Behind the Screens: A History of Fashion

Join fashion anthropologist Charlotte Smith for a unique tour exploring the history and culture of fashion, with exclusive access to some of the world’s finest museum fashion collections and curators.

Immerse yourself in social and design history with exclusive access to world-renowned curators and experts, including the V&A’s Head Curator, Edwina Erhman and with opportunities to study rare garments and accessories up close, from extraordinary period pieces to cutting-edge contemporary creations. 

Visit state-of-the-art museums, where innovative design collections are displayed alongside historic costumes, and trace the development of Britain’s fashion landscape through the centuries, visiting some of the country’s most stately homes and extraordinary interiors.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qatar Airways or Qantas flights to Manchester.

Arrive in Manchester and make your own way to the hotel. In the late afternoon attend a welcome briefing by your tour leader, Charlotte Smith, followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.


Begin the morning with a talk by Charlotte, before visiting the Whitworth Art Gallery for a private guided tour of the Whitworth Textiles Collection, which features a range of textiles and garments from the 3rd century to the present day.

After some free time for lunch, discover how Manchester, once known as Cottonopolis, became the centre of the global finished cotton trade with a stop at Chetham’s Library, the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world. Established at the bequest of a prosperous Manchester textile merchant, the library’s collection began with the aim of assembling a collection of books to rival the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge.


This morning visit the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool to view an exhibition on the Swinging Sixties fashion movement in the UK. From there, walk to the Tate Liverpool and see a special exhibition on the work of Don McCullin, whose photography captured the lives of industrial workers in Northern England throughout the 60s and 70s.

Enjoy lunch at leisure around Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock area. Then continue to Penhaligon’s in Chester for an exclusive talk on the history of fragrance profiling and the story behind the famous British brand, followed by champagne and a light afternoon tea.

End the day by exploring Chester Rows, a 700-year-old shopping district consisting of traditional Tudor-era ‘half-timbered’ terraces.

Return to Manchester for an evening at leisure.


Today, take a guided tour of the factory of historic British brand Private White V.C. on the banks of the River Irwell. Opened in 1853, Manchester’s last remaining clothing factory has a rich history, crafting garments for royalty, presidents, cultural icons and supplying the Allied Forces with state-of-the-art coats for the battlefields of WWI.

Enjoy lunch en route to Northampton before time at leisure to relax or explore the historic grounds. This evening join Charlotte for a talk before dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.


This morning visit the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and attend an exclusive talk and guided visit of the museum’s shoe collection with curator Rebecca Shawcross. The collection showcases the largest assembly of historical footwear in the world, with over 12,000 pairs of shoes spanning the Ancient Egyptians to contemporary designer pieces.

After lunch continue to Delapré Abbey, a Neoclassical mansion which incorporates the remains of a 12th century nunnery. Explore the abbey’s house and grounds, and learn about the history of the estate, from the funeral procession of the 13th century Queen Eleanor to the Battle of Northampton, one of the most significant conflicts in the War of the Roses.


Begin the morning with a visit to Berrington Hall for a guided tour of the Charles Paget Wade Costume Collection, an assemblage of 18th and 19th century fashion featuring styles from across social strata.

Continue from Berrington Hall to the market town of Leominster and enjoy time at leisure for lunch and to explore its many vintage and antiques stores. Transfer to Castle House Hotel in the afternoon and attend a talk by Charlotte before dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.


This morning, transfer to the Hereford Museum and Art Gallery for a private tour of the costume and textiles collection and enjoy exclusive access to the museum’s archives, led by former head curator Althea MacKenzie. Later walk to Hereford Cathedral for a guided tour and see the Mappa Mundi, a map of the then-known world created in the 13th century, which is now the largest medieval map in existence.

After time at leisure for lunch in Hereford, continue to Longleat House – the first English stately home to be opened to the public. Widely regarded as one of the foremost examples of Elizabethan architecture in England, enjoy a guided tour through the house and its extensive collection of paintings, tapestries and furniture collected by 15 generations of the same family.

Continue to Bovey Castle House and check in before dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.


After a late-morning start, transfer to the Totnes Fashion and Textile Museum for a private guided tour of the Devonshire Collection of Period Costume, the largest private collection of its type in the UK.

Soak up the atmosphere of Totnes with free time for lunch before continuing to Dartmouth by ferry to Greenway House in Dartmouth, home of famed author Agatha Christie. Enjoy a guided tour of the house and grounds, where curiosities collected by the family are still on show, and spot the places which appear in the background of Christie’s famous mysteries. Enjoy dinner on the banks of the River Dart before returning to the hotel.


Check out of the hotel and travel to Killerton House for a private guided tour of the Costume Museum, an extensive assemblage of clothing from the 18th to the 20th centuries, including couture pieces by designers like Coco Chanel.

This afternoon visit Allhallows Museum in Honiton, a town famous for its exquisite lace making. Enjoy a lace making demonstration and a private guided tour of the collection, which features stunning examples of Honiton Lace from the 16th to the 20th century. Continue to Bath and check in to the Royal Crescent Hotel before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.


Begin the morning with a walking tour in the footsteps of beloved author Jane Austen, whose time in Bath provided the inspiration for her novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Continue to the Assembly Rooms, one of Bath’s most magnificent Georgian buildings, which today house the Bath Fashion Museum – a world-class collection of historic dress, from 18th century Georgian gowns to ensembles by leading designers like Dior.

Enjoy lunch at the Bath Priory with a view over their award-winning terraced gardens before transferring to the Holburne Museum. Take a guided tour of the museum’s permanent collection. Continue to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.


Enjoy a day at leisure to relax or explore Bath at your own pace. You may like to visit the ancient Roman Baths or wander through the historic city centre, along the picturesque colonnaded Bath Street or the stately Royal Crescent.

This evening, enjoy a talk by Charlotte and a special guest speaker before dinner in a nearby restaurant.


This morning depart Bath for London. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch at leisure in central London before transferring to the Alexander McQueen Flagship boutique to view a special exhibition on Britain’s most influential 21st century designer.

Continue to the centrally located hotel for an exclusive talk and dinner with Anna Mary Scott, the Emmy-nominated costume designer for the Downton Abbey series and film.


Begin the morning with a visit to the Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street and enjoy the September 2020 exhibition on Sir Norman Hartnell, dressmaker to The Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II throughout the 20th century.

Later, walk to Kerry Taylor Auctions, an auction house which specialises in vintage and haute couture fashion, for an informal talk with the owner and founder of the house. Continue to Spitalfields Market for a walking tour of this historic area, which has long been a centre of textiles manufacturing and design. Enjoy lunch in the lively Spitalfields area, before transferring to Liberty London for a private guided tour of the store and a talk on the history of its iconic prints.

Return to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.


Begin the morning with a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum followed by a guided tour at the Clothworkers’ Centre at Blythe House for exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to the collection with the Senior Curator of Fashion, Edwina Ehrman.

Then continue with a guided tour of the Wallace Collection by one of the curators on the history of fashion illustrated throughout the museum’s extensive assembly of French painting.

Join Charlotte and fellow tour members in Mayfair this evening for a special farewell dinner to celebrate the conclusion of the tour.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with travel arrangements, including flights and any extra nights’ accommodation before or after the tour.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 12,950

Single supplement*

AUD 3,250

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.

Final payment due

15 July 2020

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels definitions.

Suggested airline

Qatar Airways/Qantas
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for the United Kingdom.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in centrally located 4- and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner); wine with dinners
  • Talks and discussions with your tour leader and guest speakers
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, drinks, room service etc.
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Transfers on arrival and departure
  • Airport porterage


Your hotels
Manchester – Midland Hotel ****
Northampton – Highgate House ****
Hereford – Castle House Hotel ****
Dartmoor – Bovey Castle *****
Bath – The Royal Crescent Hotel *****
London – The May Fair *****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.