Working 9-5

Beatrice Behlen

Beatrice Behlen has worked on-and-off as a Senior Curator of Fashion & Decorative Arts at the Museum Of London since 1991.

Previously whilst at Kensington Palace Beatrice worked on an exhibition of the Queen’s Hats and Handbags and with Mario Testino’s photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales.

At the Museum of London Beatrice worked on the Galleries of Modern London which contain 60 outfits and over 300 accessories.

Beatrice is busy currently putting more of their 21,000 dress and textile objects online and also working on two smaller projects involving jewellery.

© NPG/Courtesy of Museum of London

What is your favourite decade to style?

My favourite period is the time of the French Revolution, late 1780s/early 1790s, because it is the first time fashion becomes truly modern. I love the slim silhouette, the slightly mad hair and the hats.

In our Pleasure Garden display we have a 14 minute film set in this period and it was fun getting the costumes (not real ones!) together for it.

What's a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day. I might be mounting objects to be photographed to go online or meet someone wanting to donate an object. We also get a lot of researchers and student groups so I might be showing them objects relating to a particular period or theme. There’s also a lot of admin work!

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I love finding ‘new’ objects in the store. As we have so many, there are still objects that I have not seen. Working with objects in general is one of the main perks.

But I also really enjoy meeting people and hearing the stories behind their clothes.

© NPG/Courtesy of Museum of London

If you could work on any film/TV show/theatre production past or present what would it be?

I would have loved to be able to work Eric Rohmer’s The Lady and The Duke (1981). 

The film is inspired by the memoirs of Grace Elliott, a Scottish Royalist caught up in the French Revolution. The costumes are amazing!

You’re given the opportunity to restyle a celebrity with a vintage look, who would it be and how would you style them?

Hmm – I don’t think I can answer this one. But I love what they did to Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot (1959).

Have you got any tips on how to create the vintage looks you achieve? 

When we were working on the Pleasure Garden, we just spent ages looking at fashion plates from the period (thankfully we have more than 3,500 in the Museum). I think it is really important ‘to get your eye in’.