Arts & Culture

Party Like a Vanderbilt

For Gilded Age gatherings, like those at her brother George Vanderbilt’s sprawling estate tucked among the mountains surrounding Asheville, the heiress Florence Vanderbilt Twombly wore a peach silk gown sprinkled with beaded butterflies. In the Biltmore Estate’s new mansion-encompassing exhibition, A Vanderbilt House Party (February 8–May 27), curators led by the Oscar-winning costume designer John Bright (you’ve seen his work on Downton Abbey) remade the ensemble.

“We worked with embroiderers in London who hand sequined the dress and used different colors of metallic threads to make the butterflies,” says curator Leslie Klingner. “Not only is it a stunner, it’s hard to believe it’s not original.” More than fifty additional garments—including re-creations of George Vanderbilt’s sporting tweeds and Edith Vanderbilt’s casually elegant polka-dot bodice and silver-belted skirt—will grace vignettes of entertaining. “Everything they did here,” Klingner says, “was the ultimate in gracious Southern hospitality.”  

See these costumes and preview more of the exhibit here.

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