Selection of museums and historic houses with dress, textile, or furnishing collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland, arranged geographically. Relevant bibliography is listed under each collection.
The collection includes examples of: menswear, womenswear, accessories, dresses, coats, jackets, corsets, knitwear, fashion photographs, pockets, shirts, blouses, waistcoats, fans. The earliest pieces in the collection are embroidered shirts and gloves from about 1600. The most up-to-date pieces in the collection are summer dresses from 2007.
An online searchable collections database is available:
Tudor house with collections of textiles, armour and furniture.
Built by Bess of Harwick and home to Europe’s finest collection of 16th- and 17th-century embroideries and tapestries.
Home to the ‘Paulise de Bush’ costume collection, containing over 9,000 outfits of the 18th to 20th century.
The collection of the former Rougemont House Museum of Costume and Lace is now part of the RAMM collection.
The costume collection is in storage while the museum is closed for re-development between 1 December 2007 and spring 2010.
Home to one of the largest and most significant European dress and textile collections in Britain. The collection contains examples of all textile techniques and all the European centres of production, from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. These include tapestries and upholstery textiles (17th to 19th century), ecclesiastical embroidery (15th to 18th century), and costume and accessories (late 18th to 20th century), as well as carpets, woven textiles and lace.
The Museum is in the process of creating a new Textile and Dress Gallery to open in Spring 2009. In the meantime there is a small selection of textiles on display in The Streatlam Galleries on the ground floor of the Museum.
Extensive collections on the archaeology, history, art and environment of the county are on display in various museums, and also held in reserve at stores in Winchester. The Historic Dress and Textiles Collections include the following: embroideries from the 17th century and dress and accessories from the 18th century onwards – women’s late 19th and 20th century clothes are particularly well represented as are christening gowns, patchwork quilts, samplers, smocks and fashion plates. Textiles explore the range of fabrics and designs and methods of decoration for both clothing and domestic furnishings.
Searchable online databases are available for some parts of the costume collection.
The Wade Costume Collection, previously housed at Snowshill Manor, is now housed at Berrington Hall. Not all of the costume collection is displayed, but can be viewed by appointment (please write to the property).
The Kent Costume Trust was formed in 1983 to promote all aspects of costume, costume accessories, and associated textiles, to educate and encourage further knowledge regarding all aspects of costume. The Trust aims to assemble a collection that is both maintained and promoted within Kent. The Trust’s collection now has more than 1000 items, spanning many centuries.
Several rooms display part of the international collection of needlework, lace and costume.
The Temple Newsam collection of textiles consists of both furnishing fabrics and upholstered furniture, some of which is indigenous to the house. The museum also houses The Roger Warner Collection of historic textiles, which includes furnishing and dress fabrics from the 17th to the early 20th century.
Holdings include collections of costume and textiles.
The British Museum’s collection of seven million objects is worldwide in origin and is intended for use by the citizens of the world. The Museum collaborates on exhibitions, skills-sharing, and research with many international partners. These partnerships bring new insights into the collection, and help create new understandings of our changing world.
The Department of Prehistory and Europe is responsible for collections that cover a vast expanse of time from the earliest human tools in Africa and Asia two million years ago to the art and archaeology of Europe from the earliest times to the present day, including the history of Britain under Roman occupation. The Department currently has eleven galleries displaying highlights from its collections. As well as exhibitions, we are involved in a wide range of research, excavations and publications and also actively communicate with the public through radio and television programmes and the new media.
An online searchable collections database is available:
The Fan Museum is devoted entirely to every aspect of fans and fan making. The Museum is home to a collection of more than 3,500 predominantly antique fans from around the world dating from the 11th century to the present day. Its collection and fans on loan from other collections are displayed in changing themed exhibitions in which fans are presented in their historical, sociological and economic contexts.
The Geffrye Museum depicts the quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms. Its collections of furniture, textiles, paintings and decorative arts are displayed in a series of period rooms from 1600 to the present day.
A virtual tour of the museum is available: http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/virtualtour/
Ham House is an unusually complete survival of the 17th century, with an important collection of textiles and furniture.
The dress collection is internationally recognised for its quality and diversity – it was collected as a social record and accorded the same historical significance as other artefacts of material culture. There are over 24,000 objects in the collection, dating from the Tudor period to the present day. The core of the collection consists of fashionable dress and accessories. Holdings also include textiles manufactured in London, such as silks woven in Spitalfields and printed textiles.
The costume collection is complemented by holdings of related material in the social and working history, photograph and printed ephemera collections and the library. The Harry Matthews Collection of costume and fashion plates consists of almost 4,000 prints dating from the 16th century to 1829.
The Cheapside Hoard is the greatest hoard of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery in the world.
Of similar national importance is the collection of base metal dress accessories.
Museum of London is undergoing a major redevelopment and the galleries stop at 1666, with the exception of objects in temporary exhibitions. The Costume Store is now closed to visitors and researchers until Spring 2009 for a major storage installation project. Please contact the Later London history department on 020 7814 5750, for further information and visits after the dress and textile collection re-opens.
The National Maritime Museum comprises three sites: the Maritime Galleries, the Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House. Together these constitute one museum working to illustrate for everyone the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. The Rank and Style Gallery (in the Maritime Galleries) presents a variety of naval dress and ceremonial costumes arranged thematically.
Royal Armouries has collections in other parts of the UK and in the USA: http://www.royalarmouries.org/contact-us
The Royal Armouries collection consists of some 70,000 examples of arms, armour and artillery dating from antiquity to the present day. It includes royal armours of the Tudor and Stuart kings; arms and armour of the English Civil Wars, including the Armoury from Littlecote House; British and foreign military weapons from the Board of Ordnance and Ministry of Defence Pattern Room collections; hunting and sporting weapons, as well as an exceptional collection of oriental arms and armour. The Royal Armouries also has a significant collection of fine and decorative arts, and a special collection of material relating to the Tower of London, including antique prints and drawings, paintings, early photographs, stereoscopes and lantern slides, and rare books.
Britain’s oldest museum has grown from its origins as the main royal and national arsenal at the Tower of London into a family of museums located throughout the United Kingdom and in North America.
An online searchable database is available: http://collections.royalarmouries.org/
Shaped by the personal tastes of kings and queens over more than 500 years, the Royal Collection includes paintings, drawings and watercolours, furniture, ceramics, clocks, silver, sculpture, jewellery, books, manuscripts, prints and maps, arms and armour, fans, and textiles. It is on public display at the principal royal residences and is shown in a programme of special exhibitions and through loans to institutions around the world.
An online catalogue of selected objects from the collection is available, including textiles, fans, jewellery, furniture, books and bindings: http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/
Fashion, Jewellery and Accessories: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/fashion/index.html
Theatre & Performance: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/theatre_performance/
The Victoria and Albert Museum has collected dress since its earliest days. The collection covers fashionable dress from the 17th century to the present day, with the emphasis on progressive and
influential designs from the major fashion centres of Europe. The V&A collections also include accessories such as jewellery, gloves and handbags.
The national collection of Textiles covers a period of more than 2000 years. It has a broad geographic range with a particular emphasis on Europe. Most techniques are represented, including woven, printed and embroidered textiles, lace, tapestries and carpets. These are classified by technique, countries of origin and dates of production. Particularly rich areas of the collections are the early silks from the Near East, lace, European tapestries and English medieval church embroidery.
Online searchable collections database: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/
The Gallery of Costume holds one of the largest collections of clothing and fashion accessories in Britain, containing over 20,000 items. The collection includes clothes worn by men, women and children from the 17th century to the present day. Many of the clothes represent high fashion of the day. Other, much rarer items, represent the dress of working people, such as the clogs and shawls of Lancashire weavers.
Currently closed to the public and to researchers because of major building work. The gallery will reopen early in 2010.
The gallery has an extensive collection of fashion journals and periodicals available for research, which can be accessed via its website.
A searchable collections database is available online:
The Whitworth’s collection of historic and modern textiles is the largest and most comprehensive collection of flat textiles outside London. It comprises 15,000 to 20, 000 items ranging in date from the 3rd century AD to the present day.
Some textiles can be viewed online: http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/collection/textiles/
Houses an important collection of tapestries.
The Costume and Textile Study Centre collects, preserves, and provides access to its collection of British clothing, accessories, needlecrafts and home furnishings dating from the 18th century to the present day. For the first time the entire collection of over 20,000 items is accessible to the public.
Related research material is available including a wide selection of fashion and women’s magazines, craft magazines and journals, trade and exhibition catalogues, and specialist costume and textile society publications.
Also available for use as an additional resource are collections of fashion plates, photographs dating from the mid 19th century, knitting, crochet and dressmaking patterns and pattern books, embroidery patterns, line drawings of dresses and shoes in the collection and the museum’s collection of picture references.
An online searchable database of the collections of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service is available:
Holds an important collection of English 16th and 17th century embroideries.
STOKE ON TRENT
Holds a regionally important collection of costume and textiles dating from the 15th Century to the present day.
An online search facility is available:
The collection contains over 4,000 men’s, women’s and children’s fashionable clothes dating from c.1700 to the present. Holdings also include many small decorative accessories, such as shoe buckles, beadwork purses, lace work and embroidery.
Academic researchers and students wishing to consult items from the reserve collection or use the costume library facilities are welcome to do so by prior appointment.
The collection of world textiles at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham has supported the practical study of woven and printed textiles for over forty years. The Textiles Collection aims to provide real examples that demonstrate the application of a broad range of textile techniques and processes – encouraging students to handle textiles, to respond to their qualities, and to question and analyse them as a primary source. The collection consists of over 3,000 artefacts ranging in date from Coptic textiles c. 800-1000 AD through to Scandinavian furnishing fabrics c.1950-1990. The collection can be searched and browsed via the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) website.
Online collections database at VADS: http://www.vads.ac.uk/collections/ST.html
Costume and Textile Collection: http://www.virtualmuseum.info/collections/cHome_costume.asp
Decorative Arts Collection: http://www.virtualmuseum.info/collections/cHome_decorativeart.asp
The Costume collection includes items of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories from the early 17th century to the present day. The textile collection includes holdings of needlework from the mid 17th century, and includes 18th and 19th samplers.
The Decorative Art collections can be found throughout Brighton and Hove’s museums. The contents of Preston Manor, a historic house, include the Macquoid Bequest of 16th and 17th century furniture. Jewellery is also part of the Decorative Art collections.
Online searchable collections database:
Fairfax House, situated in the heart of York, is a Georgian townhouse displaying an important collection of eighteenth-century English furniture.
The Embroiderers’ Guild Museum houses a collection of over 11,000 embroidered objects. The embroideries in the collection have been gathered from around the world, and take many forms including costume, furnishings, decorative and non-functional textiles. A particular strength of the collection is the holding of embroidery worked in Britain from the 16th century to the present day.
The costume collection ranges in date from the 18th century to the present day, and includes women’s, men’s and children’s costume. The collection of accessories includes items such as muffs, furs, purses, fans and bags.
Houses a significant costume collection ranging in date from the 18th to the 20th century.
The Ulster Museum’s collection of fashionable dress is just over twenty-five years old, recreated after the former collection was destroyed in the fire following the bombing of the building in which it was then stored. The present collection includes fashionable dress ranging in date from the early eighteenth century to the present day. Holdings also include extensive collections of all accessories – e.g. hats, shoes, gloves, belts, fans.
The textiles collection ranges in date from the eighteenth century to the present day. It is a new collection, since the former collection, apart from the eighteenth century tapestries and the ‘Lennox Quilt’ (1712), was destroyed in the fire following the bombing of the house in which it was then stored. Holdings include: tapestries, lace, embroidery, printed textiles, linen damask and domestic linen.
The costume collection consists of 2,000 items, comprising mainly Irish and English costumes (mostly female) from the 18th century to the present. There are also examples of religious vestments, court dress, legal and academic robes, and ephemera relevant to the design, production, marketing and consumption of Irish designed/manufactured clothing.
The costume accessories collection consists of approximately 1,600 items including hats, shoes, shoe-buckles, parasols and fans.
The jewellery collection contains items dating from the 18th to the 20th century – mostly good quality costume jewellery.
The textiles and soft furnishings collection comprises carpets (mainly Irish-made), tapestries, curtains, embroideries, sampler quilts, fabric fragments and lengths, equipment, pattern designs, and sample books relating to mainly Irish textile production.
Blairs Museum holds a major collection of church textiles spanning more than 500 years, with some rare examples of church embroidery surviving from the 15th and 16th centuries. The collection of hand-embroidered vestments demonstrates a wide range of ceremonial clothing worn by the Catholic clergy during worship.
Collections include costume and textiles (from prehistory to the present day).
An online searchable collections database is available: http://nms.scran.ac.uk/
Collections include major holdings of Scottish, English and European costume and textiles including: tapestry (14th to 17th century); woven, printed and embroidered textiles and needlework (16th century to present); furniture, furnishing fabrics and carpets (14th century to present).
A searchable online collections database is forthcoming:
The furnishing collections include a comprehensive range of interior fixtures, furniture, and furnishing fabrics ranging in date from the 16th century to the present day. Clothing from the same period is also collected, both fashionable and everyday wear, official uniforms and occupational dress. Also included are accessories of all types and items of personal use. A study collection has been compiled for use by students and specialised school groups.