Charlotte Brontë is an icon to many for her writing. But a new exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum is set to focus on another aspect of Charlotte’s life.

Defying Expectations: Inside Charlotte Brontë’s Wardrobe, co-curated by the Brontë Parsonage Museum and Dr Eleanor Houghton, a historian, writer and illustrator, features more than 20 pieces of Charlotte’s clothing and accessories and offers an intimate insight into both her domestic and literary lives.

Unlike Charlotte’s most famous protagonist, Jane Eyre, who was a conservative dresser, the Yorkshire literary legend was engaged with current fashions and many scientific and technological advances in the textile industry.

Charlotte was actively involved in the fast-changing mid-19th century Britain as it transitioned into an industrialised multi-national empire. The beaded moccasins on show in Defying Expectations are thought to have been a gift from her publisher in New York and she was likely to have been the first person in Haworth to own an ‘Ugly Bonnet’, a fashion item she would have bought on a visit to London. A striped evening dress discovered hidden away during previous renovations of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the former family home, was recently confirmed as having been owned by Charlotte. The dress was proved to be Charlotte’s during an extensive period of research conducted over the past six years by Houghton, who is the first scholar to have studied the Brontë Clothing Collection in such detail.

Main image: Striped evening dress. Bronte Parsonage Museum. Image credit: Simon Warner. 


Defying Expectations: Inside Charlotte Brontë’s Wardrobe is at the Brontë Parsonage Museum until January 1, 2023.  Admission to the exhibition is free with entry to the museum. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the website. Please note that social distancing and COVID-19 safety measures will be in place throughout.