’s Shakespeare in Love. The neckpiece was amazing. The dress had so many intricate beads and jewels sewn on and was made out of an array of different fabrics and colours. It looked so heavy (it weighs over 15kg!) I would have loved to try it on.

Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review
Detailing on Judi Dench’s dress in Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review
15kg dress from Shakespeare in Love as worn by Judi Dench

Great Gatsby

I’m a big fan of both Baz Luhrman and Catherine Martin so was excited to look at the stunning dress from 2013’s the Great Gatsby. The film won Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The party scene had 300 extras on set, each with their own unique costume and the women were wearing real Tiffany’s jewellery!

Dress from Great Gatsby (2013)


I was surprised to read that Cleopatra nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. When it was produced in 1963, it was the most expensive film ever made. It had a budget of £200,000 for its 26,000 costumes! Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1 million for her role. It was only with the release of the Sound of Music in 1965 that the studio was saved from closure. I thought that was an interesting lesson on risk in life and business.

Dress from Cleopatra (1963)

Downton Abbey

I was interested to learn that 40% of the costumes on Downton Abbey are authentic, with all of the beaded dresses being authentic. Can you imagine wearing those!

Game of Thrones

I was blown away to learn that the Night’s Watch cloak in Game of Thrones was made from a dyed IKEA rug! I excitedly told Papa Ginge who informed me that this was old news. Well I still think it’s cool! The outfit looked so heavy and hot!

Night’s Watch outfit from Game of Thrones. If only Jon Snow was still in it.

Bohemian Rhapsody

There were costumes from the recent box office hit, Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and I couldn’t get over how tiny Rami Malek’s costume is. I’m 5ft 3 and I’m not sure I could have fit into it! Malek spent 50 hours in costume fittings to become Freddie Mercury.

Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review
Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury outfit from Bohemian Rhapsody

The Titanic

It was thrilling to look at costumes from the 11 time Academy Award winning Titanic (1997). We were wondering why the writing on a sweater was back to front until I read that the ship set built for filming was the reverse of how RMS Titanic was originally docked. In order for the ship to appear correct on screen, James Cameron rotated the footage. This meant all the text stitched into the costumes and props had to be reversed!

Costumes from the Titanic (1997)

Upcoming films

There were even costumes from films not even out yet! We got a sneaky peek at costumes from Dumbo and Stan and Ollie, which both come out this year. Until I read the exhibition booklet I had no idea that Stan Laurel grew up in the North East, going to school in Bishop Auckland where I was born!


I would thoroughly recommend buying the exhibition pamphlet for £1.50 as it has further information about the costumes that isn’t on display in the exhibition. I found it really interesting to read.


My only slight criticism of the exhibition would be that not all the pieces said which actor and character wore the costume in show/film and in some cases I was unsure so that would be a helpful update the exhibition could make. That’s really nitpicking though as its hardly a huge deal.

Is it family friendly?

Northcote Street Preston Park

Yes! It didn’t feel like an overly stuff exhibition. We took my 3 and 7 year old and I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable having them there. Though I did have to remind them a few times that they weren’t allowed to touch the costumes. It was quiet when we went though with only one other family in there. It didn’t take a long time to go around the exhibition either (30 minutes to an hour depending how long you want to look at each costume for) so they didn’t get too bored and restless. The staff were great with the kids, chatting to them and asking them questions. They were also on hand to tell you more about the costumes too, giving interesting tidbits of information away.

Afterwards, there are plenty of things to do for kids at Preston Park (which I have blogged about for North East Family Fun before and vlogged about on our YouTube channel below).

A previous vlog we made of a trip to Preston Park

After the exhibition we had a walk around the old Victorian street which looked gorgeous with their Christmas decorations up. Then we took the kids to the huge adventure park so they could burn off some steam. It was a nice little afternoon out.


We are big fans of Preston Park and I just don’t think you can beat them for value for money with an annual family ticket for 2 adults and 4 children/concessions costing only £5.

In addition to museum entry costs, the exhibition costs £5 per person, £3 for concessions and under 16s go free. Again, I think this provides strong value for money.

Old fashioned toy shop and confectionary on the Victorian street at Preston Park

Good to know

  • Times: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am – 4pm. Last admission 3.30pm. Closed Mondays (except during school holidays).
  • Advance tickets are available to book now
  • See here for how to get to Preston Park Museum
  • Food and drink: there is a small tearoom on the Victorian street selling a small selection of food, and there is a café in the park selling items such as chips. More food options are available from Yarm nearby.


It’s such a privilege that we’ve got this display here in the North East and I’m thrilled I got to see this part of screen history and learn a bit more about the world of costumiers. I’m over the moon it’s based at Preston Park, giving us an excuse to visit one of the best value for money cultural days out that the North East has to offer. I’d thoroughly recommend you get down before it leaves in March.

Preston Park Behind the Seams exhibition review

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. For my full disclosure, please see my about page.

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8 thoughts on “Preston Park Behind the Seams Exhibition review”

  1. Thanks for this great review, Nyomi! We are thinking of going to this exhibition next week so I’m glad to read how good it is. Can I ask if you think we’d be ok with a pushchair? We’d be taking my 3 and 2 year olds – 3 year old will behave with the right threats/bribery but 2 year old is a terror! Just thinking he might be easier strapped into a pushchair while we do the exhibition itself. We’ve never been to Preston Park but it sounds great! x

    • Hi Gilly, I think you would be fine with a pushchair. We didn’t take one so I can’t remember if there were any rogue steps but it seemed pretty accessible to me. There were also lifts for going to the other parts of the museum too. Some of the shops on old street have a step up into them and are quite small for pushchairs but you don’t have to go in them and you’d probably manage if you wanted to. Hope you have fun!


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