We are passionate about all things costume, so it’s no surprise that our collection of costumes and accessories is one of the largest in the museum. It totals around 8,000 pieces and spans three centuries, with the earliest items dating to the 1730s. If you have a keen interest fashion and the history of costume, you’ll love this stunning collection.
Browsing our Costume collection is the perfect way to explore fashion through the centuries. Although some of our costumes date back to the Georgian period, the main focus in our collection is on the Victorian era and twentieth century ladies’ fashion. We cover most time frames within this period, and it’s evident throughout the collection how much fashion has evolved over the years.
We have pieces from men, women and children that have been lovingly created for a wide range of occasions. However, we are particularly proud of our Victorian and Edwardian ladies’ fashion. These including a number of evening dresses and a substantial collection of mourning wear. Mourning clothes were worn to commemorate a lost friend or family member and came with a strict set of rules for how and when to wear them – you can ask our team to learn more about this.
Another notable section of our Costume collection is the 1920s. We have a number of beautiful beaded ‘flapper’ dresses made with astonishing attention to detail. When women got the vote in 1918, the stance on appropriate dressing changed and the 1920s saw women start to dress in favour of a more straightened silhouette, although it was more revealing on the arms and legs. Flappers were young, fashionable women who began to change fashion by dressing in this new style and we just love the pieces we’ve collected from this era.